“Through your own awakening of intelligence, through your own suffering you will discover the manner of true fulfillment.”
“Suffering is merely that high, intense clarity of thought and emotion which forces you to recognize things as they are.”
Are we too scared of suffering? When we see a friend who is sad, lonely, or depressed our first inclination is to cheer the other person up, we want to be there for them to make them happier. However, by doing so are we depriving them of the opportunity to reflect, grow, and practice resilience in the face of their sadness?
As I make my solo travel plans, several people have asked whether the loneliness will get to me? I think it will be lonely and probably scary at times, however, part of me is looking forward to it. Times where I feel uncomfortable, usually provide for some interesting opportunities to reflect on life. As I think back on the past few years, a large reason I am who I am today is because I went through bouts of sadness, loneliness, and depression.
Our natural tendency is to run away from “negative” emotions, a recent New York Times article showed that a majority of people find it unpleasant to be alone with their thoughts. In a more extreme example, participants in one experiment resulted to self-administered electric shocks as opposed to being left alone to think. This antipathy to self-reflection could be depriving people of profound life realizations.
When we try to cover our emotions by doing things like making plans with friends, eating food, or watching TV it is an attempt to substitute what we perceive as negative emotions with superficial experiences. However, if we allow ourselves to dive into our emotions we may gain a new understanding of the suffering present in our live that can fundamentally change how we approach life and result in some realignment of our beliefs and values.
A few weeks ago I found out some news about a friend. Upon hearing the news I felt a gust of anger overcome my entire body. My first instinct was to call someone to vent my anger. However, instead of doing that I sat with the feelings in my body and decided to dive into them. I realized that my anger had very little do with my friend, in fact deep down I was actually really happy for my friend. My reflection actually opened up pandora’s box to a bunch of doubts and fears I harbored about myself.
In a way that I would have never expected at the time, the extreme feeling of anger allowed me to understand myself in a way that I didn’t think would be possible. If I hadn’t given myself this time for reflection, I probably would have wrongfully internalized the feeling of anger against my friend and deprived myself of this opportunity to grow.
Another reason why I believe it is imperative that we learn how to sit with our own suffering wisely is because of all the war, pain, and suffering unfolding throughout the world. I think a lot of these problems are a result of the individual simply reacting without thought to their suffering and emotions. If people dove into the pain they feel it would give them an opportunity to awaken and perhaps realize a world beyond the ideologies we have created.
At the very least, I hope the current events in the world allow you to see some truth in my premise. I hope this war and suffering in the world awakens something in you about the human condition that goes beyond anger & outrage in support of or against a particular ideology. All the innocent lives lost in these conflicts will not be in complete vain if it allows for the awakening of individuals all over the world to the lunacy of the systems of government, religions, and nationalities we have collectively made.