Can Suffering be Measured?

suffering

Because of my current health situation I have been told by so many people “Oh I am so sorry, that’s so horrible, I can’t complain about my life now, you have it way worse then I do”. This makes me think to myself, can suffering really be measured? It may be true that there is always going to be someone else out there who has it “worse” then you, thats life, but, I think when you look at it from that perspective you should be using that statement as a means of controlling your own complaining, not as a means of belittling your suffering because in reality, what defines someone as really being “worse off?

What do I mean you may ask? Well I always try to explain this and I always fail to do so properly, so let me try to put it into words that actually make sense. Keep in mind that when I refer to suffering, I am referring to the mental and emotional well being of an individual, not their life situation. For example, lets say a man was born into wealth and lived his life getting everything he ever wanted or needed handed to him. Sure he is in a good life situation, one of which he has nothing to complain about, but maybe he has never had a true friend, maybe he is lonely, and therefore, suffering emotionally.

Lets flip that scenario and look at the other end of this spectrum. We are now looking at a man who was born without a supportive family, no money, barely any food, etc. A horrible living situation providing every reason to complain. Though his life situations is poor, this man is actually much happier then the rich man because he has close friends, he knows how to appreciate the little joys in life, he is mentally and emotionally much healthier. He may be able to recognize that his living situation is poor but he never lived with wealth, he isn’t emotionally8 missing out on anything because he has never had it to loose it.

These are two really bad examples I am using to make my point, but what is important s that you understand the concept of this contrast so my next example will make more sense. When I ask myself, “can suffering be measured” what I am referring to is the idea that we as individuals can only compare our level of suffering to what we have felt throughout our lives.

So now, my second example, physical pain. Pain is pain wether it be physical or emotional, therefore, can physical pain me measured and compared to others? No, we only know how to compare our pain to the pain we have previously felt in life. A small child who gives themselves a paper-cut might consider that to be the most painful thing in the world. But to a 40 year old construction worker that paper cut is nothing because he has experienced much worse in his own life, but at that point, is it fair for the construction worker to tell the child they can’t complain, that it’s not that bad, well, in my opinion, no. To that child, that paper-cut is something worth complaining about, its the worse thing that child has ever experienced, Sure others have endured far greater pains but that child has no means of comparing their pain to that of the worlds worst tortures. He can only compare his pain to any previous pain he has felt in his life.

Now, think about that concept and apply it to emotional pain, mental well being. You may see an individual stressing out or breaking down over something you think is stupid but don’t be so quick to judge because maybe what ever situation is breaking them apart is the worst situation they have ever been in, it seams stupid to you because you may have experienced something of that magnitude or worse but again, maybe they haven’t just like the small child’s paper-cut.

So when people tell me that they can’t complain because I obviously have it way worse then them I say “No”, in fact, I encourage them to complain because yes, my situation is not a pleasant one, but I have no right to use my situation to belittle the pain another individual may be feeling because as I said before, you can only measure your level of suffering based on what you have personally felt throughout your life.

Now though I sarcastically encourage people to go ahead and complain in front of me I am not saying that this concept is an excuse to freely complain about everything, because you should still bare mind that your situation could always be worse, I am simply saying that it is ok to feel the pain you are feeling, that you shouldn’t belittle your emotions because someone just so happens to have a worse situation then you do. Like pain, emotions are emotions and you are going to feel them regardless of logic and reason, what is important in my opinion is the ability to identify that yes, you are suffering, but it could be worse, it is important to be grateful that your situation is not as bad as it could be even though to you, it is horrible, and feeling that way is ok.

I don’t complain that I have multiple sclerosis, I don’t feel bad for myself, instead, I am grateful that it is not worse because I couldx have cancer or AIDS but I don’t, and for that I am truly grateful. Of course, I will still inevitably experience different negative emotions regarding my MS but I think that it’s ok because for the most part, I know it could be way worse but luckily, it’s not so I don’t really see any point in complaining.

13 thoughts on “Can Suffering be Measured?

  • November 5, 2010 at 3:50 am
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    "we as individuals can only compare our level of suffering to what we have felt throughout our lives."
    I couldn't agree more.

    Dao

    Reply
  • November 8, 2010 at 4:11 am
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    Actually I wanted to say sth else but was worried it might sound inconsiderate so I remained silent.

    The truth is sometimes I think I'd rather have cancer than MS. Why? Because with cancer, I can fight to the bitter end. To win or to lose. With MS, there's no cure. I cannot do anything but pray that it will be kind to me.

