Oh how we suffer

The idea that we create our own suffering is not new, yet we haven’t figured out how not to do it. Suffering becomes a self fulfilling prophecy very quickly. It isn’t because we are all martyr’s and masochists, it is because becoming aware of our thinking, noticing the ways in which we create our own suffering is damn hard. Harder still is cultivating the honesty with ourselves to admit it, to be as honest as we can with ourselves. And then if it is going to shift or change we have to act on it, which means constant awareness and deliberate thought and action. After all, this thinking of ours has become a lifelong habit, it doesn’t just go away because we know it’s there.

I, probably like you, have discovered a number of ways in which I have created my own suffering, none more painful or difficult to face than how I was contributing to the unhappiness in my marriage.

Just over a year ago, as alluded to in my post on Roman Ruins, I almost gave up on my marriage of 7 years. I had hit a point where my unhappiness was unbearable, and my habit was to look outside myself as to what the problem was. So I blamed and blamed and I collected my evidence that I was right. That our lives had moved in fast forward for the past 9 years, moving 5 times coast to coast and overseas and back again – that when we were finally in one place and things had slowed the unhappiness couldn’t be pegged on the change or impending change – the unhappiness was right here. Or in my case, over there, it was my wife’s fault. I my mind I had a list of things I needed her to do/change about herself before I would be willing to go to couples therapy. The problem with collecting evidence to support your own argument is that you resist the truth, even when it smacks you in the face. As we are on our path of collecting we aren’t going to pick up those ideas or examples that don’t serve us. So I found myself deep in the well of self deception, drowning in my own blame.

Resentment builds and resistance increases and with each attempt on my wife’s part to talk it through, to go to therapy, to look it in the eye and see it for what it was, I ground myself in deeper. And it continued in that direction for months until one day it didn’t. Her persistence endured and I begrudgingly agreed to one couples therapy session.

Showing up to that session I was certain that I would not budge from my position that was my was at fault, she wasn’t going to change, and maybe wasn’t capable of change. And then we got arrived, to a small office building in a town just north of Amsterdam. I sat down, crossed my arms and shut down. And then our very skilled therapist started asking questions – and my very well defended wall was by an objective third party. As I left the session I had to decide just how much I wanted to continue to build resentment and to resist my life. I had to take a serious look at how I was creating my own suffering. And stop looking outside myself.

The tibetan word Sem mean discursive thinking, it is the way in which we get in our own ways. Rigpa on the other hand mean wisdom mind, it is a way of cutting through things and seeing them as they are. For 14 years I had created this story and self image of me the mindful buddhist, and meanwhile I was just as self deceptive as the next person.

Pema Chodron says that being concerned with our self image is like being deaf and blind. It is like walking through a field a beautiful flowers with a black hood over our head. I decided to take my hood off. I hope you do too.


  1. Great post, thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

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