“Suffering is pain that hasn’t found it’s meaning yet…”

  • This quote from  neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight.  Her 2008 TED talk, My Stroke of Insight   by the same name, and currently holds the number 2 spot for most popular TED talks.   Jill’s left-side brain stroke sent her on a journey that included an 8 year recovery.  Along the way, she decided that even though having her left brain largely unavailable to her put her in a  very peaceful, harmonious place, it also restricted her ability to communicate and contribute to our world.  She challenged herself to bring her damaged left hemisphere back on line WITHOUT reengage its negative emotional baggage.  She refers to this part of her brain as her story teller.

    She did the miraculous thing of figuring out how to stop her story teller (left brain identity centers) from attaching to pain.  She discovered that our emotions only last about 90 seconds in our blood stream.  If she was feeling a negative feeling longer than that it meant her story teller was somehow keeping it alive or that she was somehow attaching to it emotionally.  Toward the end of the audiobook, she says “suffering is pain that hasn’t found it’s meaning yet”.  I flashed back on Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning and how his drive to understand why in conditions of extreme pain and deprivation (Nazi Concentration Camps), some people psychologically connected to the best and most resilient in themselves and others did not.  Meaning and purpose played a significant role he concluded.  It allowed people to endure pain while somehow also seemingly transcending it.

    When the pain we are experiencing has a context, when we create a larger meaning and purpose for our trials and struggles, they can enlarge us.  We may well  experience pain, yet we do not have to experience suffering.  One of my teachers Richard Heckler Strozzi spoke of your “for the sake of”.    Using this concept, when there is a challenge in our lives, especially one that is painful to us, what this challenge “for the sake of”?  Or what  “for the sake of ” could you give your pain?  My sister, as she supported her husband through his long journey and eventual death from colon cancer appeared to create one of the most powerful contexts for his cancer and the pain they all endured.  Looking from the outside and observing her compassion for herself, for him and their daughters her “For the sake of” appeared to be living fully each moment that they had together.  They were both surprisingly present to the day to day joys available to them during so much of this journey.  Not necessarily “laugh out loud” joy, though she did plenty of that too, more like a deep abiding gratefulness for whatever particular moment she was experiencing.  And he seemed to be present without agenda and available to the moment and what was happening in a remarkable way.  The story teller (suffering generator) gets banished when that happens.  

    You know where this is going.  If you are “suffering”, if you are experiencing negative thinking or emotional energy, look around for a large enough meaning for your pain and the suffering may well dissipate.




    January 15th, 2014 | admin | Comments Off on “Suffering is pain that hasn’t found it’s meaning yet…” | Tags: , , , , ,

About Nancy


Nancy C. Wonders is an interior designer. The “interiors” she designs are psychological, not physical, space -- a client’s personal interior landscape, or the emotional barometer of a team, or an entire organization. Nancy’s office includes a “design bar” where clients have a chance to re-invent how they see themselves and/or their organizations. These re-structurings result in discovering what is fresh, new and alive. This discovery prompts profound, immediate change, on both the inside and in interactions with others. Read more»

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