A number of years ago, it must have been around 2013, I came across a term that fascinated me. I can’t remember how I came across this term, but what I do remember is that I was part of a quote by Carl Jung.

I even ended up writing an article about it around the same time. This was the quote that I came across: "Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.

My Interpretation

When someone is neurotic, it is a sign that they have got mental and emotional problems. Therefore, according to Carl Jung, the reason someone would experience life in his way is because they haven’t suffered.
However, he uses the work ‘legitimate’ to show that there is two types of suffering. The first type of suffering is ‘legitimate’ and this means that the second type of suffering must be ‘illegitimate’.

Black and White

Now, it can be normal for someone to believe that all suffering is bad, and this is likely to come down to what they have been told from the moment they were born. Regardless of whether someone is plugged into mainstream society or is into self-development, they could believe that the purpose of life is to ‘feel good’ and to be happy twenty-four hours a day.

With this outlook, it is going to stop them from being able to see how they could be something called ‘legitimate’ suffering. Yet, if they have embraced a hedonistic lifestyle, this is not going to be much of a surprise.

The First Kind

When it comes to ‘legitimate’ suffering, one of the best examples would be what someone goes though after they have lost a loved one. Someone they loved will have passed on and this will cause them to experience grief.

In this case, they will have face how they feel and to cry out the pain that is within them, amongst other things. The alternative would be for them to disconnect from how they feel and to carry on as normal.

The Second kind

In the short-term, this might not have much of an effect on them, but as time passes, this is likely to change. What they could soon find is that they feel depressed or numb, for instance, and this can then make it hard for them to function.

At this point, it may become clear as to why they are experiencing life in this way, and this can allow them to work through the pain that is within them. Then again, this might not take place, and they could end up being put on some kind of antidepressants.

Part of Life

In the western world, this is a common occurrence, and it is clear example of ‘Illegitimate’ suffering. Also, this kind of suffering could last forever; whereas ‘legitimate’ suffering should pass after a while.

What this shows is that when we face our pain, it can allow us to heal ourselves, but when we don’t, we can end up with all kinds of mental and emotional problems. Taking this into account, it shows how important it is for society as a whole to change how it looks at suffering and to no longer see it in a negative light.

No More Running

There are a number of ways that we can avoid ourselves, these include, but are not limited to: taking drugs, having superficial relationships, engaging in casual sex, over exercising, eating too much, and drinking too much.

So, if we live in a society that doesn’t encourage ‘legitimate’ suffering, is it really a surprise that so many people are neurotic? And if so many people are running away from their own inner demons, so to speak, it is any wonder that there are so many problems in the external world?

A New Outlook

In the same way that it is seen as acceptable for people to talk about their physical problems, it needs to be seen as acceptable for them to not only open up about what is going for them, but to work through their own pain, too. A lot has been done recently when it comes to the first part, and this is all well and good, but it is just the first stage.

The next stage is for people to live in a society that understands that ‘’legitimate’ suffering is normal, and this is one of the things that need to happen in order for people to be mentally and emotionally healthy. If we just focus on mental and emotional problems and say that this is just part of life, it would be similar to saying that being ill is just part of life and not doing anything about it.


In the same way that people generally don’t just get ill, they also generally don’t just end up with mental and emotional problems. And as more and more people come to accept this and to work though their own pain, the external world will gradually reflect this inner transformation.

Author's Bio: 

Prolific writer, author, and coach, Oliver JR Cooper, hails from England. His insightful commentary and analysis covers all aspects of human transformation, including love, partnership, self-love, and inner awareness. With over one thousand six hundred in-depth articles highlighting human psychology and behaviour, Oliver offers hope along with his sound advice.

To find out more go to - http://www.oliverjrcooper.co.uk/

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