Why is there so much suffering in the world? People, especially these days, are asking that very question. Besides disease, people from all walks of life experience suffering. It could be businesses that are struggling to make ends meet or a family who is not sure how their bills are going to be paid. Suffering is everywhere. Yet why do we suffer? Many people ask if there is a God why does he allow his people to suffer. So many questions often asked in the same way. They all seem to start with the word, why.
I want to explore this state and maybe change how you look at suffering so that it helps ease your own suffering. To do so I want to make sure you understand who the real cause of your suffering really is. It isn’t what the media wants you to believe nor is it your kids. That person is you. Yes, you are the source of all the pain and suffering in your life. I will dive into how that could possibly be in this post. Yet I can hear you telling yourself, “This dude doesn’t know anything about me! Where does he get off saying that I caused the problems that I am suffering from?” I didn’t say you caused the problems but how you handle those problems is where your suffering comes from. So let’s dive in.
What is suffering?
Let’s start off with a good ol’ fashioned definition.
Suffering: The state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship.
As you can see, the definition doesn’t say from an outside force. It is a state of being. That tells me that suffering is internal. Suffering is an action to how you handle your emotions. Now many people, including yourself, maybe trying to say no it’s the fact that I can’t pay my bills or that I am away from my family that is causing the suffering. That is not the case.
Yeah, you may be away from your family driving a truck or on a business trip but that is just the event. Remember events are neutral. An event is neither good nor bad until you apply a thought to it. That is when you actually make an event in your life mean that it is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m not saying that you being away from your family is good. I am saying that the thought you apply to that event is where you get your emotion. If it is, a bad emotion and you are sloughing through it with a resistance to that emotion you actually create the suffering you feel.
Why do we cause our own suffering?
Suffering is the resistance of an emotion. We hate feeling bad and don’t want to feel so many of our negative emotions. Therefore, we resist the emotions and the effort of resisting is actually, what causes the suffering. Therefore, you could actually look at suffering as the result of riding your breaks. You get heat and your breaks will eventually fail.
So you create your own suffering when you experience an event that has a thought applied to it. That emotion or emotions that are created feel negative and you want to get away from that emotion you cause the suffering to happen in the way of results.
Did you know that between 2002 and 2015 there were 135,000 injuries from vending machines? Yeah, mind-blowing, I agree. So why are these machines becoming sentient and going on rampages? These misshapen terminators are actually not roaming the streets at night. These unassuming machines are just sitting in breakrooms and hotel halls waiting to give you sweet snacks and refreshing beverages. So why have so many people been injured and even killed by these machines? Because the fall over on people who become enraged by the fact that their bag of chips was hung up or their Pepsi didn’t fall out as it was supposed to.
How many times has this happened to you? Several times those darn vending machines took my money and just sat there taunting me. When this happens often, we will try to bump the machine or rock it so that it will release that desired snack. Some people even get so mad and frustrated at the machine they may kick it or start rocking it to the point that it falls over. Quite often, it falls on the person who is doing the assaulting. These machines are not light either. They weigh between 400 and 1000 pounds depending on what they are loaded with and whether they are fully loaded or not. So if a vending machine falls on a person who is pissed off whose fault is it? It isn’t the machine’s fault. They are just sitting there. Newton’s law of motion is an object stays at rest until acted upon by another force.
That person may thankfully only injured while 1000 pounds of moving mass can kill you. Shoot, 400 pounds of moving mass can kill you too if there is enough momentum built up. Yet that fact that they are injured and now suffering from broken hip, pelvis, back or ribs is nobody’s fault but their own.
Another way we cause our own suffering is that we focus on our own failures. We obsess and beat ourselves up because an idea didn’t work as we planned. This is another event that we often will apply the oh Woe is me feeling and the thoughts that create it are often disregarded. Instead of looking at why the plan failed and why we are not able to make it to the next step, we wallow in our own pity and feel the suffering of why we can’t do what we want to do. This is another reason we are our own worst enemy. It is our own opinions of ourselves that causes us to suffer.
We avoid discomfort
We work so hard to avoid the discomfort that it invariably causes us to feel even more discomfort. Look at truck drivers. They often will find a way to go 200 miles out of the way just to avoid a weigh station. If they are caught, there are heavy fines and penalties that have to be paid. Then the DOT may decide to really scrutinize and do an inspection which can create even more of a headache with more fines and even result in the truck being shut down until some problems are fixed. Yet more often than not, the little discomfort of going into a scale house to show your paperwork is not as bad as the dodging of the scales.
