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Psychological Suffering and the Misinterpretation of Experience

Published on December 9, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Our tendency as a human culture has been to view certain experiences (e.g., fear, anxiety, worry, insecurity, confusion) as problematic and then set about to overcome, avoid, heal, transcend or otherwise improve upon them.

However, there’s another choice. In any moment, we can simply look and see what these supposedly negative states of mind are actually made of, beyond the oversimplified versions of them provided by language for despite the myriad words we’ve evolved to describe what’s happening experientially, we cannot actually say what anything is, at least not definitively. Try it right now. Try to capture in words or concepts what is being felt and experienced right now and see if that’s even possible. You might say, “Well, this is a thought,” or “that’s a feeling or a sensation.” But when we call something a thought, a feeling or a sensation, what exactly are we saying? What is the experiential reality those words are pointing to? We might say, “Well, thoughts and sensations are ultimately made up of energy or consciousness.” But this begs the question: “What in turn are the phenomena we call energy and consciousness made of, beyond the dictionary definitions we use to describe them?”

As humans, we often feel as if we are somehow stuck in or confused by some experience or circumstance and then attempt to free ourselves from our supposed bondage and confusion. But what we call “being stuck or confused” is literally defined into existence for when investigated experientially, the conceptual categories of stuck and confused are seen to be neither stuck nor confused, but a swirling dance of miraculous, wide-open, inconceivable depth, intelligence and energy. And if such experiences are as radically open-ended and ultimately indefinable as they are, how can they possibly bind or limit us in the ways we have imagined? To put it bluntly, we suffer psychologically, not because we have certain experiences, but because of what we imagine those experiences to be through the miraculous interpretive power of concepts and language.

So the next time you find yourself faced with something difficult or uncomfortable—a sense of lack, a feeling of confusion, a moment of upset—instead of reflexively trying to flee from or transform that state, simply inquire into or better yet, feel what it is made of, experientially.

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