San Diego Therapist explores: What is avoidable suffering?
Suffering is a part of being human... Certain types of suffering are unavoidable: examples of unavoidable suffering include aging, death, illness, and natural disasters. The suffering associated with these examples is often simply unavoidable and a necessary part of human life.
Some types of suffering may be more avoidable than others...
These forms of suffering are often mediated more by the stories that we tell ourselves than actual events. This is not to say that this sort of suffering is not valid, real, or painful. Indeed, it is all of these things. Suffering fueled by the mind is very very real, and very very painful...however it may not be "unavoidable".
The mind is constantly at work and a great storyteller. Often we are mesmerized by it's stories- like children listening to a fairytale...
Here's a very simple example of this phenomenon: It's Monday morning, You're on the way to a new job. You're in traffic, but your mind- and thus you- are already at the office. You see yourself meeting your new boss and he is rude and condescending towards you. You begin to feel nervous and amble your way to your new office, which is actually not an office at all, but a cubicle with dank lighting...you begin feeling sick. Snapping back into the present moment, you pull the car into the office driveway and notice that your heart is beating quickly and your palms are sweaty-and you suddenly don't want to go to this new job....you don't understand why....but your body is saying, "no way".
This example was fairly innocuous, no real harm done here, but you get the idea- the mind's thoughts- if unchecked/unfiltered can become a pretty big part of how you experience life... Sometimes we listen to the mind's various tales, without a filter, for an entire lifetime. In some cases, these tales are not even original; they're heirlooms from our parents. They are our parents fears, thoughts and beliefs- not ours. But we experience them as our own.
Who ever gave them to us isn't really the issue per say- you may not need to lounge on Freud's couch for years to get relief. However, you might want to step out of these stories of the mind from time to time- re-set yourself- check your mind....find out:
what stories am I spinning? Is this really true? What record is my mind playing today?
In slowing down, and listening to your mind- writing down your thoughts in a journal is really helpful- you can begin to see what your mind focuses upon. You can begin to see what it naturally gravitates towards. This is really empowering. You don't have to be a slave to your mind's stories.
Story spinning is what minds do, they are busy little guys. There is nothing innately wrong with this activity- every human mind does it.
To avoid "avoidable" suffering however, begin to take time to listen to your mind. Slow down, join a meditation group, journal, or attend mindfulness therapy and begin to take control of your mind and thus your life experiences.