Suffering for Support

Why do we feel that a certain level of suffering is required before we ask for what we want? Many of us feel that the suffering has to be enormous before we ask for assistance or say no to another ‘to do’. It’s as if we feel that we are not worthy of assistance until our suffering is so great that we can no longer bear it alone. And so many of us think suffering is noble! The more we suffer, the greater our good nature and contribution to the world. Well, I for one and done with this old and outdated perspective.

It shows up in how ‘sick’ we need to be before we ask our husband for help or call out from work or school. It shows up in the stories of elders telling their grandchildren how they had to walk 15 miles a day to school uphill both ways!. It shows up in how we go the extra mile, even when we are not rewarded for it. We think it makes us the ‘better person’ when we do this. The reality is, we are just the one that suffers from it. Nothing more.

This man’s suffering had to be very high before he felt he had a right to ask for what he wanted.

What if we didn’t have to suffer for the support we desire? What if we could address something the moment it stuck out as ‘other’ than what we want in our experience? What if there was a different option? For example, a man feels that he has to pick up 25 bags of bagged dog poop, videotape the local offender, and show up at their house threatening to post it on Facebook. What if he didn’t have to suffer so much along the way? This man’s suffering had to be very high before he felt he had a right to ask for what he wanted. What if he decided to address the first time and not the 26th time? How much less suffering would he have experienced?

I have recently found myself doing this myself where I feel that I have little choice or power. My local cable company has not been able to send a consistent signal to my house for months. Calls drop, Zooms are interrupted and my live streaming is interrupted several times each hour. After 3 unsuccessful technical support visits and three different sets of directions from customer service agents, I was frustrated. THAT was the time to take action. So what was it that had me wait until the 10th time before I started to share my high level of suffering? There are no other high-speed internet options where I live and I felt that my concern/need/desire didn’t matter to this company. My past experiences have taught me that those in authority won’t support me if they don’t have to, so I don’t expect them to this time either. And THAT is how I keep creating the same experience for myself, over and over. I’m ready to break that pattern – how about you?

Many of us were taught that it isn’t OK to ask for what we want or say no to what we don’t want. How do you use suffering to get the support you need?

If there is something you want, how much suffering do you feel is necessary to get, have, and enjoy what you want? Do you feel you have to suffer with some people but not with others? For instance, can you just tell your wife you are going out with the boys to relax for the night, or do you have to work overtime 5 nights in a row to earn her ‘permission’? If there is something you don’t want, how much suffering do you feel is necessary to say no to it? Does your schedule have to already have back to back meetings to say no to just one more? How bad does it have to get for you to be supported in what you want or don’t want?

What if we simply speak up/recognize/address what we want or don’t want when it is happening? When I ask for no onions on my meal at the diner, I don’t have to justify why I want this to the waiter. I just do. When I ask for no mushrooms in my veggie calzone, I don’t need to justify it in any way. I just ask. If they don’t have it or don’t want to, I go elsewhere or change my order.  It’s up to me to support what I want and don’t want with as little suffering as possible.

How can you support yourself without suffering today?


Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.

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  1. I love this article Wendy. Many of us were brought up with the “Rugged Indivdual” mindset. The Marlboro Man comes to mind. Do everything yourself. Don’t ask for help. Figure it out. Like you, I try to take action and seek assistance before the anger, frustration and self pity stage. There are so many people who are able and willing to help if we just ask.