    Like you, I used to think I have MS it does not have me. But it was years ago when my condition was not so bad I could still live a normal life. Now that I'm in a wheelchair and have lost so many things in life, I realize that I was just fooling myself to think so.

    Okay that's just me. No offense. Probably if I had cancer I'd wish to have MS instead. Everyone is different. You're very brave and positive. Stay healthy and enjoy your days.

    Dao

    Reply
  • November 8, 2010 at 2:34 pm
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    I totally understand, its all a matter of personal perspective. Positive? No, not me, stubborn would be the right word. I am TOO stubborn to let MS win in any way shape or form but dont get me wrong, though I fight to maintain a positive attitude I still have my negative moments and when I do they are VERY negative, but it's my stubbornness that keeps me going. Stubbornness, a trait that under most circumstances would not benefit me but for now, in this situation, its getting the job done lol but of course, as I grow older my thoughts and feelings of the matter are bound to grow and change with my body, my methods of interpretation as an individual with MS will change, that's life, that inevitable. Its a wait and see kind of thing, something I hate but something I must get used to as someone with MS, a "wait and see thing"…

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  • November 10, 2010 at 7:16 am
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    Tell you what… I like the word "stubborn" much more than "positive". Way to go Matt.

    BTW, here's the web link http://www.ms-vietnam.org
    Still under construction but you can have an over view of what it's like. Any comment would be appreciated.

    Dao

    Reply
  • November 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm
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    Wow, the website looks great! I will overlook it in detail as soon as I am back in town, I have a busy next couple of days, I have a 12 hour train ride ahead of me tomorrow and court the next day (yaaaay) so I will look it over probably Saturday and start doing what I can to help spread the word!

    Reply
  • November 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm
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    You know what I am going to do? I am going to write a blog posting about your website, do a youtube video about your website and then I am going to use my technical writing skills to write a letter to all the major disease modifying medication companies about your cause and see if any of them are willing to contribute. If I can get into any speaking opportunities, meeting, etc, I will do the same, so now that I think about it, there is pleanty I can do to help.

    Reply
  • November 11, 2010 at 4:19 am
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    Wow… it's so kind of you with a long list of things you will do for us. Thank you thank you thank you. Love you love you love you 🙂

    Dao

    Reply
  • November 25, 2010 at 9:04 am
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    When people would see me upset, without knowing I have MS, they'd ask if it was a boy problem, "I wish" I'd reply. If only they knew how much I WANTED something as simple as a boy problem! I'll admit, at my worst of times, I too, wished for cancer or something else, anything other than MS. I've come to believe that we are only given what as much as we can handle. MS isn't an easy fight by any means but I know its one we can win. You don't know me, Matt, I just discovered your blog but stay stubborn! I swear, that's what has gotten me through the last decade of MS.

    Reply
  • November 26, 2010 at 7:49 pm
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    My stubbornness and pride are the only reasons I KNOW I will beat this disease, regardless of what it throws at me I KNOW that I am too damn stubborn to let it win in any way shape or form. My stubbornness and pride have for most of my life always been my achilles heel, but now, I am finding that when properly "controlled" (for lack of better terms) it can be quite useful in my ongoing war against MS. when it comes to illness or any hardship in life, everyone has something that gets them through it be it family, God, or in my case, the stubbornness and desire to always want to WIN LOL… It may seem shallow but it works for me and in the long run that's all that matters I suppose.

    Reply
  • April 22, 2011 at 8:38 pm
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    Reading your blog, reminded me of my diagnosis. I too am stubborn. I was initially scarred silly, always thinking everything wrong was MS related, then one day, I realized that if the doctor had not put the name to it, I would not be afraid of it. I had MS for 8 years before the words were said "you have MS". I didn't lie down then and make up excuses, I played basketball, volleyball, and softball all the time. (I just got tired quick). I reminded myself of than and realized that had he not said I have MS, I would still be doing that stuff. I started reading about the nutritional value and MS and now I play hoops atleast 2 times a week, I am the coach of my sons baseball team, and play volleyball on Thursday night at the local bar. I have had to change a few things in my life, but I don't just lie down and cry anymore, I don't woe is me anymore. I am back to living my life. You are doing a great job on this blog and with your dealing with everything.

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  • April 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm
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    Thankyou, when I heard those words "you have MS" I actually started doing more with my life then I had before because I am stubborn and decided that MS was not going to prevent me from doing the things I wanted to do. I was going to be ACTIVE.

    A Neurologst just told me my symptoms are probably permanent. Now I have to prove him wrong, I WILL get rid of some of my symptoms. I know I Can I just don't know how YET but I WILL, I am THAT stubborn haha!

    Thanks for your compliments!

    Reply

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