suffering? You’re only human

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

Pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice, or so the Buddhists tell us, part of the human experience. Pain is more than a side-effect or something wrong, It’s a crucial facet of our embodiment.

So…If life doesn’t suck somehow, are you even human?

If someone had told me that before I might not have signed up…but then apparently we all knew this, back when we were one with the universe, back when we knew better.

And still we come.

How is suffering a choice if pain is something we all seem to have to go through? Maybe, for whatever stupid reason, we seem to need to be in the gutter before we even think to look up at the stars.

Only the very rare, very lucky few are given opportunities to grow through joy and enthusiasm rather than pain and suffering. Once we get to Yellow (Spiral Dynamics) those opportunities become more abundant but the hard work has been done down in the mud. The hard work and pain is there to crack us open, it has a role to play. It’s essential!

Having an easy life is not the answer. The answer is far more than a free ride through life because the world is full of wealthy, broken people who were born with a whole silver cutlery set in their mouth.

During a meditation a few years ago I asked “Why am I in pain?” I had terrible lower back pain caused by scar tissue in my abdomen. I was surprised when an answer came right back to me like an echo.

“Because you are human,” the universe told me, or I told myself; I don’t know how these things work.

Well that’s a bit rough, I thought. The pain was still there, but the information helped to relieve my suffering.

I don’t like pain. Some people do. Depending on what drives you, pain may actually be beneficial at times. I love this very neat little graphic from Tony Robbins to describe the 6 basic drivers of human behaviour.

From this excellent website – with a great explanation

If we drill down even a tiny bit into anything we do, believe and think, we will see one of these underlying drives or a fun combo of any/all of them. For me, I crave Growth, Connection and Variety but I am also keen on a bit of certainty when it comes to knowing where I’m going to sleep at night. Significance doesn’t really drive me; in fact the opposite is true. My fear of standing out, being seen, is a Shadow, something I need to overcome if I’m going to get anywhere as a writer. I’m a team player (connection) and get a true buzz from helping other artists and writers.

I have a fear and deep dislike of drama but for some people the drive for variety leads to a life filled with drama, anxiety and suffering. In fact the personality drives can lead to suffering if we use unhealthy methods to achieve them. Promiscuity and poor boundaries in the drive for love and connection. Stealing, lying and fraud in the quest for significance. Clinging and jealousy for those who crave certainty. Inability to stay in a job in the search for variety.

There are different kinds of pain and suffering; physical, emotional, existential. Some people can derive sexual pleasure from pain. For some people pain is the focus of their whole life. I had a client years ago who admitted during the reading that she was afraid of getting a new kidney. Her entire existence revolved around her medical treatments and her circle of friends were all fellow patients of the same clinic. Her significance, connection, certainty and variety all came from her disease. Possibly even her opportunities for growth and contribution came from the illness.

She came to me because she was ambivalent about the transplant she had been offered. Her sister was a perfect match but my client was trying to come up with good reasons why she wouldn’t accept the offer. It seems freedom from pain meant the potential for suffering for her.

You could argue that situation was far more complex than boiling it down to significance or connection but each time I’ve looked at these 6 drives in my own life I have found some illuminating and helpful information about how to solve a problem or discover the motivations behind my actions. It’s also really helpful in understanding the actions of other people in our lives. I really do believe everyone is doing their best.


This month I have been doing #last90days #reverseresolution just as I have for the past two years. I’ve been doing a Medical Medium cleanse to deal with some health issues and it’s working really well. I have cut chocolate out of my diet (I know….I know….it’s hard…) and pretty much cut out all dairy. I writing daily, journaling, crossing stuff off the list. I see all kinds of memes in Facebook writers’ groups about procrastination and empty journals etc but I do not have time for that. I am quite done with self-sabotage, thank you very much!

There are two types of pain you will go through in life: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces, while regret weighs tons.

Jim Rohn

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