Are You Fueling Your Suffering?

It is possible that the choices you are making in your life are adding to your suffering. Understanding this can help you to minimize your suffering.

No, you are not responsible for the choices other people make, or for the actions of other people. However, with a few exceptions, your suffering comes from the choices you make.

This will sound counter-intuitive at first, but stay with me for a few minutes because I firmly believe that empowerment can only come when an individual takes responsibility for their choices. Only when you take ownership of your choices can you make new choices, and actually create positive change.

You are the only one in charge of what you focus on, so you can decide to take conscious control, and focus on what you want. When you learn to do this, you wake up to your own power.

While you cannot control other people’s choices or behaviour, you can control your own. Behaviour is usually triggered by emotions, so we’ll start there after we look at the 4 things in your life you can control, according to Bill Harris.

4 Things You Control

  • How you feel
  • What meanings you assign to what happens
  • How you behave
  • Which people and situations you attract or to which you become attracted

All people create an internal map of reality that helps them navigate and understand life. It is all too easy to confuse our internal map of reality with reality. Please remember, the map is not the territory.

Often, this map is created unconsciously based on your values and beliefs. Your internal map of reality informs every thought, meaning, feeling, action, and so on, in your life. Collectively, these trigger a particular emotional response.

Perception and Human Experience

There is an external event. We experience this event though our 5 main senses, and through our mental filters…

Once through the mental filters, we come to an inner perception of the external event. This becomes the story or meaning that we give to the event…

The meaning or interpretation we put onto that event influences our emotional state.

In turn, our emotional state directs our response or subsequent actions.

Emotions are sensations in the body which are accompanied by particular thoughts. Work at becoming more aware of your emotions. Notice the thoughts that accompany a particular feeling.

Is there a situation you are replaying in your mind? Have you attached a specific meaning to an event that is more interpretation than truth?

You can choose which thoughts you focus on, and what meanings you assign to events. The whole world created by your mind can be transcended.

Ask yourself what other interpretations are possible for a given event. Ask yourself if you are focusing your thoughts in a direction that helps you, or harms you. Choose resourceful meanings and thoughts on which to focus.

Suffering and Resistance

From my own observations, a lot of suffering comes when you resist emotions or the events that triggered them. Resistance is often unconscious, and it does not serve you.

This is not about numbing out. Feel what you feel because feelings are important signals. I do not suggest you deny or repress your emotions.

Instead, I advocate for observing your internal world with detached curiosity. You can’t curiously observe and resist at the same time.

Observing with detached curiosity reduces resistance because it creates a vital distance between the event, and your emotional response. The vital distance created also gives you the ability to notice which choices you’ve made that might be contributing to your suffering.

My Real-Life Example

I made the choice 7 years ago to move back home and take care of my elderly parents. However, I started feeling resentful.

It all started with an open window. Sure, there’s way more to the story, but mostly, I remember the window.

It was winter, and no matter how many times I shut the window, or asked my parents to shut the window, I would always see it open. I was freezing!

I started thinking to myself that no one in the house cared about my comfort, or my wants. I was just there to be a servant, so that everyone else could have their comforts and wants taken care of.

It did not feel good, as I’m sure you can imagine! Finally, I had to stop, and sit myself down, and give myself a good listening-to.

The realization I came to was this:

Although I had made the choice to take care of my parents, I didn’t feel like I had really had a choice. It just felt expected.

Family takes care of family. It’s a value with which I was raised.

However, I came to recognize that I decided to take care of my parents. No one forced me, regardless of how I was raised. The doors at home open. It’s not a prison. I could, and still can, leave anytime.

The moment I owned my decision, the resentment faded away.

Then, I realized that it was not just my decision to be at home that I was wrestling with. Clearly, I knew my parents were old and in poor health. After all, that’s why I was living at home. However, I hadn’t really come to terms with how ill they were.

The story I was telling myself (I’m just a servant around here. No one cares about what I want. & etc.) was an interpretation of events that was untrue.

I realized that if I was sometimes treated like a servant, it was because my parents were physically incapable of doing certain things for themselves. Sometimes, my wants and comfort had to take a backseat.

That dang open window is a fantastic example. The open window made me cold, but it helped momz breathe. If the options are between being warm and being able to breathe, then the choice should be obvious.

The point is that I had to become aware of what was really going on before I could do anything about it. I gave myself the mental space to observe how I was feeling, and where it was coming from. Only then could I accept the situation, and let it be okay.

I had to see where I was, instead of where I wished I was, and make my peace with it. I did this by owning my choices, and exercising some empathy.

I tell you all this to illustrate that no matter what happens, it is possible to let it be okay. You just need conscious awareness and practice.

Ambition and Resistance

Letting whatever happens be okay is  about releasing attachment to a particular outcome or circumstance. Being too attached to a desired outcome can generate fear. Some might argue that this philosophy strips a person of ambitions and goals, but that’s a load of hooey!

This truth is you can be motivated without being attached to an outcome. In fact, letting whatever happens be okay complements drive and motivation.

You can have an outcome in mind, take action to do whatever you can to make it happen, and still be unattached to the outcome. As you move toward your goal, you prefer the outcome you want, but you don’t suffer if it doesn’t happen.

The crucial distinction is between a preferred outcome, and an outcome you feel you must have. Prefer-to-have is a better approach than must-have when working towards your desired outcomes. The ironic truth is that the less attached you are to a specific outcome, the more likely you are to get what you want.

Final Thoughts

When you let whatever happens be okay, you are very aware of what is happening. You are feeling and experiencing everything. You’re not attached to a particular outcome. You do not believe things have to happen a certain way for you to be happy.

Once you decode your internal map of reality, you begin to understand how it drives your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Then, you can begin to change it for the better. Once you make these positive changes, you start to attract what you want in life instead of what you don’t want.

The brain is a goal seeking mechanism, and a very powerful one. It tries to make whatever you believe to be true actually come true. The good news is: You can change your beliefs, and your internal map. As you do, your life changes.

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