In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about Suffering, defining exactly what it is, what causes it, what its role is, how it impacts the brain, how to end it and more.
What Is Suffering?
Suffering is the universal human experience that refers to the psychological or physical state of discomfort.
What Is The Source Of Suffering?
Suffering occurs when subjective reality doesn’t align with objective reality. In other words, it results when our expectations about how life should be don’t match how life actually is.
What Is The Purpose Of Suffering?
The purpose of Suffering is ultimately to facilitate learning. By causing discomfort, it motivate us to re-evaluate our existing beliefs and update our Mental Model Of The World.
We are, consciously or subconsciously, constantly forming beliefs about the world around us. These beliefs form our Model Of The World ― a mental map of how reality operates.
When our subjective beliefs don’t align with objective reality, the brain triggers the release of pain hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which create the experience that we call Suffering.
Pain Versus Suffering
Pain refers to the unpleasant sensations created by our bodies. It is a survival mechanism that signals to us (via emotions) something needs to change.
Suffering refers to the unpleasant sensations created by our minds. It is by-product of the stories and beliefs we generate that form seemingly unpleasant emotions.
For example, while pain is the sensation you’d feel after burning yourself on a hot stove, Suffering is the sensation you’d feel after ridiculing yourself for doing so.
Thus, while pain is inevitable in life, Suffering is optional.
The Three Patterns Of Suffering
There are three primary patterns of focus that lead to Suffering; loss, less and never. We focus on the loss of something, having less of something or never having something.
For example, maybe you lost your job, a partner or a big investment (loss), maybe your income or investment decreased (less) or maybe you believe that no matter what you do you won’t achieve success or find an intimate relationship (never).
How To End Suffering
The key to ending suffering is to refine our Model Of The World so that our subjective beliefs align with objective reality. In doing so, we see things as they are, rather than how we want them to be.
Furthermore, we shift our internal state and therefore how we perceive, experience and interact with the world around us.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
Suffering occurs when your subjective reality (how you think life is) doesn’t match objective reality (how life actually is).
The key to ending it is to update our Model Of The World so that our subjective beliefs align with objective reality.