• Terri Kozlowski
  • The Truth is, Your Own Thoughts Cause You the Most Suffering
The Truth is, Your Own Thoughts Cause You the Most Suffering

Human suffering doesn’t discriminate.  We look at others whose lives seem so much better than our own.  This choice we made to compare ourselves to others causes us to suffer.  This thought, an action we willingly took, is self-inflicted pain.  But there is a difference between pain and suffering. 

Pain is an alarm system that the body uses to keep itself safe.  It modifies behavior while we heal from the injury.  For example, a child touches the hot stove and recoils his hand that is in pain, and he learns not to repeat the process.  The ego uses the same system, too, utilizing it on our emotions instead of the body.  When the child has his feelings hurt by the same kid at school, he learns to avoid that kid.

But as we have seen before, the ego overreacts and generalizes the situations.   So the child not only avoids the kid who hurt his feels but all his classmates because the ego has convinced him that all kids will hurt his feelings.  This example is a simple illustration of how our own thoughts cause our suffering.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. ~ Helen Keller


My Self-Inflicted Misery


I’m a survivor of traumatic childhood at the hands of my alcoholic mother.  I spent a decade trying to understand what happened and why it occurred.  I blamed myself, I blamed my mother, and I blamed God.  It wasn’t until someone told me that I got something from playing the victim that I awakened to the reality that I was responsible for my response to the traumatic events. 

It took me two more decades to realize that I was causing my own suffering by wanting to change the events that took place and change the people who were involved.  This attachment to what I wanted reality to be was creating the self-inflicted wounds that allowed my continued suffering.  I got stuck in wanting to change the past rather than learning from it. 

Buddha’s fundamental teaching is that the root of our suffering is attachment.  My thought patterns and behaviors limited my experiences instead of moving out of the fearful place I was in and into happiness. It’s not always what happens to us that is defining, but how we respond that muddles and limits our growth. 


Men are disturbed not by the events but their opinions about their events. ~ Epictetus


Attachment to our Desires is the Root of Suffering


I read a story about a monkey who was stealing from a peanut vendor.  So the seller put some peanuts into a pot with a small opening in it.  The monkey slipped his hand through the small opening and was able to grab the peanuts.  But to his dismay, he was unable to get his hand out while holding a handful of nuts.  As long as he had the desire for the peanuts, he would be stuck.  The moment he released his attachment, he was free. 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a better life or believing in your dream.  The issue is thinking that attaining it will make us happy.  This pursuit of the next best thing that doesn’t improve our life causes us to believe the past is an indication of the future, which is a lie of the ego.  This type of circular thinking doesn’t do any good and only causes us to be in anguish. 

If we are focused on the past, then we allow our fear to depress us.  When we fear the future, we are anxious.  But, by living in the present moment, we remove the fear and suffering is naturally alleviated.   The ego can take over the mind when we allow our thoughts to wander.  This aimless thinking, in turn, causes our pain because we won’t let go of the peanut so we can be free. 


He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears. ~ Michel de Montaigne


Reasons We Suffer          


To overcome the attachment, we need to know what causes us to agonize.  Once you know the cause, you can consciously choose a different course of action.  Here are nine ways in which we create our own suffering. 

  1. Resisting change.  

By not accepting that change is a constant, you hold onto things, people, and old ideas.  Life is always moving forward, whether or not you agree that everything is temporary.  I have been married to Phillip for over 20 years, he and I are both different people then we were when we married, and that’s good because we have both grown.  People, places, processes all change, and we have to move forward with those changes to prevent suffering. 

  1. Believing that you're separated. 

Part of remembering who you are is recalling that your soul is connected to Source and always has been.  The ego created the illusion of being alone.  Therefore you are connected to all things and have never been disconnected from your true self or others.   

  1. Holding onto your titles. 

We all understand labels help to identify who we are and our place in the world, but the ego created these labels.  Therefore, we need to release these expectations because you are more than a title or word implies.  Also, understand challenges to your sense of worthiness based on these words can be threatening to the ego, thus causing suffering. 

  1. Not accepting what is.  

When you are resisting the reality that is this present moment, you suffer because of your unwillingness to accept it.  Once you admit the current situation, only then can you alter it.  You have to know where you are to begin a journey to where you want to be. 

