There are 3 types of suffering. It took me years to realize this.
For most of my life I would consistently get caught up in cycles of suffering. I couldn’t understand what was causing it. Sometimes it would get so bad I wanted life to end. Suicidal ideation began in 8th grade and continued periodically into my late 20’s (I’m 35 now). I tried medications, supplements, and anything else I could think of. Nothing really worked.
Today I’m a happy person. I can accurately diagnose what causes suffering. I am able to pinpoint what the issue is and correct it. This is possible because I understand there are 3 distinct types.
Everyone can benefit from this understanding. Even so-called professionals don’t have these distinctions. This can only be known from self-observation. The purpose of this post is to put this understanding into words for my own deeper understanding. Keep in-mind, intellectual understandings are just a map to get somewhere. You still have to take the journey.
Let’s dive in.
Physical suffering is obvious… Someone hits you, you break a leg, you get the flu, you get a concussion etc. These are all painful events. Life becomes not-so-fun when they happen. We can limit these events to a certain extent, but never completely.
However, most physical suffering isn’t so obvious. We can call this suffering chronic… You haven’t gotten 10,000 steps/day in years, you are overweight, your body is inflamed from eating too much, you rarely get any sunlight, you’re hungover etc. Poor lifestyles make a person unhealthy. Being unhealthy is suffering.
Health isn’t an on / off switch like modern medicine assumes. It’s a volume knob. You can be 50 out of 100 healthy and still not have a disease. But you’re definitely on your way toward getting one.
Our bodies have requirements for health. These requirements come from the way humans evolved. If you feed a house cat vegetarian food, it will get sick and die. Cats are carnivores.
Your body needs movement. Your body needs the right foods. Your body needs sunlight. Your body struggles when you eat too much. Your body struggles when you use drugs. I could go on…
Ninety five percent of Americans aren’t healthy. They are suffering because of it. Most have acclimated to feeling like shit. They aren’t aware that life could be a whole lot better.
Take a look at your own life. Are you truly healthy? Are your daily choices allowing your body to be healthy? Or are you messing it up… If you want to become Untroubled, health is foundational.
Humans being have a huge imagination. Your dog doesn’t. The word imagination is normally reserved for children. Activities like painting rainbows or playing house. This is a juvenile understanding. Human imagination goes far beyond that. In fact, it’s the basis of what makes you human.
Your imagination isn’t complicated. It only has 2 functions:
The ability to project future possibilities gives us a survival advantage. We are able to anticipate potential problems and preemptively come up with solutions. We can think into the future and modify situations accordingly.
The ability to remember the past also gives us a survival advantage. We are able to learn valuable lessons from past situations. Plus, we can tell our friends about it.
Our imaginations are powerful. So powerful YOU and your attention can get ‘stuck’ in it without even realizing it. You become completely oblivious to the present moment. Asleep at the wheel of life.
When’s the last time you noticed your breath? Your posture? The energy that you can feel flowing through your hands? These are things occurring NOW. They are only noticeable if your attention is in the NOW.
This is where the eastern expression “waking up” comes from. When you “wake up” you become fully alive to the present moment.
Adrenaline junkies love to push the limits with their life… why? Because it wakes them up. Their attention is finally out of their imagination and fully in the present moment. Where it should be.
Your imagination is able to make you suffer. It has the capacity to completely take you over. What do you think makes someone ‘crazy’? Their imagination has totally taken them over. They no long live in reality. They are completely stuck in their heads.
When your imagination is running the show, you’re in a prison. Part of your imagination’s function is to anticipate problems so you can avoid them. Even if you don’t have any problems, it creates them. Ever been on vacation and still not all that happy? While you were laying by the pool your imagination was busy creating fake problems. This is happening on deep levels, mostly outside conscious awareness. Yet the result is the same… suffering.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
This quote points to this reality. Why can’t you sit alone? Because your imagination is dominant and it begins creating problems. This creates discomfort. This makes you suffer.
If you haven’t gotten a grip on your imagination, and only a very small percentage of people do, you will suffer. It is inevitable. Depression and anxiety are natural outcomes.
If you want to become Untroubled, you have to start practicing putting your attention into the present moment. As you practice this, you will get better at it. Soon you’ll be ‘waking up.’ You’ll no longer allow your imagination to create problems that aren’t real.
The last type of suffering is trauma. Trauma is a ‘storage bin’ of suffering. All trauma is rooted in fear. Everyone feels fear through their life. However, when fear is extremely strong, or consistent, it turns into trauma.
Think about a dog that has been abused. Whenever she sees a hand coming toward her, she cowers in fear… even if times have changed and she’s getting a pet. This situation brings tears to my eyes. The dog was a victim of abuse and trauma has been stored into her nervous system.
The same thing happens with humans.
All of these examples have 2 things in common: fear and an inability to process it.
Trauma is tricky. Most who suffer from it aren’t aware that it’s still coloring their experience of life.
The silver lining: trauma can be overcome. Ironically, it takes using your imagination to reprocess events from your past. A good therapist guides you through this.
Writing is also a powerful tool to overcome trauma. Writing forces you to comprehend your past and put it into words. When you do this, you are reprocessing. Expect huge emotional releases when you revisit things you’ve repressed. Stay present with the feeling. Reprocess consciously what REALLY happened. Put it into your own words.
Becoming Untroubled means you stop suffering. When you stop suffering you open the door to all huge possibilities in life. You are finally tapping into your full potential.
There are 3 types of suffering: physical, imagination, trauma.
Eliminating physical suffering boils down to becoming truly healthy.
Eliminating imagination based suffering means you learn to keep your attention in the present moment and guide your imagination consciously.
Eliminating trauma means you reprocess situations that have created extreme or persistent fear that you still carry.
All of this takes effort. The rewards are worth it. Nothing could ever be more valuable than having a pleasant experience of life.
I wish you the best on your journey.