Avoid Unnecessary Suffering

‘Suffering is neither unendurable nor everlasting, if you keep its limits in mind and do not add to it through your own imagination.’ – Epicurus

Whether grieving loss or separation, or experiencing the tension of fatigue or anxiety, the reins of suffering are softened whenever we put things into perspective and remind ourselves that it’s going to pass. Whereas if we sternly plow through the day, and elbow everything in our way, we add fuel to our impassioned dismay, thus speedily turn the hair on our head into grey.

How many times have we encountered a situation and walked away from it feeling distraught or downhearted, but later realized that we were tired and/or agitated before entering the scene. Knowing the temperature of our emotional intensity before we enter into some kind of action can help us to better deal with whatever should come our may.

So for instance, if we are feeling anxious or overly eager, we can choose a suitable virtue by which to bring about equanimity or an appropriate demeanour. Depending on the particulars of the situation, it may be in our best interest to apply patience with a touch of kindness. Then again, depending on the severity and what is at stake, it may be best to reconvene, or simply avoid making hasty decisions then & there.

Not all circumstances call for the same degree of virtuous action, and if you sense that your capacity to reason has been impaired in some way, then you may have to gracefully bow out, even if a significant other is trying to impose a condition on you that appears to be in your favour. But what if somehow you are left holding the bag for not being able to respond right away; what sort of preparatory action can you take to avoid being manipulated.

This is probably why prudence (practical reason) is often associated with its subordinate virtue; namely, foresight. The greater our capacity to envision in light of sound principles, the easier it is to stay clear of slippery slopes or potential pitfalls, including contracts with those who act contrary to their agreements.

Now what if we already behaved ourselves into a lose/lose situation, or even a win/lose, or a lose/win for that matter, which often leads to a lose/lose over time. In other words, what if we unconsciously put ourselves into an unfortunate tangle and are uncertain how to break free; well, to reflect upon the advice of Epicurus above, it may be helpful to avoid contorting the problem and look for alternative ways to improve upon things.

The very fact that we have made poor decisions is a testament to the truth that we can also make better decisions. So rather than give into pessimism – which can also serve as a way to remove the debilitating impact of erroneous beliefs – we can avoid the extremes of naïve bubble like positivity and the dark spiraling gravity of negativity. Establishing limitations and boundaries can remove the sting of suffering if they are well thought out before hand and applied in a careful way.

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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8 Responses to Avoid Unnecessary Suffering

  1. Sally says:

    Jason, this is profound, on several levels.
    I read this post three times.
    You allude to the concept of ’emotional intelligence,’ an important area of study since the 1990s.
    It is important to understand our own emotional state when entering into human interactions.
    As you say, we need to be cautious in making any decisions when we are emotionally vulnerable.

    Proponants of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ advise us of the HALT theory. That is, we need to be aware of our vulnerability when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

    Being aware of these vulnerable times may help us to avoid unnecessary suffering. 🌼🤗⚘

    • My heart glees with gladness in reception of your complementary compliments!

      Often what we discern to be profound, like eternity seems to remain around, in one form or another, making you my sister, and ‘I’ your brother.

      Keep thy eye simple (ἁπλοῦς), so as to HALT in the name of love!
      Thank you, Sally, for sharing wisdom that stems from above. =)

  2. Mary Jo Malo says:

    This elicits several thoughts and feelings. When we suffer for bad decisions, it nevertheless is suffering. We can learn from these situations. Yet it’s the unfathomable suffering that perplexes us, and helping ourselves and others to recollect the passing of previous suffering helps. Yes, present suffering will end one way or another. The funny thing about suffering? Resisting, transfiguring, and philosophizing, and all such efforts seem pointless. Feel it and pass through it, since the energy spent trying not to suffer enhances it. My meanderings do no justice to your coherent thoughts. Patience and kindness are indeed the best virtues to lead us through fear, doubt and confusion.

    • Only a poet can render the truth here, thus your words imbue genuine care. To cower from suffering heaps additional or unnecessary suffering upon our heads, whereas to embrace it not only expands our ability to accept life on life’s terms, but it also enables us to love with patience and kindness, the very tides that continuously reach for and enrich our beautiful bloom.

  3. Shawn says:

    Great post, Jason. Hindsight is 20/20, right? And most people will often stop after an incident has taken place and think, “Wow, I could have handled that better…” Especially when it relates to one’s own behaviour. One of my best friends is very much like this; he gets into some form of trouble and usually aggravates it through his own words and/or actions and makes matters worse. Of course, then he gets angry and frustrated at the consequences instead of acknowledging the fact he had a part to play.

    The second Noble Truth of Buddhism tells us that mankind causes its own suffering, and we see this more than what’s reasonable in today’s modern mindset of entitlement and “snowflake” culture, if you will. It all comes down to the old saying our parents always repeated: “Think before you speak,” or “Think before you act.” Bad things are going to happen. This is life; there’s no getting around it. But if we’d reasonably learn to control ourselves in this regard, it would go a long way towards reducing suffering in the world.

    Your posts are fast-becoming my “reading with morning coffee” option for Saturdays! Keep ’em coming!

    • Thanks a bunch Shawn; your wisdom continues to resound with a beautiful morning gong! Happy to know that my weekly posts are becoming a regular part of your week; this provides incentive to keep them unique!

  4. Anna Esther says:

    Very interesting. This one spoke to me. Especially the significant other manipulation and contract part.

    I had a dream early this morning that you told me you hired many people and paid them quite a bit of money. It wasn’t clear why but seemed you were trying to work toward getting something important done so you were willing to pay no matter the cost. We don’t know each other except through me reading here. Just thought I’d mention the dream.

    • Delightful to hear, and never you fear, there’s lots of ways to care. As for your dream & what it may require, sustained reflection of your inner desire, ask yourself what kind of people would you like to hire.

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