A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

Joy and Suffering

When we think of the concepts of joy and suffering, we usually think of them as opposites to each other. We tend to think of suffering as getting in the way of us experiencing joy and happiness. The problem with such thinking is that suffering is inevitable in life no matter who or what you are. Joy and suffering go hand-in-hand and you can’t have one without the other. They are both important pieces in this journey called life.
Such thinking helps me, especially given that I can be perfectionistic with respect to my goals and my choices. If something goes wrong in my life or I make a mistake, I’ll often pause to think for a moment and count off the people I know who have gone through or are going through difficulties or mistakes in their own lives. If their difficulties and mistakes were in the past, I’ll reflect on how they’ve been able to get over it and are still very happy with their own lives. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not viewing it as a competition to see who can make the littlest or fewest mistakes. There’s just safety in numbers and that I’m not different from anyone else in any kind of bad way. It gives me relief that there isn’t really anything wrong with me when I screw up on something.
While I have gone through several depressed periods in my life so far myself, I made a promise to myself several years ago that has helped me through such periods. The promise was simply: Never commit suicide. I didn’t make the promise because I thought there was real potential that I might do so or that I was being pessimistic about my life. I haven’t even harmed myself, such as cutting myself. Rather I made it because you always have to be on your own side in embracing the joy and dealing with the suffering when it comes. I made it because if you can’t trust yourself, then you can’t trust anyone else or anything.
Also, when the suffering does come, I don’t try to push the suffering away or try to be strong and overcome it in a speedy fashion. Trying to do so makes the suffering worse. The first real step in dealing with suffering is to accept it, trusting that whatever it is, it’s only temporary. I may go easy on myself during such periods and I might, for example, decide to go out to eat one or two times more than I usually do in a given week, or take a day and curl up on my futon and watch a few movies or T.V. on Netflix.
A counsellor I recently saw got me to see how joy and suffering co-exist and that you can’t have one with the other and gave an analogy of them as being two sides of the same piece of paper. It really got me thinking and made it easier for me to embrace everything in my life with a sense of adventure. I’m on a good adventure, which will surely continue.

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