Can we be the cause of our own suffering?

I used to be the kind of person who saw the world through only one lens: my own. I was miserable almost all the time. There was always something happening or something someone said that would bring me down. I ignored the advice from my wiser, older uncle who would remind me that I had a choice: I could choose happiness or I could choose misery. I kept insisting that it was beyond any choice of my own; namely that people needed to learn to treat each other better! People needed to realize how they affected others! It was always about what someone else was doing or saying; I refused to see what kind of power I already had within me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was addicted to my suffering, because it was what made me feel real.

When things did go right (and of course there were plenty of times that they did) I was immediately suspicious. I assumed God was playing a trick on me and knew that pain would soon, inevitably, follow. I saw things completely backwards. Fleeting joys were just a temporary rest from the pain that was life, or so I thought. My life as about suffering; I was born to suffer. I knew that suffering could make me a wiser, better person, and I was a willing martyr…I simply refused to see how I could find happiness through my own suffering.

Many years later, after my beloved uncle had passed away prematurely, I began to revaluate my outlook on life. My uncle had had his share of sorrow and strife, more than I had experienced thus far, and I knew it. However, he had died a happy, content man. What was it that made him so different from me? Could it possibly be that he was right?

As I began to study this new life perspective out in my mind, I came across several resources that only confirmed those things that my uncle had tried to teach me. One of them was this piece by Guy Finley:

 “We may deny that we value our aches, but on the other hand, we think about them all the time. We have yet to recognize the fact that our thinking about any painful event as something real, solid and unavoidable is one of the conditions that perpetuate it. Take one thing out of the mix of elements that make up any moment in life, and it is no longer the same event. When we stop giving our life energy to any moment which seems overpowering, it loses its illusion of power. In that moment is also lost our prior belief that we have to submit to its punishment.

This shows us that no negative state or event has any individual, independent existence. We can begin to free ourselves from the event when we understand the truth about its power over us. Until now, we thought from our suffering instead of toward our suffering. Now, however, because of our new understanding, we can see through our suffering instead of through its eyes…

What we see is that our perception produces what we experience, and our experience is made up of many different small elements that by themselves mean nothing. When our perception combines and organizes these events, and connects itself to them through an expectation or desire, the thing takes on a kind of life. It appears to us as a whole, dark, permanent entity that has the power to hurt us, but it isn’t that at all. It’s only a confluence of events that has conditional dependence, and the primary condition that gives it power is our perception. When all these conditions are stirred up and “baked in a cake,” that cake has reality to us. But in fact, the cake is made up of individual facts that will simply pass if we let them.

Why have we not seen this for ourselves? Why have we not let those facts just pass by without grabbing onto them? It’s because we have become so used to being in a storm, we aren’t at all sure who we are without something to suffer over. As strange as it may seem, we welcome the painful experience because it makes us feel real…

Can you see what good news this is for those of us who wish to free ourselves from false suffering and find the higher life? It means that all those conditions that seemed so real and painful are just the creation of faulty perception…The expression “This too shall pass” is now revealed in all its wisdom. Every temporary coming together of events must pass as long as we don’t keep it going through our own thoughts.

The bitter cake can’t exist if one of the ingredients is displaced. In our own lives, we have kept the achy cake baking; but now that we see the facts, we no longer need to be a victim of our own misunderstanding. We can inwardly say to that suffering state, “You are not a power. You only feel like one. The knots in my life that have me all tied up have no power over me outside of my own misperception…”

Now that we know negative events are not powerful in themselves, we can turn away from what we perceive as permanent punishment toward what can be called permanent pleasure. This is the same thing as turning toward Truth.” (full text available at Guy Finley’s website:

I decided then and there to no longer be a victim of my own misunderstanding. I decided to see through my suffering instead of from it. I realized how I had been giving power to those negative experiences, which thus fueled my suffering. It was not about the experiences I had, but rather about how I perceived them.

It was a hard pill to swallow, knowing that I had been the reason I continued to suffer. But this new understanding gave me a new level of self-awareness and a new hope. I truly began to understand that the purpose of my life was not to suffer, but to truly choose joy.


One Response to “Can we be the cause of our own suffering?”

  1. Kathryn Skaggs Says:

    Beautiful post, Michelle. : )