Basic Principle of Why We Suffer

Emotional Suffering is Due to Lingering Attachments to Unresolved Negative Emotions

While we can feel all right much of the time, our psyche is bound to negative attachments that produce unhappiness

When we’re unhappy, we’re usually making unconscious inner choices that produce our unhappiness. We have to understand the bittersweet appeal of negative emotions. Without realizing what we’re doing, we actually make inner choices to feel deprived or refused—or helpless, criticized, rejected, betrayed, or abandoned.

Doing this defies common sense, but our unconscious mind operates on irrational, not rational, principles.

Unconsciously, we’re tempted to indulge in such negative emotions that are unresolved from our past. Unwittingly, we recreate and recycle these familiar, painful feelings through the events and situations of our everyday life.

I use the term emotional attachments to express this inner conflict. While consciously we very much dislike our suffering, unconsciously we can be willing and determined to experience the unresolved negative emotions that produce suffering. Vast numbers of people have these emotional attachments. The problem goes largely untreated because it’s not well understood.

We’re highly reluctant to see our emotional attachments and our participation in our suffering. Fooling ourselves comes naturally. For instance, we convince ourselves that others are to blame for our unhappiness. We say to ourselves, for instance, that “Their behavior (or attitude) is causing me to feel this way (offended, angry, depressed, etc.).”

We’re always saying, “They caused me to feel anxious (or angry, etc.).” With more awareness, we would say something to this effect, “Their behavior has triggered my willingness to experience an unresolved emotion in myself, which produces anxiety or anger.”

Sometimes, instead of blaming others for our problems and unhappiness, we blame conditions or circumstances in our life. We might say to ourselves, “Work is too hard, and I don’t get paid enough.” Or we think, “I would be happy if only I was better looking and had a great body and personality.”

And then sometimes we blame ourselves for our unhappiness—but for the wrong reason. Someone might say, for instance, “The problem is I’m too lazy,” or, “I’m just an angry person—that’s the problem!” However, any such laziness and anger are just the surface symptoms of deeper issues.

If you’re unhappy because you’re not attractive enough, you are likely, deep in your psyche, attached emotionally to the feeling of rejection. This means that, for you, rejection is somewhat of an emotional addiction. You even reject yourself on a daily basis. You can reject yourself for a whole range of reasons, not just because you think you’re unattractive. In other words, your problem is not with your alleged lack of physical attractiveness but with your determination to experience rejection—whether that comes from others or through your own relationship with yourself.

Your inner choice to suffer in this way is caused by an emotional attachment to rejection, which includes self-rejection. You likely have a history of feeling rejected that goes back to your childhood.

You suffer when you feel rejected by others even though, inwardly, you’re the first person in line to reject yourself. You learn to become conscious of your emotional attachment to rejection, and to trace your surface symptoms back to that attachment. You’re likely not aware that rejection is the deeper problem because you’re fooled by your defenses and entangled in your surface symptoms such as anger, resentment, bitterness, and depression.

We have the power to change our attachments to unresolved negative emotions, but first we have to see them clearly. With insight, we can trace the painful and self-defeating symptoms that pop up in our life back to our underlying emotional attachments.

Rejection is just one of the several negative emotions we can be attached to. We can also be attached to (or determined to experience ourself through) feelings of criticism and disappointment. Your parents might have regarded you in this negative way (or you believed or felt that they regarded you this way). This is how, at least in part, you now regard yourself or experience yourself deep in your psyche.

To repeat, it’s important to understand that most of us are completely unaware of our emotional attachments to rejection, criticism, deprivation, refusal, helplessness, control, betrayal, and abandonment. Instead, we become entangled in the painful surface symptoms that include anxiety, stress, confusion, self-doubt, anger, loneliness, cynicism, laziness, apathy, pseudo-stupidity, and a sense of feeling overwhelmed, along with a lack of behavioral self-regulation.

A person who easily feels criticized by others and reacts angrily to them is very likely to have an emotional attachment to criticism. This person is likely to be his or her own worst critic. It’s ironic that we get angry at someone who has been critical of us when we’re first in line to be critical of ourselves (through our inner critic). We get angry at the other person to cover up our attachment to the feeling of being criticized. (To see our attachments is very humbling to our ego—and so we resist acquiring this deeper knowledge.) Through our anger toward the person we feel is being critical of us, we blame that person for our bad feelings, all the while failing to recognize our affinity for (or attachment to) criticism and self-criticism.

This might all sound complicated, but it becomes second nature to our intelligence once we begin to see these dynamics in ourselves.

Through our psychological defenses, we cover up our emotional attachments, and we thereby fool ourselves into believing that emotional attachments don’t exist.

All such suffering can become a distant memory when we see more clearly how our psyche works. This clarity can be acquired through the articles on this website, and through my paperback books and easy-to-read PDF files.

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