Friday, April 15, 2011

Lesson #11: Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional

Yesterday the soap community, and even the mainstream press, were shocked by the tragic news that two staple daytime dramas were canceled.  Both ONE LIFE TO LIVE and ALL MY CHILDREN have carried great meaning to generations of viewers, having been on the air for 42 years and 41 years, respectively.  The devastation of losing an entertainment program can be tantamount to losing a beloved relative, a friend, a companion, a reliable comfort.  But no matter who or what we lose in our lives, one thing is for certain: pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. 

What does this mean?  "Pain" is the automatic involuntary feeling you get when something hurtful happens.  If you hit me in the arm, if you say something cruel to me, when someone I love dies, or if ABC put dozens of my friends out of work, I will feel pain.  Pain is a normative and unavoidable part of living in this world if you intend to love and attach to others.  It is a testament to your connection that you feel pain when something ends.  This is not, in my opinion, a "bad" or "unhealthy" thing.

But "suffering" is optional.  Suffering is defined as what we tell ourselves about the pain.  If I respond to hurt by saying, "I'm a victim," or "This means I can never love again," or "this shouldn't be happening," or "I've wasted my time watching this canceled show," then you will indeed experience suffering in the forms of depression, anger, anxiety, hopelessness, despair. It is unlikely that you will allow yourself to live life to the fullest and have pleasurable and new experiences if you hold on to these beliefs.

Pain is usually out of your control.  Choosing not to suffer is your responsibility.  If you decide you want to blame people, presidents, or popes for your emotional state, that is indeed an option.  It may cost you your physical and emotional health, but hey, at least you'll have a villain for your storyline.

Or you could pursue the easier path of changing your thinking in order to decrease suffering.  How does one do this? The final ten lessons of the 40 Lessons of 40 starting tomorrow are the primary tools I use to change my suffering so I can continue to live with serenity, even when I am in incredible emotional pain.  They enable me to continue to take risks and care about others despite having experienced loss.  And yes, they will help you to care about the soaps, even knowing their existence is temporary.  Please join me for these exciting lessons these next ten days.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

**If you are in the New York City area, please come by for Damon's "Fabulous at Forty" workshop on Monday, April 25th, at 8pm, at 208 W. 13th Street, Room 410**

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