56 pages 1 hour read

Susan Cain

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2022

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How to Respond to Pain

When it comes to how people should respond to pain, the first principle Susan Cain insists on is that pain should not cause people to become numb and avoid living their lives because they are afraid of it. Cain accepts the idea that suffering is inevitable; it cannot be avoided, so the best thing to do is to accept it as part of life. This is not as morbid as it may seem, as Cain points out. The experience of pain, if processed productively, is one of the most reliable mechanisms for personal growth.

Secondly, Cain suggests that rather than flee from pain, people should dive deeper into it. She says:

The place you suffer is the place you care. You hurt because you care. Therefore, the best response to pain is to dive deeper into your caring. Which is exactly the opposite of what most of us want to do. We want to avoid pain: to ward off the bitter by not caring quite so much about the sweet (45).

Because we care, we are far more likely to experience pain. If one does not care, they are less likely to experience emotional pain. In Cain’s estimation, the latter is no way to live life, and it is a defensive posture against the prospect of suffering.