Belenen (belenen) wrote,

on comparing one person's suffering to another's

"If you had to deal with what I've had to deal with, you'd realize that what you're going through is nothing."

Statements like this have always infuriated me -- not just because of their condescension and arrogance, not just because they are callous and invalidating, but because they are completely illogical. Suffering is a condition of emotion, and emotion is not quantifiable and not the same from person to person. Even if the situation is exactly the same, it will affect people in different ways; personality and experience affects the resultant emotion just as much as the situation itself.

For my current self, having my looks insulted by a stranger would be cause for laughter and sympathy, as it would speak to me of how silly they are to assume that I value their opinion of my attractiveness, how they do not understand what makes a person attractive/worthy, and how they are trapped within a horrible world of judgment and distance and self-loathing. For my previous self, having my looks insulted by a stranger would be an affirmation of everything I'd most feared, and would cause me to increase in self-loathing perhaps even to the point of suicide (as that was something my previous self was never far from). It's the same situation and the same personality, but because of a difference in experience (practicing self-love, learning to see all looks as equally beautiful, and learning about the falsity of the 'ideal', as well as healing in general and thus not being so close to self-destruction), the emotion resulting is completely different and therefore a 'hurtful' act can cause extreme suffering or none at all.

And that may be a fanciful example, but the same is true for all pain. For one person the death of a parent is devastating; for another, it's just another day. For one person the death of a pet fish is just a fact of life; for another, it is cause for deep sorrow. Thus you cannot say that the death of a parent is more painful than the death of a pet fish, because suffering is more about personality and experience than it is about the situation itself.

I am convinced that the only meaningful way to measure suffering is by how much it affects a person, and the only meaningful reason to measure suffering is to learn how much support that person needs in that situation.

LJ idol topic 2: "Uphill, Both Ways, Barefoot"
Tags: anti-hierarchy, philosophical musings, rants, the essential belenen collection, writing prompts

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