Suffering is a necessary evil.
But its inevitability is not the result of it being something that we naturally have to process out of due course. It’s not something we take a passive role in. It is the result of a lack of our own growth; it is a catalyst to signal to us there’s more to be done. This is to say, we’re in control of it. We cultivate and experience it because we allow it. Rather, we allow the unhealed parts of us to control everything else. If we remain unconscious of this — and that its origin and, therefore, solution is external — we start to believe that we deserve it.
Any one of us can recall instances in which we’ve unnecessarily ruined a day that was otherwise going well with a flurry of worry and ungrounded paranoia. We start forcing ourselves to panic almost out of necessity. If there’s nothing, fill it with something — something we deserve.
Where does that assumption come from, though? It usually has a lot to do with repressed emotions. We accumulate these feelings that we don’t accept or deal with and they become the foundation on which we accumulate our beliefs about ourselves. As long as we attach ourselves to an idea of what’s “wrong” and then allow ourselves to be conditioned by it (a friend lashing out is an outer projection of what they’re dealing with; a failed opportunity usually makes way for a better-suited one) we become conditioned by the idea that we’re not good enough. The key is realizing that we do this to ourselves.
We live trapped in the mental structures that we allowed external circumstances to construct, because we never realized we could dismantle them. As soon as we’re in a situation that activates one of those memories, taps into an unhealed, unresolved issue, we don’t stop to see it objectively, we lash out at what aggravated the problem.
Our pain can’t dictate our internal dialogue, and we can’t let ourselves run with compulsive, involuntary thoughts. Every time we do this, we allow that emotion to infiltrate our awareness and transmute itself into our current experience. We project what was onto what is.
There’s an element of disidentification that has to happen. The realization that what’s being experienced isn’t a matter of what’s at hand, but just a subjective, temporary projection of whatever it is you currently believe — in this case, that you should suffer.
Ironically though, the opposite of pain isn’t joy — it’s acceptance. Resisting only adds more fuel to the fire. It sets you back to where you were when you initially repressed it. It’s not dismantling the structure, it’s strengthening it. You permit it by fighting it.
It’s hard for us to believe we deserve happiness, and so we continually go out of our way to attract and inflict pain. That dichotomy is natural, and it’s human, but there’s something to be said for transcending it. If you want to think it’s impossible, you’ll only continue to suffer because of it. If you want to keep valuing that suffering as something that makes you more human, then so be it — but the reality is that what makes us human is not what destroys us, but what we build ourselves with again.
As Marcus Aurelius has said: Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed, and you haven’t been.