"To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering."
According to Vedic and Buddhist teaching, the causes of suffering can be classified into four main groups. These are as follows.
Ego: The comparison to others, the desire to be better or to out-do another, the desire to know how we compare. In this action we instantly judge ourselves and others according to our perceptions. This creates a gradient of intent which can either lift us up or push us down. Both of these situations are illusory as they are based on an individual/ego perception of a situation from one side only. It also rests on the principle that our rules and desires are truly better, it assumes that we are supposed to be continually competing with others. This doorway to suffering is an easy one to walk through.
This spiritual and eastern view of the word ego is not to be confused with the more generic term meaning one's own self-esteem or sense of self realism. We must remember that we are important and that our lives, needs and our selves matter, and yet we also must remain true to the collective whole and to not begin to treat ourselves as above or below any other. In this grading of individuals, we subscribe to the unhealthy side of ego, the side which leads to suffering.
Desire: To want what we do not have or are not able to get. The nature of desire rests upon the physical needs of our body and yet they extend into wants, pleasures and methods of coping with specific suffering we already have. Desire on the front line is essential for survival, we desire the right things for the right reasons and we are on the right path but desire for the illusion, desire for the happiness based on thoughts produced by a thing, thoughts which are attractive to the ego, we are banking on invisible money.
Acceptance of that which is in transition and what we can never truly own, such as material, trust, respect, wisdom, etc. we begin to appreciate what we do have with gratitude unbounded. It can easily be taken away from us and so we respect it the more. Things break, people change, new knowledge makes old knowledge false. We must be able to discern between the desire for life and sustaining it, and the desire for illusion. Desire for illusions will result in suffering.
Rejection: The feeling that we are not enough, the sensation that our efforts are somehow a failure. Again, this is based on the principle of comparison, the act of looking at something from a speculated perspective which is based on illusion, thoughts. We are given one view, we can only see from that one perspective and then use information about it to increase our one focus. We cannot move our focus to another focal point, doing so creates a gradient of intent which will inevitably result in suffering.
Acceptance of the way things are as the only truth of the present moment, choosing to not compare self to others and personalise the feelings into emotions which cause suffering, we can free ourselves from the sense of rejection. This involves respecting ourselves to a point where the act of being told we are not right allows us to see that they are not right for us. This situation of unwanted but necessary separation must be accepted in a non-competitive and non-judgemental manner in order to remain free from suffering.
Fear: Lack of self-confidence, doubts, uncertainty, fear is at the root of all of these sensations. Fear is the darkness in the mind which has nothing to hold onto, it has no rationale to fall back on and so it becomes paranoid and defensive. In this sense, it is possible to either become aggressive or passive aggressive, depending on the manner of character which is experiencing fear. Both outcomes are equally unpleasant, although the passive aggressive type truly doesn't want to cause suffering their actions perhaps are the more venomous as it takes a longer time to pick up on it and take action to put it to a stop. Plain aggression is easy to o and we can therefore make faster moves to eliminate it from our lives.
Letting go of fear requires an acceptance of lack of control. We must allow ourselves to become buoyant on the ocean of life and trust that the currents will take us to the right shore.
This more materialistic and Western stand point from Sigmund Freud, considered by some as the grandfather of modern psychoanalytical study, reduces the spiritual experience into three major factors.
The suffering of the body: This can be likened to the ego in the fact that we want it to be different, we desire better. In this action we are allowing ourselves to suffer, by not accepting the truth of existence as transient, we are permitting the truth to cause us pain every time we see it. When we get a warning signal from our body, a pain or ache, we can feel the physical pain but also be mindful of the cause, we can find a grain of gratitude for our systems and respond effectively. When we feel unwell or detect a problem with our body or mind, we can take responsibility for it by taking right action.
The suffering of the external world: The forces of the universe are active in every moment of our lives. There is no way to stop the Will of God, the forces of nature, the ever spinning mathematical equations of the galaxy in which we live. This is simple and true. Any thoughts which fight this truth will result in suffering. Fear, comparison, desire for different, all of these factors lead into this particular factor. Almost identical to the first from a spiritual point of view, the material body and the material world around us are both subject to exactly the same will of nature, the same universal forces that affect each and every thing with presence.
The suffering between individuals: The factor seems to be the one that has been mostly divided into four by the Vedic/Buddhist teachings. The first two mentioned by Freud in this case are simple matters of material cognitive dissonance, where we are attaching to illusory concepts of permanence and desire for total health, where as the matters between people on a social level are incredibly complicated and require levels of understanding of great depths for each individual we encounter. Like the laws of nature itself, the laws of an inner universe are present in the way a person behaves and responds to the world around them. The laws of ourselves are apparent by the things we think and the way we go about our daily actions.
“..out of downright resistance to the mere possibility of there being a second psychic authority besides the ego. It seems a positive menace to the ego that its monarchy can be doubted.” The Undiscovered Self, Carl Jung 1957
By this he possibly meant the conscience, or the knowledge of higher good. In the act of judging ourselves by the standard of a higher good, we are asking the impossible from ourselves. It is in this action, of asking for the impossible from ourselves and from others around us, that we end up with suffering on a deep personal level. Our conscience must be listened to, it needs to be respected but it is not designed to be a life long talking companion. It is there to remind us when the path is right, or when the path is wrong. Dwelling on the wrong path will only create suffering. Dwelling on the right path will put blockages into walking it, and so we stagnate, forming suffering. Dwelling on the conscience is like putting our face in water to wash it but then holding it there. It is unhealthy.
So to conclude, suffering is the result of experience which causes us to feel pain. Experience is given to us by the world around us as our awareness absorbs all that it perceives and translates it into its own personal perspective. On occasion suffering is a result of thoughts about an experience which favour negative circumstances, the victim mentality, and on other occasion suffering can be caused by direct abuse of a person. To deny the victim situation when there truly is one is to only permit the suffering to continue. When there is suffering, there is always a victim. The victim must cease to be a victim for the suffering to end. We either change our thoughts about the situation and see that we are a victim of ourselves, or we can change the thoughts about the situation and see that we are the victim of another and it is time to change our circumstances. A change of perception and subsequent change in circumstances are required for an end to suffering.
The methods of identifying the causes of suffering and the subsequent thoughts which are allowing it to occur and blocking the method of escape from suffering from making itself apparent are plentiful. Expressing how we feel about things is one way another person is able to help explore the networks of thought which lead up to the experience of suffering. It could be that a person is not standing their ground with another person and is continually allowing them to treat them poorly or it could be that a person believes they are being or will be treated poorly and judge situations according to this speculation. Both pathways result in suffering. A person must first identify the pathway of thought and then work to adjust it to misdirect the present journey to suffering into one of peace. How this is done is according to the individual. The signposts to our suffering are often cryptic and difficult to determine, however the study of three elements of human society offer the most appropriate direction in this time
Rowan Blair Colver