It's miserable to be depressed or anxious, isn't it?
When we're in the middle of an emotional storm, we can't ignore that intensity. It demands attention and we want quick solutions.
“This feels awful. Make it stop! NOW!”
When we hurt, it feels like we must focus on the circumstances and the content of story. We spend countless hours stewing about how to fix the situation, undo the past, quit the addiction, get more money, win back the love, save the polar bears or get to better times.
We want "better"- feelings, situations, health, partners, parents, past.
Almost everyone wants a better “me”.
That’s how suffering very effectively draws our attention away from noticing that the self is just a story.
Attempting to make “better” happen, we may turn to anything outside ourselves.
We're all familiar with this;
It looks like every addiction we've ever had.
We may not see that even therapy, inquiry, or the search for enlightenment are also solution-seeking ploys.
All of that better-seeking activity is very effective at anchoring and confirming a sense of self.
And that's exactly what all hurting and problems are there for- to occupy attention.
Because in the focus on the circumstances of hurting, the fiction of Self can remain unnoticed.
In fact, we often secretly cling to maintaining our suffering, because it’s so effective at misdirecting attention.
We don’t want to let suffering go. We think we do. But we don’t.
Because we don’t know who we are without it. And we’re afraid to find out.
Which is exactly the point.
We urgently want to know who and what we are, to describe ourselves, and to maintain a description of a ‘me’.
We say, “This feeling or situation means I am bad, I am smart, I am stupid. I am a failure, I am superior, I am inferior, I am unlovable, I am a fool, I am a victim, I am weak, I am lazy. I AM… I AM… I AM, I AM.”
That’s a whole lot of convincing of “I am” going on.
It’s constant self-monitoring and self-description.
That's how we self-maintain.
Yes it does feel very real.
But is it?
What real thing needs to convince itself that it is, and what it is, all the time?
As suffering’s role in maintaining the story of self is finally truly seen, it very often disappears like the vapor it is, taking pain with it.
And then we may be surprised to discover that relief comes much more easily than mind has let us ever believe was possible.