Pain vs Suffering – Sunday Surgical Scrub – 20 November 2016


“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

2 Comments, RSS

  1. ana sanka November 20, 2016 @ 8:19 am

    Hello, good morning!

    Since I started to read your weekly articles in this page “Sunday Surgical Scrub” I became your follower, because I always learn something from you. I really want to thank and wish you all the best to continue providing your knowledge to other people.
    My sincere thanks Dr. David. God bless.

    Yours truly, Ana Sanka

  2. […] 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 […]

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