  1. Listening to others instead of your gut. 

You know what is best for you. But when you do what others say, then you never realize your potentiality.   If you do what others tell you to do concerning your life, then you aren’t being authentic and are living a lie.  Only by aligning your life with what is real for you can you be content. 

  1. Not choosing love.  

All decisions are based out of fear or love.  The ego leads to fear-based living, whereas love based life comes from following our hearts.  You cannot live to your full potential by choosing to live fearfully.  When you follow your heart, you are living authentically, and the possibilities for your life are limitless. 

  1. Not living in the present moment. 

Living in the past or the future means that you can’t enjoy your life now.  By being fully present, you can notice the splendor around you and can experience appreciation for the life you have. 

  1. Blaming others.  

By blaming others for your life, you relinquish your power to them, and they have control.  By believing that someone else is responsible, you limit your ability to improve your situation.  But when you take responsibility for the condition you are in, then you empower yourself to create the life you desire. 

  1. Not having a growth mindset.  

We don’t like to move out of our comfort zones because it's uncomfortable.  Having a growth mindset allows you the freedom to overcome difficult obstacles, which now are entranceways to new prospects. 

Now that we have seen the ways we create suffering for ourselves, we can work towards understanding how to overcome them.


He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened. ~ Lao Tzu


Suffering is a Wake-up Call       


So, by living in the present moment, we can diminish the suffering we have in our lives.  But we need to understand that self-inflicted misery is a way the Universe uses to awaken us to who we really are pure consciousness. 


By denying our authentic selves and not acknowledging that we are connected to others, being whole becomes impossible.  We need to accept ourselves as we are created to be, thereby empowering us to change the course of our lives. 


Rumi has a beautiful poem where he discusses how we awaken to our connectedness to Spirit.  It’s through the crakes in our egoic veneer that the light of our soul escapes.  During this process, we recognize that the light of our consciousness lies within us, thus allowing us to overcome the self-inflicted suffering


The wound is the place where the Light enters you.  ~ Rumi


Reducing the Suffering


So, now that we are awake and empowered, we can implement six strategies to reduce the suffering in our lives. 


  1. Reframe your story.  


Whatever the past held is over, but how we tell that story to ourselves and others has an impact on us.  Rehashing our stories creates self-inflicted wounds.   Therefore, we need to reframe the negative story into a neutral or positive one.  We do this by recognizing that we learned something about ourselves that we didn’t know that we can overcome. 


  1. Have an acceptance mindset.  


By accepting what is, we no longer resist what is happening at this moment. Resistance is the ego rebelling as its desire wasn’t met or its dislike of change.  But we have to be open to the Universe to allow something better than the ego could imagine as it is limited in its ability to see how our soul is boundless. 


  1. Move out of your comfort zone. 


Modify your routine and get out of the rut.  Try something new, do what you enjoy, meet up with friends, or take a walk in nature.  By changing up your day, you allow new energy and new thinking to enter, thereby moving you past the suffering.      


  1. Help others. 


Whether you volunteer in a soup kitchen, read to the elderly, or aid in the animal shelter, by helping others, we move beyond ourselves.  The kindness we share is a remedy to our suffering. 


  1. Remember who you are. 


The heart’s voice, or your soul, is the part of us that is connected to Source or Spirit at all times.  It’s the part of us that always was, always is, and always will be.  We are energy which can’t be created nor destroyed, only transformed, and we are current expression is an individual human being.  By remembering this truth, we can see that we are supported, which is reassuring. 


  1. Mindful Meditation. 


Quieting the mind is an effective way to stop the aimless wandering of the thoughts that our ego throws at us each day.  These thoughts can make it difficult to move out of suffering.  This grounding practice reminds us of our connection to Source and our ability to overcome the ego’s tools to become more mindful and aware


Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. ~ Helen Keller


Moving Forward


Even though all humanity suffers, we don’t have too.  By waking up to who we are, we allow ourselves to see a new perspective.  We can recognize that many times we are the cause of prolonged suffering after a traumatic event by the way we respond.  And we now have six ways in which we can reduce the self-inflicted misery.                  


Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.  ~ Aristotle


As you become more conscious of your life and become aware, you can empower yourself to create the life you desire.  If you would like to receive more informative and mindful articles right into your mailbox, fill this out now.

Do you need support in diminishing your suffering?  Do you want a strategy to help you overcome your mindsets and make authentic connections?  If so, please, contact me, and we can put together an action plan for you to be authentically you and for you to create the life you desire. 


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