Home » Blogs » Mindfulness and Psychotherapy » The One Suffering You Could Avoid: Mondays Mindful Quote

The One Suffering You Could Avoid: Mondays Mindful Quote

There is a tradition on the Mindfulness and Psychotherapy Blog. Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives. For me, quotes and poetry can often sink me into a state of greater understanding. So for today, here is a quote by Franz Kafka:

 “You can hold back from suffering of the world,

you have permission to do so,

and it is in accordance with your nature,

but perhaps this very holding back

is the one suffering you could have avoided.”

In a recent blog, Mindful Monday: A Note to the Severely Depressed–Don’t Try So Hard, author Therese Borchard wrote about her first hand experience with trying to get out of a depressed state through her bag of mindfulness and CBT tricks. What she found was the harder she tried and was unable to succeed the more her judgments about being a “failure” grew.

What her doctor’s told her was when you are in the eye of a depressive episode, “distract, don’t think.”

When we’re really depressed, the mind is searching for things “to do” in order to get us out. However, this is a trap, especially when we’re really depressed. The harder we try, the more stuck we get.


Because it’s a set up.

The moment we’re reaching for mindfulness practices as a means to an end, as a means in that moment to feel better, get out of depression, or achieve calm, is the moment our minds develop the rule: “If I don’t see any relief come from this, then I am a failure, or there must be something wrong with me.”

From then on, the mind becomes vigilant in looking for relief and every moment it is not found, is a moment that is laced with self judgment which digs us deeper into depression.

Also, with a depressive episode, the stronghold of automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) is so powerful in that moment that it is almost as if we are wearing permanent shaded glasses so no matter what we “do” the outcome is tinted with self judgment.

In our Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) groups for depressive relapse, we make sure that people who are beginning the group are not currently in a depressive episode for this very reason. The trap is created and often what we need when we’re feeling depressed is physical movement, contact with people, and actions toward self kindness (even if our minds tell us we don’t deserve it).

So Kafka tells us that the very desperate striving to try and get away from our pain is the very suffering that may have been avoided.

In other words, Therese has it right. When we are already depressed and “trying too hard,” to use these techniques, we are likely using them in service of  avoiding pain and therefore not having that initial opportunity to see it for what it is. In her case, a biological condition that is best treated with distraction in these moments.

When we don’t have that initial recognition and we use “try too hard” using mindfulness or CBT to avoid it, this creates a tension, a dissonance with the way things are which adds to cauldron of not feeling well.

However, the caveat here is that as long as we recognize and acknowledge that we are suffering in any particular moment, we are no longer ignoring it. With this initial awareness we can see the depressive episode for what it might be, perhaps a chemical imbalance in the moment.

Then we can make a choice to do as Therese mentions “distract” or shift our focus to things that are on our anti-depressant check list such as seeking connection, be around people, be kind to yourself, play with your animal, or get outside and take a walk.

More than anything, trust your experience. There is no one way for everyone, become intimate with what is supportive for you during difficult times.

What is supportive for you? Please share your stories, thoughts, suggestions, and questions below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

The One Suffering You Could Avoid: Mondays Mindful Quote

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

3 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2019). The One Suffering You Could Avoid: Mondays Mindful Quote. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.