When Does Feeling Become Suffering?

Feelings are not sharply divided into good and bad, and yet there IS such a sharp division between suffering and not suffering. If what we want is to eliminate suffering, then it's extremely helpful to know precisely when and how this occurs. If we don't know the relationship between feeling and suffering, we don't understand the precise problem of happiness.

Fear, sorrow and grief are not inherently bad or undesirable. We pay for the privledge of riding roller coasters and watching horror movies, which we would not do if fear were something to be avoided. We may have different names for this sort of fear because it clearly is different from the fear associated with suffering, but it is fear nonetheless. We may even use the word 'anxious' to describe the state we are in when experiencing both fears. We may be anxious to get on the roller coaster or we may be anxious about riding, and yet we're drawn toward the first scenario and repulsed in the second.

feeling The shift from enjoying the excitement of fear, and needing to escape from it, is not particularly gradual. Rather, the tension and drama of a horror movie or a ride in a hot air balloon can suddenly turn to suffering without warning. This is actually in the nature of the excitement, as without the possibility of danger, there simply is no potenial for excitement.

It would be fair to say that what we look for in situations like that is to move as close to that mysterious threshold as possible without actually crossing over. This is why we create drama in personal relationships, and are drawn to negativity in the news. We may justify these activities with a sense of righteousness or needing to be informed, or compassion for others, or some other story, but fundamentally we like to play at that threshold of intense feeling. Fear, itself, is clearly not a problem and not inherently undesirable.

The intensity of the fear on the excitement side of this mysterious threshold is what presents the volitility that can lead to a sudden shift to the suffering side. Alertness is very high and mind highly stimulated, and if the thoughts suddenly turn negative, we are propelled across the threshold into suffering and suddenly we need to escape.


Although such thoughts may be triggerred by a change in events that actually does present a serious danger, such as a hot air baloon approaching some power lines, we're interested here in how we create suffering in the overwhelming majority of our daily experiences. We want to know how a roller coaster ride or interpersonal drama turns from excitement to suffering, and this is clearly happening in the thoughts about the experience rather than the events of the experience itself.

In every case, there is a projection of possible scenarios into the future in which you play the central role. There is nothing factual about these scenarios, but the imagining of them seems to lend credibility to them in the mind, and the imaginary stories are experienced as having a kind of pseudo-reality of their own. From there, the feeling of fear begins to turn negative and mind begins to focus on escape rather than excitement.

Phil Beaumont

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Self Actualization

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Living Consciously. Understanding Denial and Projection.
Living Consciously. How we form our experience.
The Split Mind
Breaking Habits by Healing the Split Mind
Is Struggle the Effect or Cause of Suffering?
Happiness is an Idea
Imagining Problems
Serial Problem Solver
The Delusion of Burt the Bunny
Realization Vs Thinking
Imaginary Feelings
Realization is Self Evident
Seeing Through illusions
The Habit Game

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"To identify oneneself as a separate entity in a universe that refuses to acknowledge and support that separateness, is suffering."
Phil Beaumont

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