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No Pain, No Gain

Strangely, I am looking forward to some painful experiences. Let me tell you why…

Image: My bookshelf, containing books like those mentioned in my articles

There is a brilliant and inspiring chapter on difficulties in the book The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton. The philosopher Nietzsche is the star of this chapter for his wise and unusual beliefs. In essence he said that we should not go meekly into the dead of night. He said people strive to avoid pain but in doing so they forego the fulfillment that can only be gained through the pains of practise and perseverance towards a goal.

I found it noteworthy that in his early days, Nietzsche idealised the philosophy of Schopenhauer, who believed the antithesis of Nietzsche’s later philosophy. Schopenhauer declared we should aim to minimise the pain we feel. To do this, rather than striving for pleasure we should aim to minimise it too, as greater pleasure inevitably leads to greater pain.

Nietzsche believed that pain and pleasure will occur in equal amounts in life. The more pain we experience, the more pleasure and subtle joys we will likely experience. This is due to the fact that we will at least gain skills, if not accomplish masterpieces, in the process of experiencing goal-driven pain. Nietzsche would agree with the age-old achieve your goal or get better by trying motto.

Nietzsche had another interesting idea: pain can result in positive or negative outcomes depending on how you react to them. For example, envy can lead to giving up with bitterness. Alternatively, it can lead to a healthy rivalry. Injustice can lead to either murder, or campaigning for better access to supports for the underprivileged. Channelling these painful emotions ultimately provides fulfillment.

The challenge to embrace pain, funnily enough, makes my pain lessen even for my everyday issues.

Modern science has evidence to support these experiences of mine from Nietzsche’s work. When you think that stress is bad for you, it restricts blood flow throughout the body, causing various negative side effects like making concentration harrowing. However, if you believe stress is a positive way for the body to prepare and motivate you for the things you have to do, your arteries function just as well as always. I learnt this in the Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal called How to Make Stress Your Friend:

Nietzsche’s philosophy feels encouraging. I feel a long-forgotten craving to achieve more.

Due to my brain health, I’m wondering how far I can go without relapsing, but I’m willing to try.




Hi there,

Lauren Sims is an artist and author from Brisbane, Australia. She has recently become and author and will be releasing her first book in late 2022.

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