Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Suffering and expectations. Wednesday, June 23, 2010.

“Suffering occurs when you clash with reality. When your illusions clash with reality when your falsehoods clash with the truth, then you have suffering.” – Ronica Coldiron

We all come into life with basic assumptions, I believe. That’s the reason infants cry – they have a sort of assumption that if they make noise, they’ll be fed. As we grow, we continue to form assumptions – that mommy will be there when we open our eyes during peek-a-boo, that daddy’s arms are strong enough to hold us, that the monsters under the bed won’t get us if we’ve said the magic words.

Grown-ups have assumptions too. Like our assumptions as kids, they’re rooted in some idea of security. We assume if we work hard, our job will be there to sustain us. We assume our house won’t burn down as we sleep. We assume our husband will make it home safe from work each night. We assume our children will grow up healthy and happy.

Because we have these assumptions, we feel angry and betrayed when suffering hits. Our company goes bankrupt; a spark flies and our house burns to the ground; our husband dies in a traffic accident; our child gets leukemia. And we rail against God if we believe in him, or the Universe itself if we don’t. We’re enraged because life isn’t fair.

People have vastly different coping mechanisms to explain this. Some people believe in the Law of Attraction, which states that we attract either good or bad things based on where we put our focus. (This doesn’t explain a lot of things; I’ll save that for a different day.) Some believe in Karma – if we suffer in this life, it’s because of something we did in a past one. Some believe that God pre-ordains everything.

My own coping mechanism has always been to always expect the worst, so I won’t be disappointed when it happens. But that’s not so helpful anymore. It leads to pessimism, which leads to depression, which leads to a sense of hopelessness and futility … so that I feel sad even when things are going well (because, I tell myself, any minute they could start going poorly!). And even with that negative outlook, I still manage to find myself blindsided when disaster strikes. So what good did it do?

I don’t have an answer for suffering. I do know that at the same time as so many people who are hungry or sick struggle so hard to live, more than one million other people around the world take their lives every year, and another 20 million people attempt it. (I could have a LOT of members on my Suicide Attempt Survivors page!) Clearly these people have suffered. Did they “Attract” the wrong things? Did God do it? Did Karma bit them in the ass?

Or were their expectations just too high?

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