What will you do with it?

find meaning in suffering

If you are reading this, chances are you have experienced suffering in your life. That’s not to say that this blog was created to target adversity, only that it is a part of the human experience. 

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

How has trauma, adversity, and hardship shaped your life? Are you able to see its imprint? Are you proud of the changes that have come from your suffering?

When in the midst of pain, it is only natural to want to escape it, get out, get away. It is understandable that for some, the survival instinct is to push away the experience even after the immediate trauma has subsided.

Turn your wounds into wisdom.
— Oprah Winfrey

Others use their pain and suffering to grow and change. They do something with it, and most often what they do is in direct benefit to others. Isn’t that incredible how humans can go through trauma and come out of it inspired to save their neighbors. Like Malala Yousafzai and Viktor Frankl, two incredible human beings who suffered immeasurably and went on to make history.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala is a children and women’s rights activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating for equal rights in education for Pakistani girls. After being shot on her way home from school, Malala continued to speak for equal rights and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 and 2014. She won in 2014 and became the youngest person to ever win this prestigious award.

 It would have been understandable for Malala to wake up from the medically induced coma she was put in after the shooting and decide to call it quits. She was, and still is, targeted by the Taliban, so it would have made sense for her to hang up her advocacy hat and live the rest of her life free of death threats. Instead, Malala used the shooting, her pain, and her passion to ignite an uprising of supporters who now fight for educational equality with her. 

Viktor Frankl

Dr. Frankl was a neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor. In 1944 Viktor, along with his wife, parents and siblings, were sent to the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. He and his sister were the only members of his immediate family to survive the Nazi camps. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor chronicles his life in the concentration camps and how he found the will to survive.

After being liberated from the concentration camps, Viktor Frankl went on to create logotherapy, a theory of psychology commonly referred to as existentialism. The basis of his theory is that in order to survive any circumstance, one must find meaning in the suffering. According to Dr. Frankl, if one has meaning, then he/she can endure anything.

It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.
— Chuck Palahniuk, Diary

Not all of us will use our suffering to the grand scale that Malala and Viktor did, but the reach is not what matters. What matters is the heart behind it, the meaning that is gleamed from the suffering, and the drive to do something with it.

My passion to help women who are struggling with eating disorders is born directly from my own struggle with anorexia. I have decided to use that part of my life for something bigger, something more. I have decided to find meaning in it. Let me ask you again, how has your suffering changed you? Have you grown from your experiences?

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Tamara Duarte

Tamara Duarte is a counselor, author, speaker, and activist. Her private practice, Get Centered Counseling in Vancouver WA, helps women with food and body issues learn to love themselves, their body, their life, and their relationships. Her life’s work is steeped in personal experience, having fifteen years in recovery for anorexia, in addition to being a breast cancer survivor. An up and coming force in the counseling community, Tamara has been published in a textbook called Treatment Strategies for Substance and Process Addictions, and has sat on a panel at the American Counseling Association Conference, where she spoke to her peers on strategies and tools to use with clients struggling with eating disorders. Having a deep, personal understanding of what it takes to recover from this condition, she seeks to be an example to those she treats, to let them know that recovery is possible. Currently developing a podcast which addresses the cultural issues that promote body shame, self-esteem issues and eating disorders, Tamara lives in Vancouver, Washington, with her husband and best friend, Adam, enjoying life to the fullest with their two beautiful children, Jacob and Chloe.