The Trick is not to Eliminate Suffering, but to rise Above it
One of Viktor Frankl’s key ideas was that a person could be optimistic about his or her life in spite of suffering. Frankl was a brilliant psychiatrist who said that the most fundamental motivation for any human being was the need to find meaning in his or her life.
Frankl believed that each person could rise about their biology or environment. Those diagnosed with cancer could reach deep inside themselves and find a way to face suffering with dignity and responsibility. Those overwhelmed with guilt could dig deep down inside themselves and use their guilt to become better people. Those who has faced death could dig deep inside themselves and be motivated to get on with the business of living.
According to Frankl, you can turn your experience of addiction into an accomplishment, become a “better” person as a result of it, and use your experience to motivate you to start living a great life.
So how do you do this? In this blog, we’ll give you a few ideas.
Turn Suffering into an Achievement
The great philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, reminded us, “To live is to suffer.” All people suffer. Even the wealthy and the famous.
Some people are destroyed by their suffering. The recent report that actor Robin Williams, who had a drug problem, committed suicide is one example of a man destroyed by suffering. Others seem able to rise above their suffering, such as Eric Clapton, who achieved contentment in spite of his decades of addiction.
Clapton, who quit booze and drugs 25 years ago, talks about using his music to heal others and being surrounded by people who truly care for him. If we believe his autobiography, he learned a great deal about this new way of living from his lifestyle as an addict. In other words, he can say he is “happy” today in large part because he suffered so much.
One reason why we can use suffering to our benefit is because it is through suffering that we grow as individuals. By overcoming challenges, learning to deal with failure, and recognizing our limitations, we become stronger and more competent.
Use Guilt as a Catalyst to Become a Better Person
Those suffering from addictions are usually overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt is Nature’s way of telling you that you are acting against what you truly value. Like suffering, guilt can either destroy you or make you stronger. Your choice.
To use guilt to your benefit means paying attention to it, as painful as that may be at first. Guilt is something that tells you what you already know but have been avoiding. So a good practice is to attend to guilt and change your behaviour to be more in line with what is important to you.
See Death as a Motivator to Live Life to the Fullest
Psychological research into human mortality—known as death studies—has discovered that the individual’s awareness of his or her own death has major psychological effects.
The most famous theory in death studies is called “terror management.” The argument is that the fear of death motivates people to do all sorts of things. The stereotypical example is the man who realizes that he is getting older and then dyes his hair, buys a cherry red convertible, and starts going to nightclubs. Psychologist Kathy Charmaz has studied men who have suffered heart attacks (a sort of near-death experience). Those who suffer a heart attack often have an identity crisis—he is no longer the strong healthy person he perceives himself to be. In fact, after feeling better, many men seem determined to believe that they are back to their former selves and start behaving that way—leading to a second heart attack. In other words they avoid appreciating that by virtue of having a heart condition their health is seriously at risk.
But we need not fear the fact that we are going to die. In psychology, we call this “death acceptance.” Many people accept death as a natural part of being human. In a sense they embrace death. They recognize they are here for a short time, that life is fragile, and use this as a motivation to live life to the fullest.
Research indicates that those who are able to turn suffering into a human achievement, use guilt as motivation to be true to themselves, and find in death a reason to get on with living, develop optimism for the future.
This optimism may have little to do with living a pleasurable and comfortable life. Rather, this optimism is based on living a meaningful life. But it is also true, according to research, that those who living a personally meaningful life tell us that they are generally more happy than those who pursue wealth, pleasure, fame, and social status.
This is good news for those who have suffered from addiction. Perhaps the good life is not so much about having a big bank account or having your picture in the newspaper. Living the good life is not the absence of suffering. You can live a full and satisfying life despite suffering. The trick is not to eliminate suffering, but to rise above it.