Avoiding the discomfort is just like that. You have an event that happens and instead of making space for the emotion that develops, we find every way possible to avoid it. Often that avoidance can then crop up in other ways. Like overeating or turning to over drinking. Often addicts have a central event that they are avoiding so they numb their lives or block out that emotion by overloading their system with Meth or Heroin. Then they have all the compounded problems of breaking the law and being a social pariah. Their family has to leave them to their own devices until they realize that they are running from something. Once they discover what they are running from they are able to turn and face the problem head-on and the healing starts.
Suffering is also because we are not taking the step to get uncomfortable with the difficult tasks that we have. Maybe you want to start a business but you come up with excuses and reasons as to why you are being held back. You may say it’s a money problem or you are not getting the support you need. This can be a mindset issue where you don’t want to take those steps.
How often have you worried about something? You worry that your project isn’t going to work or you worry about what’s going to happen at the office on Monday morning when you turn in your report. Worry is where we focus on what could happen. You have no idea exactly what the results are going to be. So we obsess and allow worry to develop into anxiety and fear. When in reality the worst never happens.
The very act of worrying is actually suffering. Mark Twain’s famous quote
I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, most of which never actually happened.Mark Twain
This suffering is actually from us allowing our thoughts to just run free. We think of all sorts of horrible things that could actually happen but the very likeliness is next to zero. We may think that the boss is going to fire us or maybe just yell at us when in all reasonability he may not say anything at all. I have noticed that most of the time when I worry about what I am worrying about aren’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. So our suffering, again, is caused by our own minds. Their thinking something horrible is going to happen when nothing happens at all.
Easing that horrible suffering
Easing the suffering is nowhere near as hard as you would like to think. It does take work because our minds like to take us to the “what if the worst can happen”. There are several ways you can keep your level of suffering to a bare minimum and if you notice that you are suffering you can change your thoughts so that you don’t suffer but you can be alright with the emotions you feel and become a better stronger person for it.
Own your dirt
Accept that you are the cause of your suffering. Stop trying to shift the blame to your boss, your wife or your kids. They have no control over your emotions. You can’t simply try to lay the blame for your lack of inactions on anybody other than yourself. You have to own up to the fact that you are getting in your own way and that you have to make the effort to accept that bad things happen to you. Your fears are just emotions put there by your amygdala to make sure you are safe and comfortable. If you are comfortable, you are not growing as a human. Remember that excuses are just lies you tell yourself so that you won’t grow.
The 50/50 life
Life is 50% pleasure and 50% pain. Now that sounds harsh I get it. Yet if you take the time to look you see that truth is there. The pain may not be much but a slight discomfort but that is under the category of pain. So am I saying that you have to face the pain? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. The pain isn’t going to kill you. So, if you are able to allow yourself space and patience to examine the emotion. You come to understand that is just a vibration.
You can do this when you are able to accurately describe what that emotion is. IS that hungry sensation in your stomach really hunger, or is that feeling in your stomach just an emotion? Many people confuse it and think they are hungry though they just ate 3 hours ago. Examine the sensation and name it without judgment. When you see that the pain isn’t nearly so bad you can really kick your life into gear because you are no longer causing your own suffering by avoiding pain. You accept it and you process it. Then you continue on.
Take the experience as a teacher
Life is a dedicated teacher. Often she gives you surprise tests. If you fail that test, you will be taught the lesson repeatedly until you actually learn the lesson at hand. You don’t get to progress because you tried hard. You pass the test only when you have learned the lesson. You can learn from each time you find yourself in a place of suffering. Acknowledge all that you have learned from experience and apply those lessons. You will find that you pick up those life lessons faster.
Understand your suffering
Time the time to examine the suffering you give to yourself. When you understand why you are, suffering you can help the rest of your family when they are inflicting themselves with their own suffering. Yet many times, it is best to just lead by example. You can’t force your son to accept his life lessons any more than your wife can force you. So reflect what is causing your suffering, once you have identified what you are doing to cause it to make the needed change. Get some coaching or talk to your mastermind they can help if you find yourself a bit lost.
So own your dirt and accept that you are going to experience pain. If you don’t avoid the pain, you will find that your suffering happens less and less. You don’t resist the emotions and you actively work to find a solution to the lesson you need to learn. In doing so, you will be to reach higher than you ever thought possible.