Pain vs Suffering


“Live dangerously.

Embrace pain and take risk.

Desire to beat your own drum.”


TASK AT HAND: Last week, here on the Sunday Surgical Scrub, we discussed the idea that pain is certain but suffering is optional (you can see the post here). Thank you kindly for all your emails on this topic. Given the interest, today we are going to take this one step further.

This week I’m thinking about not only accepting pain as certain, but embracing this as an opportunity for growth and discovery. Yes, embrace pain, risk and the myriad of challenges that confront you. Live dangerously without fear of these experiences. As humans, we have evolved a strong tendency for loss aversion: avoiding that which is unpleasant is hardwired into our central nervous system. I prefer to invert this reaction: embrace the pain and risk that life brings forward because, it is in these moments, that we carve out character and define development. It is in these formative moments that lies occult opportunities to beat our own drum.

“Embrace pain and risk for it is in these moments that we carve out character and define development.”

“Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously!” (Friedrich Nietzsche) I have never known convenience to be a great innovator. I have never met idle chatter that sparked sentiment. I have yet to see predictability spawn spontaneity. It is when we take risks, accept difficulties, and elevate ourselves that we – more often than not – push through boundaries and breakthrough into new landscapes of creativity, sincerity, and understanding.

As you move in the pursuit of happiness and satisfaction, it may be necessary to live dangerously and take risks. Next time you are confronted with difficulty and dissatisfaction, embrace it and attempt to reveal its impact on you. Accept the painful transition and see how you are forced to adapt to navigate it. There is no permanence in pain.

“Accept painful transitions and see how you are forced to adapt. There is no permanence to pain.”

Refuse to bow to the pressures and difficulties you encounter. You will be left with the ultimate satisfaction that no matter what song echoes in the background, you’re playing to your own beat.


MEDICINE & MACULA: Thank you, Retina Specialist magazine, for showcasing our work on complicated viral retinitis retinal detachment repair in the November 2016 issue. This is part of our evolving work on approaches to complex retinal detachments.


Check out the publication here.



GRATIS: I was in New York City yesterday to watch the musical Hamilton. This fantastic production made me smile as it reminded me of the Stella Adler quote: “Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.”



My best to you,

David Almeida

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“Pain is certain, suffering is optional.”


TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about pain and suffering. Take the sutured incision pictured above. After a surgical wound, almost everyone will experience pain. However, only some become burdened with suffering, while others do not. As a surgeon, I realize that almost all patients experience pain, but I find it distressing when patients become entangled in prolonged suffering.

We can extend this concept to the trials we encounter in our personal lives. We all have to bear duress, inflictions, and loss. The twists of life invariably ebb and flow between states of pain and vulnerability and moments of joy and satisfaction. Experiencing pain is certain. But we do not need to suffer. Suffering is optional.

Accept pain. One of the fundamental strategies to minimizing the experience of suffering from the pain we face is to, simply, accept the pain. This can be somewhat counter-intuitive but, by accepting the pain we face, we choose to not react to it. In not reacting, we are denying the possibility of succumbing to maladaptive behaviors like suffering. Accept your pain, and if at all possible, let it not elicit any reaction from you.

Deny suffering. Suffering can become a haze. A fog of uncertainty that can impair your ability to make effective decisions. We too often aggrandize the value of suffering. Instead, avoid internalizing forces that may weaken you. “Life is short. You have to be able to laugh at our pain or we never move on” (Jeff Ross).

If you take one sentiment from this post, please know that suffering is optional. I have found this alone to be liberating because it gives us this choice of how to react to the pain we encounter in life. Pain is guaranteed but suffering is not. Suffering is not predestined or inevitable. Instead, find a way to look back, laugh, but then move on.

MEDICINE & MACULA: Check out our new publication, Ocular Hypertension After Intravitreal Dexamethasone (Ozurdex) Sustained-Release Implant, published in RETINA. Our report shows that the intravitreal dexamethasone implant, Ozurdex, can be used in various types of patients, including glaucoma suspects, with a good safety profile.


Check out the publication here.



GRATIS: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” -Bob Marley


My best to you,

David Almeida

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