Everyone experiences suffering. No matter who you are--regardless of your identities, political affiliation, age, or income--you will suffer in this lifetime.
Physical pain. Mental anguish. Psychological torment. Excruciating emotional turmoil. In this life, there are many ways to suffer.
And unlike many aspects of human experience, suffering doesn't discriminate.
While most people look on Instagram and Facebook in envy of individuals with greater success, more friendships, and loads of money--no matter who you are looking at, they too are suffering.
The richest and most successful people suffer. The poorest and least conventionally successful individuals are suffering. And every single person between these two arbitrary extremes are suffering.
And unfortunately, most people have no idea how they create their own suffering.
As a life coach and licensed therapist, one important thing I do when working with my executive and entrepreneur clients is help them understand the ways in which their thoughts, feelings, and actions are limiting their experience of happiness.
Most of them have lived great lives. On the surface, they have attained the level of success most people chase after, but never acquire.
But in their own ways, these successful individuals still find their experience of happiness limited. They encounter difficult moments. They too find themselves stuck in painful realities that challenge their sense of self.
At a fundamental level, every single person suffers--and yet, no one knows how to make sense of suffering.
There are two ways to understand and respond to suffering. One is according to psychology and one is according to a more ancient path.
According to psychology broadly, suffering is related to the individual. It is the result of a person's tendencies, conditioning, patterns of thinking, and behaviors.
Therefore, the goal of psychology is to help the individual understand and correct these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to more adaptive mechanisms. The more that you continue refining these aspects and engaging in the psychological process of therapy, the better adapted and healthier you become.
This idea that suffering is related to ourselves is absolutely correct--it is not necessarily what happens to us that defines us--it is largely how we respond that binds and confines us to our limitations.
We need to accept accountability and responsibility for our actions. Including our inaction. And the ways in which we betray our own values.
But, in my opinion, we must go one step further. Rather than staying stuck in the realm of mind and modifying patterns, there must be something that moves beyond the individual and into a greater process.
The second idea of suffering comes from the ancient walk-about way of Gurus, or enlightened spiritual leaders.
In a talk about suffering called, "The Secret of Suddenness," Adi Da Samraj explains the wisdom of suffering.
Paraphrasing this discourse, the Guru explains that when you feel like you are unsatisfied or when you're suffering, it is an important sign.
It's not a sign that you need to do more. That you need to work harder. That you need to pursue happiness through objects--like professional titles, money, or designer clothing.
It's a sign that the eternal bliss that you're actually seeking at a fundamental level is not attainable in the context of your current life.
When you are in the midst of suffering--no matter the degree--it should disturb your typical process. It should awaken you to the truth that in the ultimate sense you cannot be satisfied in your current state of mind and daily existence.
Your suffering should move you to re-orient your approach to the game of life. It should push you to something larger and greater than yourself. Something that transcends yourself. Something that gives you awe, silence, and peace.
Suffering needs to be difficult and painful for you to seek something that is beyond it--beyond you. And when you encounter that Wisdom, you must surrender to it. Build your life around it. And life rightly with That at the center of each moment.
So the one thing that everyone needs to understand about suffering is this: suffering is a sign that you must change your life.
Not just talk about changing. Not merely think about changing while engaging in old, unhelpful habits. But that you must actually take meaningful action to transform your life and transcend old habits that bind you and literally create your suffering.
Therapy and coaching can help. Spiritual practices can help. But ultimately, you must take responsibility for your state of mind altogether.
You must grab the wheel and change your destination.
Yes, we all suffer. But the most important part of suffering is deciding how you are going to respond to it's inevitable influence on your life.