Growth Through Suffering

Everyday We All Suffer…

If we are honest with ourselves we would know that it is true. In Buddhist doctrine it is stated that suffering is caused by personal desire and selfish craving.

When I started on my path I was really suffering, I experienced weeks of intense suffering and self hatred. I was so negative all the time literally my mind was filled with negative thoughts about myself, about others, about the way things should be, about how they are.

It was a constant bombardment, from the moment I was semi conscious in the morning till went I to sleep at night. It was so tiring, but I didn’t know any different, this had been my daily experience for about 30 years.

With the help of therapy I started to make changes, but lets not mince words, it was hard. I had tried many times in the past to change my negative mindset, but I struggled with it.

Here’s an example. I can go full on positive mode and do my best not to let things get me down, but the negativity is like a huge dam. The energy just builds and builds, and then it has to come out. I think I can only relate to being sexually teased for ages, and then desire gets so strong that it ends up with a massive orgasm and your like where did that come from.

When I tried to focus on the positive and ignore the negative, it would just build and build and then I generally explode in fits of extreme anger, not violence, because that’s wasn’t my thing.

There was no middle ground with my thoughts, it was all or nothing. As my therapist told me, I do a lot of ‘Black and White’ thinking, rumination (that’s my specialty by the way) and of course one of my new favorite words, catastrophizing.

Cyclic Low Mood

All of my adult life I have experienced very frequent low moods. When I was in my early twenties friends would ask me if there was anything I felt happy about, and my answer was generally no. I didn’t think I got honestly excited by anything in life since my early childhood. There was nothing that really got me excited. Some people can list loads of things that get their juices flowing so to speak, but for me it was, zilch, zip, nada.

I remember in one of my therapy sessions, I said to my therapist that I felt dead inside, I told her that I was rarely excited by anything in life anymore. I felt so devoid of energy, or should that be spark. At times it worried me that there seemed to be nothing left inside of me, other than negativity.

I didn’t want to be this way for the rest of my life, but I didn’t know what caused these cyclic low moods. There was a part of me that thought I shouldn’t get back with my partner because my low moods were part of the problem before, among other things. I just couldn’t see anything positive at the time, and I knew that it was just the low mood talking.

I thought to myself, how could anyone love and enjoy the company of someone who experienced so many low moods. I knew this was all self pity, but it was hard not to think that way when my whole adult life had been controlled by low moods.

I knew that low moods could be changed, and I had tried various things, but nothing ever seemed to help. The more positive I tried to be, the more I replaced negative thoughts with positive, or at least neutral ones, the more mentally tired it would make me. In turn that made me even more depressed and the cycle would continue to spiral and repeat.

I really hated this, and I so struggled with it. If that wasn’t bad enough I had even more issues to work with.

Manipulative and Controlling Behaviors

During a therapy session one of the things I was helped to identify was my manipulative and controlling behavior. I didn’t know why I did it, but I came to understand that essentially I feared the loss of control.

So, why do I do it then? Could it be as simple as seeking a reaction from people? To be noticed maybe, or even to feel validated in some way? I don’t set out to push peoples buttons, well that’s not true, some times I do, just for the reaction. This was one of the reasons that caused the separation between my partner and I.

My therapist once asked me bluntly why I ‘pushed the buttons’ of my partner, when this was supposed to be the person I loved? Good question I said, couldn’t give her an answer.

Something to think about she said.

Yep, it sure was!

Why I did it didn’t even make logical sense. I hated the hassle of fights and stress, but I often went out of my way to cause them. That was hardly how someone who wanted peace in their life would behave.

I came to understand that I didn’t want peace, I wanted to actually be miserable and suffer, because being among positive people actually made me feel uncomfortable so I had to sabotage. These were not conscious thoughts, these were deeply held beliefs from my past.

These Beliefs Made Me Angry

I said to my therapist that I think my porn/masturbation addiction maybe connected to my issues of repressed anger. I had thought this before, because a couple of times I had noticed that I had felt agitated before deciding to go and masturbate to porn.

