What Is Suffering And What’s The Alternative?

Have you ever had the experience of thinking that a friend or someone did something horrible to you? You became tremendously angry and upset, only to discover that you were entirely wrong and the person didn’t deserve the blame at all?

In the midst of the negative emotional swirling inside our minds, the reality does not matter. Our focus creates our feelings, and our feelings bring about our experience. Most, if not all, of our negative thought is caused by focusing or obsessing about ourselves and what we might lose, have less of, or never have. This is the way in which our primitive mind was designed.

Unfortunately, the primitive part of our human brain, the Amygdala, Hippocampus and Hypothalamus, wasn’t designed to make us happy and fulfilled. It was designed to help us survive, to get through life and move us away from the problems we could potentially face that could lead to our death.

The main activity of the primitive part of our brain is to vigilantly look for what’s wrong. If engaged, it is permanently on the look out for trouble, looking for what can hurt us and call in to action our pre-templated responses to help navigate us away from trouble whether real or imagined. It’s our 2 million year old survival auto-pilot system.


What we’re about to find out is that if we solely allow our auto-pilot to run our lives, we have little chance of being able to fully enjoy our lives. If we don’t engage with the creativity, objectivity and problem solving abilities of our pre-frontal cortex and solely live out of our negatively biased amygdala, our thoughts will constantly be focussed on searching for (and magnifying) potential threats to our well being.

This primitive automatic-pilot process is often the most efficient way of living day to day in a world with or without real threat. Functioning from here means that decisions do not require considered thought as we can call into action a vast number of immediate templated responses that we have stored through habit and conditioning.

It’s permanently on the look out for everything that is wrong, could be wrong and was wrong. We assume that this is the way things are and will always be. Living life way, through being angry, sad, stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated is a suffering state that we live in.

As you can imagine, the life that this results in, is one of stress, anxiety, depression, overwhelm or unfulfilment.

This is suffering.

Suffering is defined as “the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship” and this is the emotional world that many of us live in for significant periods of time.

You’ll recognise the feeling of being in your primitive mind when you’re feeling stressed out, worried, frustrated, angry, depressed, irritable, overwhelmed, resentful, or fearful. If you are experiencing these them you’re in a suffering state.

We’ve all experienced these and countless other “negative” emotions, they are all reactions to fear. Most of us much prefer to think we’re ‘stressed’ rather than using the term ‘fearful’, but they are the same condition, but more the former is a more acceptable term in modern day society.

We’re all slightly different, however everyone has his or her own brand of suffering. Whether it is sadness, frustration, anger, despair, self-pity, jealousy or worry; It doesn’t matter which because they’re all different ways in which we suffer. This suffering is just the result of the mind being struck in a primitive auto-pilot mode that is unrelentingly looking for problems.

Whether we recognise it or not, the typical person’s suffering is based on one of the 3 focus points or trigger points: ‘Loss’, ‘Less’ or ‘Never’.


When we focus on loss, we become convinced that a particular problem has caused or will cause us to lose something we value. It could be a conflict we have with our spouse, leaving us feeling that we’ve lost love or respect.

The sense of loss can also be triggered by something we did or failed to do. For example, we fail to act in time, we procrastinate and we lose an opportunity. Whenever we believe in this illusion of loss, we suffer.


When we focus on the feeling that we have less or will have less, we suffer. We might become convinced that because a situation has occurred or a person has acted a certain way, we will have less joy, less money, less success, or another painful consequence. We may become convinced that we ourselves are ‘less’ than others based on our interpretations of what we or others do.


This is when we focus on the idea that we’ll never have something we value, such as love, joy, respect, wealth or opportunity. In this state of mind we’re doomed to suffer, we’ll never be happy, we’ll never become the person we want to be. It maybe that an event has taken place and we believe that we will never get over it. As you can imagine, this is a direct route to pain and suffering.

These three patterns of focus and thinking account for most, if not all, of our suffering. The most astounding thing is that it doesn’t even matter if the problem is real or not! Whatever our minds focus on, real or otherwise, we will have have feelings about it.

Most people live this way since it’s the path of least resistance. It’s as easy as our primitive autopilot only takes an emotion to kick-in and determine what behaviours, patterns or templates we should initiate. When we’re operating from here we make unconscious decisions, based on habit and conditioning crated over our lifetime. We are at the mercy of our own minds and assume that it’s just an inevitable part of life to live in a suffering state.

The Good News:

Thankfully there is good news. Once we’re aware of these beliefs and behaviours, we can systematically change them. We can chose differently, freeing ourselves from these habits of suffering. It all starts with identifiying the voice in our minds and then making a conscious choice that we have the capacity and control over.

Taking a moment, to recognise the pattern and stop to think allows us to choose a cifferent State, chose a different way to act, to approach something in a different manner, to chose another way to be or exist in the moment.

If we chose to feel differently, if we take a moment to consider that if we are suffering, we can equally chose to feel something else. If we decide to chose an alternative to experience, then we can chose the opposite of our suffering. We can chose to feel love, joy, gratitude, awe, playfulness, ease, creativity, drive, caring, growth, curiosity, or appreciation. We know what these feel like, we can decide that these are the emotions we could be feeling instead.

When we chose an alternative positive state, we will instead of being caught up in a turbulent, difficult, frustrating world where nothing works and everything is wrong, we can be free. If we’re free from this, we can be peaceful, we can think and we know exactly what to do and we know what the right thing to do is. In this state, we can be alive and we can be our very best. Nothing feels like a problem, and everything flows. We feel no fear or frustration and we’re in harmony with our selves and the world around us. This is living.

This feeling is freedom, it’s being present in the moment, unclouded by the negative chatter and open only to power, possibilities and the ability to create the very things we want in ur lives.

The mind is always trying to trick us into a survival mindset. Catch it and choose a different state, in doing so you may find your loss, less, never becomes your win, more and always!

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