Suffering Isn’t the Opposite of Joy, It’s Another Path to It

People seem to think suffering is all bad but it’s not. A little bit of suffering will bring you where comfort alone cannot.

Matt Gangloff
7 min readJul 11, 2022


Photo by Martin Péchy on Unsplash

I’ve hatched a crazy plan. It’s still in its infancy and reserve the right to change my mind but here it is: I’m leaving my comfortable life, selling everything I own to travel the world and suffer.

More specifically, I want to visit people who do things that look like suffering to everyone else but, to them, it seems not only reasonable but blissful. To ask them why they do it. To do it myself. And to share what I learn with you.

I want to find out for myself why people allow themselves to be bitten by Bullet Ants and smoke toad venom. I want to know why people crawl on their hands and knees to a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Why they dance to celebrate death in Oaxaca. Why they run 155 miles through the scorching heat of the Atacama Desert. Why people survive off the grid, alone, in bear, wolf, and mountain lion country. Why they sweat, why they freeze, why they self-flagellate and fast.

I want to answer these questions: Why do completely sane people choose to suffer when they don’t have to? What happens when they do? What can we learn from them?

Why Am I Doing This?

I used to know something about suffering that I’ve long since forgotten. I want to rediscover it. I know it intellectually but there’s a difference between knowing something intellectually and knowing it from the inside.

It sounds odd, I know, but these times when I embraced suffering and when I endured hardship were the “happiest” times of my life. I may not have been happy at the time but when I look back on those moments of intense suffering, I remember them fondly.

Suffering is a kind of Type 2 Fun. Type 1 Fun is something that feels good in the moment but fades after it’s over. Type 2 Fun is something that sucks in the moment but, when looking back at it, seems fun. Type 1 Fun is getting drunk or eating cake. Type 2 Fun is making camp as rain turns to snow in the Northern Rockies. Even now as I try to search for examples, no one instance of Type 1 Fun…



Matt Gangloff

I teach the how-to’s of Post-Traumatic Growth: How to heal and grow, find a new mission, become your best self and build a meaningful life.