Our Suffering creates our Motivation to Change – Chapter Eleven

Our Suffering creates our Motivation to Change – Chapter Eleven

Our Suffering creates our Motivation to Change

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One choice can change our future.
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The Buddha in his first noble truth said that all of life is suffering. We don’t like to suffer but we do suffer. Let’s take a look at ‘Chaos Theory’ to understand the need to suffer.

Chaos Theory studies the behaviour of dynamic or open systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions. A dynamic or open system is a system which continuously interacts with, and is influenced by, its environment. Human beings are a dynamic or open system that can be vastly influenced by small changes in conditions. This chaos theory effect is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect. The name of the effect was coined by Edward Lorenz, a meteorologist. It is derived from the example that states that a small thing, such as a butterfly flapping its wings, can create a ripple effect that could have an influence in the creation of a hurricane several weeks later. It was discovered that even the smallest changes will have an impact on future weather conditions. There are a number of movies that use this theory to base different outcomes on different choices – leading to many different conclusions. I like this theory. It suits my stronger needs for freedom and fun. One choice can change our future. Our future is created by the choices we make now. We are the creators of our future – creators in our own right.

The Chaos Theory suggests that an open system will continually change and develop to a point of turbulence before transforming into something stable. Out of chaos comes order.

We can see this in evolution. It is the organisms that adapt best to changing environmental instability that survive. The instability creates suffering and the suffering creates a requirement to adapt and change – to evolve. If you don’t adapt and evolve you don’t survive. Just ask the dinosaurs. We don’t really know why they became extinct but we can be fairly sure it was because they couldn’t adapt to changing conditions. (The only thing I know about dinosaurs is that they had big feet, were supposed to generally have had small brains, and that I wouldn’t have wanted to be following one around the back garden with a pooper scooper!)

It is suggested by science that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. 2.5 million years ago the Genus Homo appeared. 200,000 years ago man started looking much like he does today and 25,000 years ago Neanderthal man became extinct. Physically, we have not evolved much in 200,000 years. However, we have evolved consciously over a relatively brief period. Julian Jayne suggests in his book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, that human consciousness as we know it is fairly new and was a leap in our evolution over a short period of time. Jayne suggests that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution. It is a learned process brought into being out of an earlier hallucinatory mentality by cataclysm and catastrophe only 3000 years ago and is still developing. It’s interesting to note that many religions use the same time frame for God breathing life into the creation of man.

With this leap we became self-conscious and this was probably the beginning of the development of the ego. Because of this leap in consciousness, I now sit typing on this computer and receive emails from half way around the world in the blink of an eye. I turn on a tap and water pours out, flick a switch and the room lights up. Humans are masters at adapting – but still we suffer. We know the body won’t evolve during the course of our lifetime (although mine seems to be evolving into a wrinkled, slightly balding, saggy version of what it once was), but the mind can evolve and adapt. Maybe those enlightened souls of the past were examples of the next step in the evolutionary ladder. Christ said, ‘You too can do these things.’ The Buddha called it the eradication of suffering, which must be the pinnacle of evolution. I find this an interesting concept. All that is, God if you like, becoming aware of itself through human consciousness. Yet, it is just a concept. I am not enlightened enough to know if it’s true or not. We can take this concept to its extreme. Suppose we all become enlightened, and eradicate all our cravings; would we still want sex? Let’s face it, you don’t hear much about those enlightened beings from the past having kids after becoming enlightened. Without babies the human race would cease to exist. We would become extinct. Interesting thought: extinct if we don’t adapt and possibly extinct if we reach the pinnacle of adaptation. Probably not – there can be great joy and love in sexual union; it can be much deeper than satisfying the basic sexual urge we are genetically disposed to for procreation.
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We see so much anxiety and depression in the world today but often don’t see this as an opportunity to evolve.


So a leap in consciousness may have been brought about through suffering and our ability to adapt. Suffering in this context would indicate that it creates the motivation to change, to evolve. We see so much anxiety and depression in the world today but often don’t see this as an opportunity to evolve. A pill is prescribed and popped like a band aid, covering the root cause of the problem which, in most cases is our thinking. No one teaches us how to think – how to use this amazing computer as a tool for positive creation. And it is a tool. We didn’t have this thinking system until we learned a language. And the development of metaphor to expand language created a different thinking system. It is not us. It is a learned tool.

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Stuck in our thoughts, and looking at the world in a fearful way, we create our own suffering.


But we have become addicted to popping pills to make us feel better and relieve the suffering we feel. Irving Kirsch is a professor of psychology and specialist on the placebo effect. He is also author of the book, The Emperor’s New Drugs. Drug companies claim that the effectiveness of antidepressants has been proven in published clinical trials showing the drugs worked significantly better than placebos. He suggests that a closer look at the data shows that the difference between the drug response and the placebo response is not clinically significant and that many of the effects of antidepressants seem to be due to the placebo effect. What is the placebo? A placebo is nothing more than a sugar pill that works on the belief system. If you believe you will feel better – you will. Back to what we believe we will see. This belief system is so powerful.

So, our suffering can be the catalyst that brings about our transformation like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. From chaos comes order. I don’t know about you but I don’t like the idea of changing brain chemistry with a pill. There will obviously be cases when this is required due to a deficiency in the system – the body not working the way it should. If the mind isn’t working the way it should then, in most cases (though not all), if we change the mind we resolve the problem. But we have become a society looking for a quick fix and instant gratification.

A young man came to see me. He had been diagnosed by a doctor with social anxiety disorder, and was prescribed medication. He wanted my advice before he bought the medication. In his hand he held a booklet describing the symptoms he was experiencing. This booklet had been printed by the drug company supplying the medication he was supposed to take to fix his problem. Nice little box with high walls to put someone in. I knew him and his problem and it wasn’t social anxiety.

This young man’s girlfriend had ended their relationship two months earlier, and he had taken it personally. He felt he wasn’t approved of. He also wanted the security of the relationship, as he still felt an attachment to her.

It wasn’t personal. She had thought she was too young to be in a full-time relationship.

He had stopped seeing his friends and didn’t have much money because he was going to college three days a week. He hadn’t had a part time job for eight months and so couldn’t afford to run his car, or go out with his friends. He was isolating himself. He wasn’t getting out of bed until lunch time most days because he was feeling so disconnected and disempowered and was slipping into depression. Prior to his girlfriend ending the relationship he was one of the most sociable young men you could meet. Within a few weeks of understanding that he was creating the way he was feeling, and could choose to create something different, he had a part time job in a surf shop. This worked around his studies and also enabled him to take a job delivering pizzas at night and that covered his car costs. He also found some work at the weekends in a hardware store. This put money in the bank. He was mixing with his friends again and he soon found himself with a new girlfriend. He did it all without popping a pill.

I have many clients coming to see me who are already on antidepressants. I don’t advise them to stop. I don’t believe in kicking away the crutch before they can walk. Antidepressants change brain chemistry and stopping them dead can create problems. I suggest they work to get their thinking right first and then work with their doctor to gradually reduce the dose over time to come off the medication.

If we look at our suffering as the chaos required, that creates the motivation to change and adapt, then we can see it for the gem that it is. Out of the muddied pond the lotus flower rises and blossoms.

What can you do with this information? Embrace your suffering and see it as an opportunity and motivation for change – an opportunity to evolve.