Pain is inevitable. Misery and Happiness are Optional.  Choosing Happiness

Michael Bergeron hosted Phoenix World Burn Congress workshop today regarding pain, misery, and happiness.  Michael shared for us his findings and expertise on the topic of choosing happiness in the face of life's events.

Pain is inevitable. Misery and Happiness are Optional.  Choosing Happiness

By Michael Bergeron

Often times it is overwhelming to step beyond the pain and agony of trauma, both physical and psychological.  How, in the midst of or as a result of a trauma that becomes so pervasive can we begin to think about a life that resembles (our) normal, let alone happy and fulfilling?

Why can happiness be so elusive?  And what are the factors that influence our happiness and our ability to find and hold on to it? So many factors affect our happiness.  Pain, and our perception of it, is a major contributing factor.

In fact, pain is the most frequent nursing diagnosis and most common problem for which patients in the clinical setting seek help.  So what determines our level of pain, and is it physical, psychological, or both?  What influences our perception of pain? The truth is, pain is influenced by a number of factors, including positive and negative emotions.  Other factors include memory and intent.  For example, how does how we feel now affect what happened back then, and our perception of ourselves and our circumstances as a result?  And are we more inclined to assign blame or own responsibility?  We will discuss these concepts in addition to others, such as empathy and compassion, and how they, too affect our pain, leading to either misery or happiness. 

In addition we will look at coping styles and whether we add to our pain and create misery by feeding it with hate, anger and resentment.  In many cases our suffering turns to misery and is a byproduct of how we respond to a problem, in many cases negatively.  But the truth is, happiness is possible, and we can train in happiness just as we train for any other skill.  Training the mind is not merely related to cognitive or intellectual ability.  It includes intellect and feeling, heart and mind.  In Tibetan, the word is Sem (The Art of Happiness, His Holiness the Dalia Lama, Howard C. Cutler, M.D.).

Many people confuse happiness and pleasure.  And denying ourselves pleasure can lead to feeling like we’re moving away from something good.  However, it can also mean we are moving toward something that will ultimately lead to greater happiness. Therefore it is important to understand that happiness comes at a price, and includes hard work. 

To be sure happiness is not about feeling good all the time. It requires struggle, denial, determination, resilience, and even some degree of pain. Many people who have lived through traumatic injuries experience something called post traumatic growth, which is about positive changes in the aftermath of crisis.  It is all about not losing the lessons the experience can teach us about us.  People who experience it report positive growth in five areas: 

  • A renewed appreciation for like
  • They found new opportunities for themselves
  • They felt increased personal growth
  • Their relationships improved
  • They felt more spiritually satisfied

Keys to Happiness

  • Maintaining responsibility (not running from it)
  • A sense of commitment to doing something hard
  • Don’t be afraid of feeling
  • Having ongoing relationships with people who depend on you and that you can depend on.

Remember, we are social creatures, and our happiness depends on our connection to others.

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jimmydurant    Moderate:
12:02pm - Jan 17, 2015

I feel burn survivors are uniquely blessed with a profound understanding of humanity in a society obsessed with vanity.