Tim Ferriss has an interview with Jane McGonigal* on his podcast that’s worth listening to. She’s an expert in the value of playing games, and hearing her made me go load Tetris on my phone.
In their conversation, though, this quote was discussed:
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
It’s not from the Buddha, and I couldn’t find a definitive source to credit. But it is very Buddhist. And Stoic.
From the Buddhist teaching in the Sallata Sutha:
“When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two pains, physical & mental. Just as if they were to shoot a man with an arrow and, right afterward, were to shoot him with another one, so that he would feel the pains of two arrows.”
From Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (4.49):
“So remember this principle when something threatens to cause you pain: the thing itself was no misfortune at all; to endure it and prevail is great good fortune.”
Between stimulus and response there is a gap. In that gap you get to choose your response. The stimulus may cause pain, but you can choose to respond in a way that doesn’t add suffering on top of the pain.
We cannot control what happens. We can control our response to what happens.
Easier said than done, I know. But this is worth remembering whenever you’re confronted with pain of any sort.