Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice. - Alice Allum | The BE Platform
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05 Jul Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice.

This week I met up with a very dear friend of mine. I’ll call her Alex. Alex told me she was feeling anxious, sad and physically sick. She hadn’t slept properly for weeks.

Instead of comforting Alex, helping her look for others to blame and telling her everything would be ok, I wanted to help her see that she had chosen to be in this situation, she had chosen to under value herself, she had allowed people to treat her as they did and she had allowed herself to get lost.

When people are dissatisfied, suffering or not getting the results they want, it can be hard to accept that it’s because of the decisions they’ve made themselves, not the decisions others have made. What I’ve learnt is responsibility is key. We have to take responsibility for our own lives and our own happiness. We mustn’t act as victims and surrender to a life of misery. We must find the courage to accept that we’re in control, as scary as it may seem and this can be hard. Especially when you’re not happy with where you are in life. It’s actually easier to spend your time complaining rather than taking action, making tough choices and pursuing change.

Whilst I wanted to comfort Alex with empty words which would temporarily soothe the pain, my intention was to help her see her suffering was a choice, and so I decided not to tell Alex everything was going to be ok, because everything wasn’t going to be ok. In fact, if Alex didn’t make big decisions soon and take responsibility for her life, she would continue on a path of suffering, dissatisfaction and sadness.

I heard a quote once: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. I truly believe in this. Throughout life we will experience pain. Pain makes you strong, more resilient, it helps you learn who you are and what you stand for. So don’t be afraid of pain, embrace it. Pain can guide you in another direction when you are so desperately looking for a sign post. Suffering however is optional. If you’re choosing to indulge in the pain and manifest in the pain, you begin to suffer because you are not using the feeling as a tool. As animals, our feelings are there to keep us safe and guide us. As animals our mission is survival and pain is telling you to change your direction or you’re at risk of facing death. If you don’t listen to that feeling, you’ll suffer.

My friend Alex had been feeling pain for a long time, she was suffering. If you’ve ever suffered from pain before, you’ll know it’s not just mental, it’s physical too, your body begins to shut down, you loose your appetite, you feel exhausted, your hair may even begin to fall out – she had begun to experience some of these symptoms because she hadn’t used her pain to move in a different direction or make a change, she was simply dwelling in it.

Alex had a big decision to make, her next decision would either make her stronger, happier, more satisfied and fulfilled, or it would make her weaker, miserable and empty.

When we began talking, the principals of choosing happiness over suffering became fearlessly obvious. I now understand that “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

Here’s how to stop the suffering:



I believe suffering comes from a lack of self worth, a belief that you deserve to suffer, whether we realise it or not. We can feel pain, we can be in pain, but that does not mean we must suffer.

My strongest value in life is self-respect. When you respect yourself, you learn to choose how you spend your days, how you allow people to treat you and how you treat yourself.

Pain usually comes when you’ve gone against your values and beliefs. You feel violated, worthless and most of all dis-respected. From here you have a choice, you can decide to allow the situation to continue, or you can decide to walk away from suffering, be brave and take another direction.

Respect yourself and free yourself from the suffering.



Everyone is on their own journey. A journey to happiness and fulfillment. No one can define your happiness or fulfillment for you, but anyone can define your journey if you allow it. And this is a very scary thought.

If you stop making your own choices and allow yourself to be led by others – in business, relationships and life, your journey in life will never be towards your definition of happiness, only the definition of others. This causes suffering, negative feelings and shame, which you play over and over in your head.

When you’re suffering, it’s most likely you haven’t taken control of your own journey, you’ve followed someone on theirs or lived by others expectations instead of your own.

Stop. Look within yourself to find the next answer or step. Stop asking what will make your partner happy, your colleagues happy, your family happy. Ask what change do you need to make yourself happy?

Don’t manifest in your pain, listen to it and use it as a tool to make a change. When you start looking internally, you’ll create a stronger emotional balance and move forward with happiness.



To move out of suffering we must create a bigger goal for ourselves, for our lives. When you’re suffering, it’s important to have something meaningful to move towards, something bigger and more powerful.

Maybe you’re suffering in a bad relationship and your goal is to make it a good relationship. You’ve been suffering for a while and looking to your partner for change and fulfilment.

Remember, your journey will always be in response to your goal. If your goal is to ‘fix’ a relationship, that will be all your journey is ever defined by.

Decide to commit to something bigger, to your passion, to your dream. When you have a bigger goal, you must keep moving and taking action, you cannot sit back and suffer.

As Socrates said ‘the secret in change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new’.

Ask yourself, what are your goals? Are you choosing to suffer because you have nothing bigger to work towards? Take time to define what you want and commit to making them happen.



When you’re suffering, it can be hard to step back and face your problems. Suffering is a cycle of un pleasant feelings; pain, negative thoughts, self talk, anxiousness, depression. The longer your cycle rotates, the more out of balance you become. You loose your happiness, peace and joy in life. You can only hear the negative thoughts. Control your mind and outlook.

One thing that helps me wake up, really wake up, every day, is to remember that I will die one day. I will be faced with death. This life is not forever. Do you want to look back in 5 years’ time with regret?

There was an article published in the Guardian, The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying, written by a palliative nurse who works with people who are dying. The most common regret was: ‘ I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life other’s expected of me’. The fifth was: ‘I wish I had let myself be happier.’ The nurse explains that many of her patients had not realised that happiness was a choice, it was not until they were faced with death that realised how much we can dwell on unnecessary emotions.

Whatever you’re ‘putting up’ with today, whatever you’re dissatisfied with, whatever change you’re putting off. Remember you are exchanging a day of your life. Stop suffering, start living.



I read an article about emotions a couple of months ago, it’s really changed my life. I learnt that it takes 90 seconds for an emotion to run through your body, after that, it’s your choice whether you hold onto the emotion of whether you let it go. If it’s a negative feeling, I allow myself to experience it whilst I understand what’s causing it and then I decide to let it go. It’s negative self talk which traps us in suffering, holding onto experiences and pain. We must learn to let it go.

The biology of pain is the signal transmitted through the central nervous system that ‘something is wrong’. Our pain tells us to re-access, it’s a wonderful tool and we should use it without holding on to it.

When we begin to consciously ask ourselves ‘why are we feeling this pain?’ ‘what do I need to do to make a change?’ we are breaking the cycle of suffering. We’re not manifesting in negative self talk, anxiety and sadness, we’re finding soltuions to moving forward. Pain can be hard to deal with but suffering is a curse.

Commit to a goal, define your actions and peserver through pain.

As Winston Churchill said, ‘when you’re going through hell, keep going”

 Last night  I received a message from my friend Alex, it read ‘I’m free now!’


I’m on a mission to help people live a life of happiness, passion and fulfilment. If you would like to experience a complimentary coaching session, contact me directly. Be brave and make a change.