I was started along this thought path by one of my facebook readers, Maggie Cee – she wanted to know how to change the suffering of others.  It struck me as both odd and normal all in one. Normal – because a lot of us are motivated by a desire to remove unnecessary suffering from the world. Odd, because I no longer see suffering as something that is wrong and so needs to be eradicated.  It boils down to three principles for me.

  1. Is suffering wrong or is it just an interesting point of view we have ?
  2. Are you in the well with the person suffering, or outside and able to show the way out ?
  3. Gift people their power, allow them to choose their path and experience it

So, can we eradicate suffering ? Yes, I believe we can – just not the way everyone thinks.

(1)    Is suffering wrong ? (interesting point of view you have)

Pain Just Is! Suffering is a value-add from our thoughts

Everything from here on works on the premise that suffering is a value-add product our brain provides. Pain and painful events are inevitable and a part of life. The problem starts with the way we think about what has happened. You always have a choice and when you are smack bang in the middle of events you can not control your choices are simple:

a) Accept what is and then work to actively create what you would rather have

b) Resist what is (a popular choice and one that seldom changes anything and always creates suffering!)

All of which means that suffering is always a choice – it is the thinking we add onto what is.


Now I know that this concept that there is no such thing as suffering is a hard one to take on board, so if you aren’t there yet, just live with the following question until it starts to make sense, “ How am I creating this suffering ?

There will be plenty of resistance initially as we don’t like to believe that we create our own drama and suffering, we like to believe that suffering is something foisted onto us by an uncaring world/ parent/ spouse/ boss – but stick with it and see what happens.

Action Steps to Step Out of Suffering

  • Be present to the question, “How am I creating this ?”
  • Be present to the question, “What would I rather have or see ?”

(2)    Can you really remove someone else’s suffering ? Are you in the well our outside it ?

So if suffering is a choice, then how can you remove some-one else’s suffering ? Especially as it is something they are creating (be it unconsciously). Their experience of suffering has to do with the way they see the world and it is really, really hard to change how someone sees the world. An even more important question involves wells (the holes you dig in the ground to get water).

If someone falls down a well do you rescue them by jumping into the hole as well so that they have company ? No! So why do we do the same thing when it comes to people and their lives ? Do you (figuratively of course) find yourself embedded in the way other people experience their lives ? Can you relate ? Not that relating is a bad thing, the problem comes when you get so involved you can no longer see anything but that suffering. You are now living the drama and oblivious to the outside or any other experience but that.

Let me put it another way, to escape the well (suffering) you need some-one outside who can throw in a life line or show you the steps you need to take for you to climb out. The rescuer can’t force or make the person down the well climb out – that is a choice that has to be made by that person. If you get into the well all that has happened is that instead of one person trapped, there are now two. How did that help or change anything ? In the world of psychology you are enabling the person to remain stuck.

Being outside the well doesn’t mean rejecting how someone else’s experience. You can still acknowledge that they are going through, just don’t own the drama.

Action Steps to Step Outside the Well

–          Be present to the question, “ Are you out the well or in ? “

The rescuer doesn’t get into the well with the victim. If they really want to get that person out, they stay outside and show them how

(3)    Gift others the opportunity to live their own lives

There is another more powerful reason for staying outside of some-one else’s suffering and instead allowing them to ‘do the work’. If you make all their decisions and rescue them, they never learn how to do it for themselves and so are not able to extract themselves the next time and there will be a next time simply because who they are being and how they are reacting to the world is what is creating the experience in the first place. That is an ummatable law of being – you create what you expect to see. Who you are and what you create are fully aligned. To change what you experience you have to fundamentally change how you behave and that will sooner or later, change the way you think about the world which will support those conscious choices to act in a way that is not ‘normal’ for you. But back to suffering.

Would you give up your past moments of suffering ? How would you have grown and learnt without them ?

Take a look at your own life – all those terrible experiences or moments where you could not believe the world was so cruel, would you remove them from your life ? Take a moment and just think about it…let those horrid moments start to scroll through your mind and be present to how they changed you.

I have asked myself this question – my list includes;  mother with breast cancer, alcoholic father who liked to try suicide until he died (watched him die), mother suffering head trauma and then brain death due to negligence of an intensive care nurse (watched her die), grandmother with bone cancer (watched her die), attempted hijacking involving AK47’s, to name a few (this is the highlight reel of the drama moments, not the never ending suffering moments). When I really ‘look’ at those moments I am able to acknowledge the intensity of the suffering and pain as well as the gift buried within and I realise that I wouldn’t know how to replace them. If I removed those moments I would not be who I am or where I am. Each event gifted me with an understanding and change that was so basic and essential that it fundamentally changed my life and who I am. Thanks to those moments (and the time I took accepting and understanding them), something that caused extreme pain taught me how to create freedom and the life I want to live. Knowing the value of these extreme moments, would I now remove the power of suffering from some-one else’s life and so remove the chance they have of learning?

Could you consciously choose to disempower someone because you don’t want to see them suffer ? Well yes, if you know suffering is a choice and if you knew you were outside the well and that the biggest gift you could give was to remove the suffering by helping others see the thoughts that create it.

Suffering holds lessons that fundamentally change who you are and what is possible – if you are given the chance to live it

This is not to say that we should just accept suffering . We need to have empathy and compassion but that is different to just rushing in and ‘fixing’ things. You want to create lasting change. You want to make a real difference and that means being the rescuer outside the well, giving people the skills and opportunities and allowing them the choice to accept it or not. You can’t live other people’s lives for them, you can just be a guide that shows them a new alternative. You can only live your life!

Action Steps to Gift People Their Power

–          Be present to the question,  “What point of view is creating the trap and what question could I ask to make that visible “?

–          Be present to the question, “What is right about this ? What opportunity does this provide ? ”

–          Step back from giving answers, give options, provide opportunities

–          Allow others the option of not choosing what you are offering and be at peace with that.

In Summary – How do you make a difference and escape suffering ?

–          Let go of suffering as being wrong and accept it as a choice

–          Allow people the privilege to live their own lives, respecting and trusting their ability to get themselves out of the well

–          Stay outside the well so you can shine a light on a new alternative and guide people out, always allowing them the choice to move in that direction

There are no rights and there are no wrongs, there are just interesting points of view. I am sure that some of what I have written will not sit well with some of you, in that case ask yourself ‘why ?’. What is it that you are defending ? What do you need to be right ?

Even better, ask me…I love to experience how other people see their world and of course, to ask questions that allow you to start seeing the world in a different way. It is the ability to challenge what you think is true that allows you to create new opportunities and the life you want to live.

So, can we eradicate suffering ? Yes, I believe we can – just not the way everyone thinks.