Are You Causing Your Own Suffering?

05/19/2015 12:20 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2016

Many people, even those who are not alone and have plenty of money, spend much time suffering. It is obvious what the cause of suffering is when someone is ill and in pain, when someone doesn't have enough to eat, when someone is homeless and in the cold, or when someone loses a loved one. There are numerous circumstances and external events that can cause suffering. But what about the suffering -- the fear, anxiety, depression, guilt and shame -- of those whose external circumstances are fine? What are the causes of this suffering?

Shannon is a good example of someone who spends much of her life suffering. Shannon is a successful attorney, married with two children. She has everything she ever thought she needed to be happy, yet happiness eludes her. She often complains of feeling anxious, scared and depressed.

In order to understand Shannon's suffering, we need to look beyond her external circumstances to her inner system. On the inner level, Shannon is run by her ego wounded self. She is constantly frightening herself by telling herself all the bad things that could happen to her, or to her husband or children. She is constantly judging herself for not being good enough as an attorney and as a mother. She frequently abandons herself, ignoring her feelings and making her husband responsible for her sense of self worth. On top of all this, she completely lacks compassion for her feelings of anger, fear, anxiety and depression that she is creating through her worry, self-judgment and inner abandonment.

Shannon believes that when she makes enough money, she will stop suffering. Then, she believes, her fear will go away and she will feel good about herself. But the truth is that she has plenty of money. Her suffering is entirely self-created.

If Shannon were to treat her children the way she treats herself, they would be suffering too. If she were to constantly scare them by telling them all the bad things that could happen to them or to her or their father, they would feel anxious and scared. If she constantly judged them as unworthy or unlovable unless they got better grades, or did better at sports, or never made a mistake, they would feel shamed, anxious and depressed. If she kept trying to get someone else to be their mother and take responsibility for them, they would feel abandoned. If she blamed them for her unhappiness, they would feel guilty.

But Shannon does not treat her children this way. She would never intentionally frighten them, judge them, guilt them, or try to get someone else to adopt them. Her children's emotional health is important to her and she does all she can to support them in feeling safe, loved and worthy. Yet this is exactly how she treats herself.

Why does Shannon take loving care of her children but not herself? The reason is that she does not believe that taking care of herself is her responsibility. She believes that her husband and others are responsible for her sense of safety and worth. As a result of this false belief, she can avoid knowing that she is the cause of her suffering. As long as she does not get that she is the one causing her suffering, she will continue to think and behave in the ways that are causing her suffer, and she will continue to feel like a victim.

Shannon's suffering will stop the moment she decides to make loving herself as important as loving her children. When her intent is to be loving to herself, she will stop listening to the voice of her ego wounded self. The moment she feels any anxiety, she will immediately tune into the lie she is telling herself that is causing her suffering. She will open to her inner wise self for the truth and refuse to listen to the lies. The more she practices this, the quieter her wounded self will become. With no one listening, the wounded self eventually stops talking.

Let's become loving role models for our children and for others around us by putting an end to self-induced suffering. Inner peace and joy contribute far more to the planet than self-inflicted suffering!

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