As I’ve written about before, all of our experience – all joy, all suffering, all emotion, all sensation, all feeling, fundamentally comes back to our consciousness, what we can perceive to exist. Because of this, every conscious thing does not want to suffer (as defined as unwanted pain), and wants well being – being content, feeling pleasure, joy, fulfillment – the opposite of suffering. There are reliably ways to increase suffering, and reliably ways to reduce suffering.
Modern day life is riddled with media which is designed to scare us. It is important to recognize this so we don’t fall victim to it. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one, and the media no doubt contributes to widespread societal suffering, unnecessarily.
Some suffering is necessary, other suffering is unnecessary. A close relative passing away causes suffering to us because evolution has taught us to build strong bonds to the people in ours lives that matter most. Suffering over their loss is likely necessary and integrated within us such that we value people when they’re here and suffer when we lose them. Suffering typically diminishes over time such that we can “move on” and focus on other things in life that are important to our well being and survival.
It’s the season of politics in the US, particularly a seemingly important election in the US. As I wrote about last month, I look at politics as a big psychology experiment. It is always interesting to see how people react to various politicians and what they say about different things. My Facebook newsfeed is filled with people in rage about what the other party said or did, leading to arguments in the threads which are endless. Both sides are arguing, not from the foundations of the arguments but from a high level, meaning that they can never agree based on the differing foundational values. As Tim Minchin said, “it’s like hitting beautifully executed shots from the opposite ends of two different tennis courts”. The first step is to get into the same court.
Politics causes immense amounts of unnecessary suffering. Hatred, rage, disgust all lead to suffering – and not of suffering of other people, but of you, the one hating, the one raging, the one disgusted.
Politics matters, no doubt about it, but we only can control it so much. As a result, is it worth suffering over? We can only focus on things within our control (such as voting, for example). If we let things outside of our control cause suffering, then we’re in for a life of endless suffering. If we focus on our own responsibilities in our lives, then life becomes a project to grow, to learn, the help others, to build the best life we see possible in our own mind, given our expectations of what life is supposed to be.
Throughout life we have to control how we spend our attention. In the age of abundant information, one of the best skills that a person can acquire is being able to choose what to consume, and how to react to what is consumed. If what you consume makes you suffer, you have two options – 1) choose not to consume information that makes you suffer, or 2) consume the information but react to it differently such that you don’t suffer.
Life is short. It is short for everyone, and no ones wants to die. As Steve Jobs said “even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.” As soon as we recognize truly how short it is, it is our responsibility to not only make each day a good day, but do everything we can to not suffer unnecessarily.
Whenever you feel yourself angry, sad, hateful, upset – ask yourself, is this worth suffering over?
The answer is almost always a firm no.
Choosing what to suffer over and what not to suffer over is vitally important. Because no one wants to suffer, the first step is recognizing that you are unnecessarily suffering, and then taking action not to suffer. The most common solution is to simply shut off the news, notice yourself feeling the emotions you’re feeling, and practicing some more mindfulness, which I’ve written about before.
Without a doubt there is a lot of unnecessary suffering in the world, and we should all work together to relieve it. Does all suffering originate in the person? Yes, but there are reliably environments which contribute to more suffering (such as living a society riddled with disease and famine), and there are reliably environments which reduce suffering (such as eating dinner with your friends and family who you care about). But when we shape our environment to one that is conducive to living a live with less unnecessary suffering, we’re better off.
- Life is short, ask yourself in every situation where you notice you’re suffering, is this worth suffering over?
- Turn off the daily news, it’s designed to scare us. Instead, focus on your hobbies, or using your creativity to produce or create something.
- Practice mindfulness daily so you’re more aware of your own emotions.
- Stay physically active, the mind and the body are one. How you treat your body influences how you feel.
Make today a good day, and tomorrow a better one. Life is the collection of the small steps we take to get to where we want to go. Don’t choose to suffer over stuff that doesn’t matter.
Have more to add to this post? Comment below, would love to hear your thoughts/feedback.