How much did you suffer today?
Each of us suffers every day. Some just a little, some a lot.
Before you go in denial, allow me the chance to explain.
Maybe the first thing coming to mind when we think of suffering, is suffering in the extreme form: the significant physical and emotional trauma caused by dramatic events like as starvation in Africa, war tragedies in Syria. Iraq, and Yemen, or acts of terror anywhere around the world.
The suffering I talk about is smaller but no less significant to our daily lives: the consequences of constantly suppressing ourselves with our own limiting thoughts and convictions. I would like to call them micro trauma’s.
To explain what this suffering is, let’s use an example of the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is what we feel when we stump our toe to the table, that intense immediate flare we physically feel the moment our toe hits the leg of the table. Suffering occurs after we feel that physical pain, it is the feeling of blame of judgement we put upon ourselves for “being so stupid” for not being careful, for not wearing any shoes, or missing to see the leg in the first place. Alternatively, we get angry at the table for being there. Suffering is the emotional and mental discomfort we put upon ourselves because we have convictions that tell us we must not act or be in a certain way.
On a daily basis, we get into situations where we suffer through our self judgement. We suffer because we blame ourselves for:
eating that piece of chocolate because it makes us look fat or unattractive. I must look attractive and skinny; I may not eat things that are unhealthy for me.
getting an 8 as a grade, because our average so far was a 9. I must get a (close to) perfect score, I need to maximize my output. I may not be average.
not being able to quit your job while you dislike it so much. I must have a job and income. I may not apply for social security/benefits; My next job must be my dream job (it must be what I truly want). I may not waste my time doing unfulfilling jobs anymore.
doing nothing the whole weekend because you lacked the energy but “you should spend your time doing things”. I must be productive. I may not let time go wasted or idle.
not exercising enough while we apparently made this and that agreement with ourselves to lose X amount of weight or fit in that pair of jeans again. I must be fit and skinny. I may not neglect my health or gain weight.
being a jealous or unsatisfied partner because we cannot really deal with our own insecurity. I must be loved unconditionally. I may not feel unappreciated.
saying “yes” to the assignment or request because saying “no” is too difficult. I must be liked by people. I may not disappoint anybody.
not being able to open up in our (any) relationship because we are scared to be rejected and left by the other. I must only show my ‘best side’. I may not show my ‘weaknesses’ and/or emotions.
The list is potentially endless.
The suffering stems from the conviction that we “must” do something, which is linked to a limiting thought (“I may not…”). It suggests that there is no other way to behave then to stick to the rules. Moreover, the moment we break a conviction (as per the examples above), we are likely to judge ourselves because we break the rule.
Interestingly, most of us are not even aware that:
1) we have these limiting convictions,
2) they are guiding our actions ánd thoughts about our actions, and
3) we suffer as a consequence.
Generally, we have found numerous coping mechanisms to deal with the (unconscious) suffering. We workout (excessively), we have a full agenda of social contacts, we cling to any type of screen when running idle, eating/drinking unhealthy things, or even judging ourselves for having judging thoughts; “why am I always so hard on myself? I shouldn’t have said that. I can be such an ass.”
We can explore our suffering and the convictions beneath it. When we grow aware of the moments where we judge others when certain (unspoken) expectations are not met, it is likely a form of judgement arises. “Why doesn’t (s)he just do this or that? I would have dealt with it this and that way.”
We generally judge ourselves as we judge others. It suggests while we are actively putting our convictions on the people around us, we are likely to apply them to ourselves as well. Your judgements are your entry point to your dealing with your own suffering.
Questions for consideration:
What are the (typical) situations where you judge others? Where you have expectations of others?
Would those judgements and/or expectations also apply to yourself? In other words, would you treat yourself by the same standard?
What could a conviction that underlying the judgement/expectation ? Generally, such conviction starts with “I must…” or other obligatory statement