Our perceptions of the world are what create our reality. However, sometimes our perceptions can cause us pain, and sometimes they can even be untrue in the process. The following list describes ways that we create our own suffering, and how we can actually heal ourselves.
We Create Suffering by being in Resistance to the Past
Imagine you are driving down the road, and your tire is flat. The moment that you realize your tire is flat, it is the past – although it is the immediate past, it is still in the past. When you agonize and feel frustration over the flat tire, you are in resistance to the past. You are arguing with something that has already happened, and you are giving your energy to nothing. It is essentially a form of insanity.
So – how do you remove your suffering in that moment? First, recognize and validate your emotions. Yes, it is a frustrating situation, and it is okay to feel that way. However, now you must pair that emotional acceptance with the attempt to create a positively-oriented solution. For example: “this is a frustrating situation, but I can call a tow company and resolve this scenario”.
By investing your energy into a solution, it is being properly expended, rather than fighting with an event that has already occurred. Keep in mind that you can be in resistance to the short-term and long-term past. If you are ruminating about something in the past, ask yourself two key questions: (1) If I am ruminating about this, what is the need it is trying to meet for me? For example, in the case of the flat tire, you may be over analyzing the scenario to exert a form of control that you had lost in the moment that it happened. Once you can identify that you’re looking for a sense of control, realize how you can meet that need in the moment. You may be able to regain control by calling a mechanic, and by doing so, you are sending your energy in a positive direction. Keep in mind that looking for control is the need that may arise in the flat tire scenario, specifically. Other needs may arise in other scenarios.
The next key question you must ask yourself is: (2) How can I learn or grow from this experience? By asking yourself this question, you are essentially improving your post-traumatic growth, which is your overall ability to bounce back from challenges. Studies have shown that those who tend to be more successful are able to take challenges and turn them into opportunities. By asking yourself this small question and taking a moment to seize an opportunity to grow, you will make a big – and positive – cumulative impact in your life.
We Create Suffering by being in Resistance to the Choices that we are Currently Making
By resisting what you’re currently doing, you are using your energy in an inefficient way. Considering every decision that a person makes is because they believe consciously + subconsciously that that decision has more benefits than drawbacks, you will realize that by resisting current decisions, energy is wasted. For example, if you are resisting going to work in the morning but you do go to work, it is because you perceive going to work as having more benefits than drawbacks. These benefits could include paying your bills and having a house to live in, even if the drawback is that you dislike your job.
Therefore, if you commit to that decision because there are, in fact, more benefits than drawbacks, the resistance to that choice is simply creating meaningless suffering.
Mentally explore different areas of your life, and ask yourself where you are creating meaningless suffering for yourself. At the end of the day, to remove your suffering, you must be on board with the choices that you make – rather than suffering without a purpose. To make the most of these scenarios, ask yourself: (1) How can I make the most of this situation, and (2) How can I not be in resistance to it?
By simply reflecting upon your choices and searching for positive steps to reach acceptance, you will minimize the suffering you create for yourself s urrounding your present-day decisions.
We Create Suffering by Giving Meaning to Our External Environment Based on Past Events
This may seem like a more complicated form of suffering. To better illustrate what this means, consider a man has a female partner that cheats on him. He then believes that all women will cheat on him, and that he can’t trust women. As you can see, this man projects this belief into the external environment based on this past event that he experienced.
Therefore, you must ask yourself: How does this belief affect your life? Is it more painful to live life never again trusting a woman and avoiding a rich relationship, or is it more painful to be vulnerable again and risk a small chance of that event occurring again?
Overall, you need to look at the beliefs you are upholding, and what the potential downside cost of overturning that belief would be. Once you have done this, you have the opportunity to reprogram these beliefs, and move forward with your life. A good analogy for this kind of suffering is: you cannot drive a car only looking in the rearview mirror. We cannot assume that our past experiences will equal our present, since it is actually what will project the past into our present and future. In other words, if you avoid relationships entirely to avoid being cheated on and ending up alone, you will still end up alone by avoiding those relationships.
We Create Suffering by Making Our External Reality About Our Internal Self
This may be the most complicated way in which we create our own suffering. To help illustrate what this means, imagine this scenario: a woman is extremely angry about her husband leaving his laundry on the floor – more angry than someone should be about such an event. As she becomes more furious, her husband becomes more sad and withdrawn, to the point of being in despair. It is clear that this scenario isn’t actually about the laundry on the floor. What creates the intense emotion in this situation is the meaning that the man and the woman are assigning to the clothing on the floor.
Although pain is inevitable in life, suffering is the meaning that we assign to the pain. However, suffering is always transformable because it is perception-based. In the case of the laundry, the wife may believe that she is not respected by her husband, and the husband may perceive that he is unloved because she is so upset about laundry on the floor when he tries so hard in other areas of the relationship.
In this case, there are two human beings fighting about clothing on the floor, but what they are really discussing, are feeling disrespected and unloved. These wounds, moreover, may have been created subconsciously in childhood.
Therefore, we must source the meaning that we are giving to certain situations, and find evidence of the opposite. By looking for evidence, in this scenario, of occasions where her husband respected her and his wife loved him, the unconscious beliefs that we associate to external events can be uprooted and disproven.
Overall, by questioning what meaning you are assigning to certain events and analysing the way in which you spend your energy, we can eliminate multiple sources of suffering on a daily basis, and work towards a happier and more authentic life.