I didn’t think it had really clicked that this was indeed what I did. Trying to piece all my issues together was like trying to do a big jig saw puzzle without know what the picture was supposed to look like.

I wasn’t always angry, I was not one of those people who would go around angry all the time freaking out over the smallest thing. I knew there were things in my relationships/family that really triggered my anger. I discovered that much of my anger was learnt behavior from my dad. My therapist seemed to agree with that observation too.

Whether the behavior was learnt from my dad or what not is irrelevant. I knew I was the only person who was responsible for my words and actions, both now, past and in the future.

As I thought about how my anger manifests when I was at home, the logical answer that came to me was that I lacked the ability to deal with frustration. When I felt frustrated, attacked, threatened in anyway, I resorted to the default safety mechanism that was porn and masturbation.

I needed new tools, I had to learn about ‘Cognitive Restructuring’ and how to express anger in a constructive and positive way.

Re-framing My Mind

I had to think about what I could do to change my destructive thought patterns.

I came up with a few ideas that I thought would work. I created a list that I believed would set me on the right track to changing my thoughts.

  • I repeated the ‘Serenity Prayer’ once every hour. The prayer goes like this:

Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

  • I decided to give up reading or watching the news, I didn’t watch or read it much anyway, because it was just so negative and depressing all the time.
  • The avoidance of all violent and degrading TV and films, which seems to be most of it these days.
  • Listening only to music that I found relaxing and uplifting. There was some music that really triggered my angry moods.
  • Stop swearing and gossiping.
  • Avoiding negative people and places. Not always easy, but as the saying goes, “LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE”.
  • Every time I caught myself having a negative thought I would instantly tell myself to think about God. I mean really think about God. Not a silly image of a man on a cloud, but what I really thought God is.

These little tools were how I started myself on the path to recovery. These were modest changes, but they worked!

You Are The One!

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There are two ways we as human beings can look at life, one of the ways is empowering and uplifting and the other is essentially destructive to self and others. If we take a moment to look around, both at ourselves, each other and the world in general, I think it is fairly easy to see that we have been for a long time living a destructive life.

I know that this has been personally true for myself. I have seen over the past two months the pain I have caused to others, and to myself. It isn’t easy to be confronted with your own darkness, but I feel that it is the only true way to healing.

Recently I have been coming to terms with how destructive my ego personality has been in my life. I have such a strong personality it can exclude every thought and feeling that is contrary to the wishes of my ego. If I had to label my ego personality, the only two words that would be fitting enough would be ‘strong’ and ‘determined’.

Being strong and determined may seem like very positive traits, and in many ways they are. When those same two traits are so strong and determined that they exclude the voices of others, hurts the feelings and self worth of others, then strong and determined is a very destructive force indeed.

My ego personality, like all ego personalities is so powerful and so loud. It is constantly barking orders. I have heard the ego personality called the “The Mini Hitler Inside” and this is so true. In essence the ego personality operates from a place of fear, the mini Hitler has to control everything and everyone so that he feels safe and secure.

Most people spend their entire lives controlled by their ego personality, constantly wanting more and more. Doesn’t matter what it is, but the ego must have more of it. The ego personality is a brilliant story teller, it loves to have people listen to it. Look at me it screams, look at all these problems I have caused, isn’t it great!

The one thing I like about the story of Jesus, Buddha and other great teachers is that it is about learning to overcome the limitations of the ego personality. The stories are heroic by their very nature. All these great teachers were showing us how to slay our demons, how to overcome our limitations as human animals, as essentially that is what we are until we have killed our beast like natures.

Most of us will maintain our beast like natures till the day that we die, outwardly we maintain the facade of being true human beings, all civil and pleasant, but mentally and emotionally we are worse than the beasts of the fields.

Until we can embrace true love, both for ourselves and each other we will always be beasts. Anybody can pretend to love others, but till we can love others as we truly love and accept ourselves then really we are harming others and ourselves.

All this harm creates a cycle of constant suffering, just as the great teachers have always said.

Yep, breaking the cycle of suffering is really hard. But, all worthy battles are worth fighting.

This battle begins and ends with YOU.

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