Suffering, Surrender & Grace: Part 1

Suffering, the way of the ego

Photo by Ojaswi Pratap Singh on Unsplash

“I am feeling choked, abandoned, sad and lonely. Uncared, unloved and unvalued. Been crying and finding it difficult to breathe.” read a whatsapp message to me on a Sunday afternoon. “What should I do?” It was from someone I knew. A recent relationship that seemed to have a promising start, seemed to end abruptly. The person did not wish to keep in touch.

What she was experiencing was familiar to me. I had experienced such feelings too. And I am sure these feelings are not familiar only to the two of us. Most of us have experienced such difficult emotions at some point or the other. In other words, we all have experienced a common human phenomenon called…

Suffering.

A breakup, financial loss, health crisis, fear of failure, emotional abuse, death of a loved one; are some circumstances that cause suffering. Sometimes we suffer our memory. Of things that have happened in the past but continue to play in our mind like a tape on loop. Sometimes we suffer our imagination of things that have not happened but haunt our mind, as if they are certain to happen.

Even though suffering is integral to human existence, no one teaches us how to suffer. It is not part of the school curriculum, even though our education itself is a cause of suffering. Suffering is not discussed or talked about. As though the sole purpose of life is to be productive and successful. And anything that comes in the way of achieving material goals is abnormal.

Each one of us finds our own way to suffer. Some explode with anger. Some implode with fear. Some withdraw into a cocoon. Some analyse to death. Some indulge in pleasures. Some depend on authority. Some plot revenge. Some seek sympathy. Some drown in work. Some seek the meaning of life. No matter what our favoured way to deal with suffering, we have a choice.

To suffer through the ego or suffer through consciousness.

When we suffer through the ego, we generally do three things. What are they?

1. Right and Wrong

All our suffering stems from the ego. Our illusory sense of separation from the Universe. When we undergo emotional pain, the first thing that the ego does is to use the suffering to perpetuate its illusory identity. It becomes the sufferer.

It perpetuates itself through the language of right and wrong.

More often than not whenever we feel cheated, betrayed, hurt, rejected, abandoned we feel we have a valid reason to feel that way. Given the way we feel, the ego gets what it needs most for its survival.

To be right.

And the ego can only feel right, when it makes someone wrong. It blames someone for its misery. It seeks justice for the wrong done. It vilifies someone. On the other hand the ego can also survive by making itself wrong. “I shouldn’t have done that.” “I am worthless.” “I am unloved.” It goes on a guilt trip, self-blame, pity party or suicide mission.

Essentially the ego lives in the world of duality. Right & Wrong, Good & Bad, Moral & Immoral. It divides the psyche into pieces using language and thought. It feeds on the abstract pieces it has put together in the form of a story.

2. Storytelling

Every ego has a story to tell. Greater the suffering, greater the investment in that story. Most stories have two characters. A Villain. A Victim. Most suffering egos take on the role of the victim. An angry victim. A poor victim. A betrayed victim. An abused victim. A violated victim. An exploited victim. Whatever be the flavour of victimisation the ego derives its energy from the story.

The story also provides a character who is responsible for our suffering. The villain. Sometimes the villain may not just be a person but also Destiny or God. Particularly when we have been a good human being, never hurt anyone and been kind to everyone. “Why did this happen to me?” “What wrong have I done?” “What kind of God is this?”

When the ego does not get a satisfactory answer, it will go looking for an answer. It will reach out to healers, astrologers and tarot card readers. To make meaning of its suffering. To piece together a story of why something happened and what will happen next. The ego needs to know.

But creating the story is not the end of the story. Every story needs to be told. Every story needs to be heard. This is where the third part of the ego’s suffering comes in.

3. Validation

The ego’s way of seeking relief from its self-created suffering is to seek someone to believe its story. It seeks validation. The ego’s need to be right is fulfilled when someone listens to its story. This role may be played by a friend, counsellor or relative. Generally it is someone the ego looks up to. An authority figure.

Part of the validation process is to get a second opinion on how wrong the villain of the story is. An opinion that matches the storyline that the ego has created. The ego survives in company. It cannot live alone. It seeks the company of sympathisers.

Often the ego is not satisfied by telling its story once. It wants to repeat its story as often as it can, to as many people as it can. More the sympathisers greater the satisfaction. But no matter how many times the story is told, the ego is never fulfilled.

Because the cause of the ego’s suffering is the ego itself.

Suffering is an opportunity to shed our ego identity made of desires and fears. Identify our patterns of unconscious behaviour that recreate the same experience again and again. Untie the emotional knots and release the energy blocks in our subconscious. But all of this is possible only if we make an important choice.

The choice to suffer consciously.

What does it mean to suffer consciously?

I will reveal that in part two of this article next week. For now let’s ask ourself, is our suffering in service of the ego? What is our ego’s favourite suffering story? Who does it blame? How does it make meaning? Who does it tell its story? Does it shorten or prolong the suffering?

Being aware of our unawareness is the first step towards awareness. If any part of this article sensitizes you to the unconscious pattern of your ego then that is a shift towards awareness. As they say, a small spark of light is all it takes to light up age old darkness.

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Coming soon

Suffering, Surrender & Grace: Part 2

Suffering, the way of Consciousness