How do we move beyond pain and suffering?

January 22, 2023

We have all at one time or another experienced pain and suffering of some kind. I sure have, living with dystonia for over 20 years, the first 5 of those years being absolutely brutal because I could barely function and do the most basic of daily tasks because of the terrible muscle contractions and pain that kept me bedridden.

I also lived with intense anxiety and depression, I was completely broke and in debt, and I lost most of my friends. Partly by my doing because I had so much shame that I lived in isolation. But also because many people in my life didn’t understand the nature of a chronic condition and didn’t know how to fit into my life. I didn’t know how to fit into theirs either because I wasn’t physically able to keep up.

In this article, I want to share how I think we can move beyond both the physical and emotional pain that is part and parcel of life, especially if you are living with a chronic health condition or other form of adversity or trauma. Last year, I wrote a book dedicated to the topics in this article, as well as many more topics. It is called, Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life challenges. It provides tools and concepts that I suggest in this article.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this article, I want to open by saying that moving beyond pain and suffering does not necessarily mean to be without pain and suffering. It means learning how to adapt to adversity so we can keep our physical and/or emotional pain from being the most significant thing in our lives.

The first step in getting beyond pain and suffering is to acknowledge that we are in pain and that we are suffering. Not with denial, avoidance, or white knuckling life trying to control everything. Acknowledging our pain and suffering is a very difficult step, but necessary to come to terms with these major stressors in our life. We then need to explore the reasons why we are suffering and then put strategies in place to minimize despair.

Life is filled with unpredictable things such as pain, trauma, diseases and other illnesses, financial trouble, relationship issues, and loss, to name just a few. Why are so many of us often surprised, or allow ourselves to be dramatically dismantled when bad things happen? We have all been blindsided, and probably will be again. Life just happens to work this way. The problem is that we resist what we don’t like, and this worsens and prolongs the process of acceptance.

Instead of fighting and resisting bad things that inevitably happen, the approach I suggest we take is to do what I call “embrace the suck of life.” This means acknowledging that life is hard and filled with pitfalls, and not resisting the bad things that happen to us; to not fight the things that will only fight back and increase our suffering. It means that tough times are not to be ignored, denied, covered up, or masked with drugs, alcohol, food, poor relationships, and behavior where we deal with difficult life issues in an emotionally reactive fashion.

I never expected at the age of 30 that my life would take a complete 180 turn when I developed dystonia and went from a very functional person in many areas of my life to someone completely disabled and then morbidly obese from being sedentary from the physical and emotional misery, along with losing most of my friends, all of my money, and any kind of independence. I had no life, but I also had no idea how to deal with this huge life changing health surprise.

It took me about five years to wrap my brain around it and begin finding things that helped my symptoms, as well as make better choices based on what I could still do so I could create a new life for myself. The very first step I had to take was acknowledge where I was in my life and take stock of who I was and what I could do to find ways to improve myself. Having put in the work and continuing to do so every day and seeing changes is why I am sharing this information. You can read much more in depth about this in my two books.

It doesn’t matter how deep the dark hole is that we are in. We can all get out and find meaning and purpose in our lives. If you are in one now, please don’t avoid or deny the darkness. See the hole, feel the hole, and embrace the hole. If we want to transcend any state of suck, we have to feel it, own it, live it, and face up to it. Denial of it will worsen it and prolong it, as I mentioned.

It is not what happens to us in life that matters most. It is what we do about it that matters most, which dictates how much we can increase or decrease the sucky parts of life. I wrote another article about this specifically called Embrace the Suck of Life, and you can click here to read it.

A lot of how we handle the hard parts of life comes down to personal responsibility and accountability, as well as being honest with ourselves. How well do you take care of yourself? How well do you take responsibility for not so much how you feel, but how you respond to how you feel? Are you allowing things to take you down or are you using hard times (and good times) for personal growth? If we choose the latter, I believe we have a better fighting chance at feeling better. I totally understand that this is a process for all of us and happens in our own time, so let it happen when you are ready.

Regarding happiness, as it states in an article on pain in Psychology Today (5 Reasons You Have to Accept Pain If You Want to Be Happy), happiness isn’t the absence of pain. Instead, the secret to living a happier life involves believing you have enough mental strength to embrace your pain and learn from it.

If you don’t know me already, you might be wondering who this person saying all of this and why you should maybe consider my advice. I am someone who has been through some serious struggles in life and learned a lot of things as a result, and I continue to learn every single day as new challenges hit me, as they do all of us. I have consciously chosen to be a student of my circumstances and use them to better myself, my relationships, and my work. I look for opportunities in all things; not obstacles. I am always learning to embrace the suck of life, as hard as it is to do at times, because I know it is the only way for me to live a genuine, honest life.

Perhaps you have another approach that works for you, and I would love it if you could share your experiences in the comments. There is so much wisdom out there beyond my own, and I wish to learn from you. Thank you!

Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and volunteer writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers NetworkThe Mighty, and Patient Worthy. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.


6 responses to “How do we move beyond pain and suffering?”

  1. Lynne Yurgel says:

    Hello Tom: Thanks again for your great article. I also have the book you mentioned. Both have helped me live with this pain and now that cancer has been added to my problems it has helped even more. Thanks again. Wishing you the best.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Lynne- Thank you as always for your very kind words. I am so sorry you are having to contend with cancer in addition to the pain of dystonia. I admire you very much and send you my best wishes always.

  2. LInda Eastin says:

    I look forward to your emails. They always appear just when I need to revisit my reactions to the pain. I’d see a cognitive therapist who is very helpful but your post usually hit the nail on the head. They gained me something to think about and how I can apply this to my everyday life. I have been spending more time in my recliner lately even I knowing not moving is the worst thing for me. After today is m back on the recumbent bicycle and making plans on how to handle this later flare. I have more than CD, i have rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis and AS (the worst of the 3) and when you ad Addison Disease things get complicated. But as of this moment, I see a brighter outlook. Having a professional therapist has help so much. Best regards. Linda

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Linda- That is so nice of you to say! Thank you! You have a lot going on so it must be very hard to find the right balance. I think movement is so important for us and it doesn’t need to be much. Just getting the blood flowing and moving around to get our vestibular system activated can do wonders. Wishing you all the best and thank you again.

  3. Lisa Matthews says:

    Every time I read/listen to any of your work, it’s as if I could have written it myself! Your outlook and attitudes toward the challenges we face are so on the very same page as my own, Tom. Your posts are so refreshing and encouraging, inspiring me more than you could possibly know!

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