Why pain doesn’t have to lead to suffering

Angst and Desire
5 min readOct 10, 2023
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

A man is as much affected pleasurably or painfully by the image of a thing past or future, as by the image of a thing present.

— Baruch Spinoza, ‘Ethics’

There is something distinctly human in how we process pain. We register it in the immediate way that all animals do, and then we experience it again in our contemplation of it. We can become haunted by memories of past trauma, and learn to dread it ever happening again. The pain happens once, and yet the consequences spread throughout time.

Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.

C.S. Lewis, ‘A Grief Observed’

It is therefore important to make a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is the unpleasant sensation, but suffering is what we do with that pain. It is the story we tell…



Angst and Desire

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