Saturday, July 30, 2011

We are simultaneously the source of our own pain and joy

One of the foundational beliefs/approaches in my work is the assumption that we are simultaneously the source of our own pain and joy. Often an individual experiences pain as a result of attachments, expectations, desires or other thoughts where I think either I need “this thing” or “this needs to be a certain way.” Different traditions/theories have different words for essentially the same thing. I use the concept of “thoughts” to integrate many of these approaches. These thoughts often are unconscious, hidden, or habitual patterns of thinking. They are always occurring, and individuals/society knows how to manipulate these thoughts.

The economic field of marketing is about creating thoughts of desire that feed consumption. In other posts, I talk about the primary thinking error that is simply an elaborate illusion personalizing the existential fear we all experience. Assumptions are other examples of these thoughts. In my experience working in chemical dependency and sexual health, our thoughts around sex, body image, relationships, and success are examples of these thoughts.

The pattern goes something like this. On some level, we have a thought that having these desires fulfilled will lead to happiness. When unmet, we experience the pain. An individual might feel sad, fear, anger, hurt, lonely, disappointed and so on as a result of these thoughts/desires. It is easy to see how these thoughts are the source of our pain. When met, we may feel a type of happiness that is often temporary.

Recognizing these thoughts for what they are, that is, “thoughts,” allows us to reshape our view of the world and respond in different ways. The dilemma is that I don’t know what is a different way for you to respond. Your response to thoughts/pain needs to be your response. What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for others. This is often an individual approach and reflects our personal journey toward meaning in life. One direction to consider however is the wisdom of service. All of the major religious traditions focus on service. The 12th step emphasizes service.

The type of service is more than simply doing things for others. In my opinion, we each experience moments of transforming joy. Reflect on those moments when you felt most alive, experienced timelessness, and/or transcended your own self-imposed limits. Finding the key elements underlying these experiences is the key to finding your expression of service. I label these key elements values/virtues. When we live a life that connects us to these values, we experience the transformation of pain into joy.

1 comment:

  1. I was told once that thoughts are like birds flying over our heads. We cannot be responsible for their flight pattern, but we are responsible when they make a nest in our hair.

    I am fascinated that we must replace an unwanted habit with something else. I guess nature abhors a vacuum.

    Great words Weston.