Pain is a physical or psychological event that happens to you. According to Meerwijk, Ford, and Weiss (2013), neural networks for psychological pain overlaps to some extent with brain regions involved in physical pain. For example, if you break your leg or a loved one dies these are events that happen to you and can be very painful to experience. Expereincing pain is a part of being human.
Pain is Inevitable
On the other hand, suffering is how we react to the pain. Suffering is the interpretation or story that you tell yourself about the pain. For example, if someone is treating you poorly and causing you emotional distress, you have a choice of how you react to their behavior. Your reactions to physical or psychological pain, through your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, are what is or is not causing suffering.
Suffering is Optional
Click on the video for further explanation:
- Meerwijk, E. L., Ford, J. M., & Weiss, S. J. (2013). Brain regions associated with psychological pain: implications for a neural network and its relationship to physical pain. Brain imaging and behavior, 7(1), 1-14.