One of the concepts we have been discussing in my Leading a Life That Matters course as we read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is human suffering. As a class, we have determined that virtually every human being suffers. There is no weakness in that assessment; suffering is an unavoidable fact of life.
While Frankl wrote about his suffering in Nazi concentration camps, the concepts are applicable to all kinds of suffering: divorce, loss of a pet, mental illness. Just like other sufferers, we do not choose to suffer. However, by being human and having agency, we can choose how to react. We can find meaning in our suffering.
Do not waste your time comparing your suffering to another’s. This only increases unnecessary pain. When I was first diagnosed, I was so absorbed in my own suffering that I could not empathize with others. I was frustrated by the “trivial suffering”of my high school classmates. This was wrong of me. Their suffering was very real to them, and it mattered just as much as mine did. Similarly, it is not helpful to belittle your own suffering. Pain is real, and it does not make sense to deny it simply because there are others experiencing more. Your pain matters.
Once we accept our suffering, we are able to make it meaningful. I have chosen to derive meaning from my diagnosis by writing a blog. Spreading awareness and acting as an advocate allows me to find purpose. For me, this means that the tears, the episodes, and the fights were not in vain. I assign them meaning: they were my journey. Those events, that suffering, helped me become the writer I am now. I don’t know what the meaning of life is, but I know that it is possible to find meaning in our lives. Despite our struggles, we can live lives of purpose. We can make a difference. We can create change.
How have you found meaning in your suffering? How do your struggles give your life purpose?
Do you have a mental or physical health issue and are interested in being an advocate? Look out for my new blogging series, where I’ll be teaching you how to start a blog, write content, and find an audience.