The Source of All Your Suffering

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 1 month ago

Dr Demartini explains why suffering can be the result of seeking a fantasy or one-sided life. As such, any suffering in your life is feedback to bring you back into balance.

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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 1 month ago



“The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” - John Milton

When John Milton said that the mind can ‘make a Heaven of a Hell, a Hell of a Heaven” what he was saying is that an event is what you make of it. You can make a heaven out of a hell or a hell out of a heaven based on your PERCEPTIONS.

If you choose to go by your first interpretation that it is “negative” and don’t take the time to find upsides to it, it’s not because of the event but because you are choosing not to see the upsides to it.

As a result, you are likely to increase your suffering, and that’s your doing. It’s your perception and has little or nothing to do with the world around you.

All events have equally both benefits and drawbacks, upsides and downsides. If you take the time to see both sides equally of an event, then you can neutralize your perception of the event and not have the event run your life.

Covid is

“The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” - John Milton


When John Milton said that the mind can ‘make a Heaven of a Hell, a Hell of a Heaven” what he was saying is that an event is what you make of it. You can make a heaven out of a hell or a hell out of a heaven based on your PERCEPTIONS.

If you choose to go by your first interpretation that it is “negative” and don’t take the time to find upsides to it, it’s not because of the event but because you are choosing not to see the upsides to it.

As a result, you are likely to increase your suffering, and that’s your doing. It’s your perception and has little or nothing to do with the world around you.

All events have equally both benefits and drawbacks, upsides and downsides. If you take the time to see both sides equally of an event, then you can neutralize your perception of the event and not have the event run your life.

Covid is a good example of this. I’ve seen some people who have only perceived upsides and others who have only perceived downsides.

I am certain that Covid has two sides – advantages and disadvantages. If you can see them both at the same time, you are likely to reduce your perception of suffering.

neurological-forebrain-and-hindbrain

Neurological Forebrain and Hindbrain

Neurologically, your brain is set up with a forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain.

  • Your forebrain is for foresight.
  • Your hindbrain is for hindsight.
  • Your forebrain results in pre-planning and pro-acting.
  • Your hindbrain results in emotional reacting.

Your forebrain has an executive center to govern your impulses and instincts and keep you objective.

Objectivity means being neutral-minded, so if you're living governed from your executive center, you'll tend to be more resilient, adaptable, poised and present.

If not, you’ll tend to be more ungoverned by your amygdala and your hindbrain where you’re more likely to be driven to avoid pain and seek pleasure. In other words, search for one-sided events that don’t exist and avoid that which is unavoidable (the other side of events you’re currently blinded to).

Suffering is therefore a survival strategy of the inner animal part of our brain called the amygdala.

Everybody has a set of priorities or values in life, things that are most to least important in life that's unique to you, like a fingerprint.

When you live according to your highest values or top priorities, blood, glucose and oxygen go into your forebrain. As a result, you’ll tend to be more objective, neutral, resilient, adaptable, proactive, disciplined, reliable and focused.

In other words, you’re likely to have self-governance over any impulses and instincts. Or, as I like to say, you’re most likely to be in THRIVAL and not SURVIVAL mode.

On the other hand, when you fill your day with low-priority actions, the blood glucose and oxygen go into your amygdala and hindbrain.

So, instead of waking up your executive center for inspired vision, you wake up your amygdala and hindbrain, which deal with  conditioned reflexes, impulses, and instincts for immediate gratification and the avoidance of pain.

As a result, you are most likely to seek to avoid that which is unavoidable and seek to obtain that which is unobtainable, while also feeling overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

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Suffering is therefore a by-product of not living congruently with your highest values or highest priorities. 

Suffering is a by-product of living more in your amygdala and hindbrain and wanting to:

  • Avoid pain and seek pleasure;
  • Avoid challenge and seek support; and
  • Avoid difficulty and seek ease.

In other words, suffering is likely the result of looking for a one-sided world that doesn’t quite exist.

Suppose you go into a relationship with someone you imagine is always nice but never mean, always kind but never cruel, always positive but never negative, and always giving but never taking. You are most likely to suffer in that relationship as a result of your unrealistic expectations of another human being to be one-sided, which they can’t sustain.

So, I don’t promote the idea of a one-sided life – it may be opium for the masses but it doesn’t actually exist.

What it does do, however, is make money and sell books because many people love the idea of a life of all pleasure and no pain, all upsides and no downsides, and all gain with no pain.

As a result, many people express feelings of depression and suffering when their current reality doesn’t match up to their unrealistic fantasies.

You only have greater certainty when you embrace both sides of life.


When you’re in a balanced relationship and you love your spouse or partner, you're going to have things you like and things you dislike; things you admire and things you despise; things you're attracted to and things you’re repelled from; and things you wish would stay the same and never change, and things you wish would be different.

In other words, you get both sides. In the same way that you have both sides, and the world has both sides.

Being truly authentic, balanced and objective involves embracing both sides, whereas a fantasy involves searching in vain for one side, and suffering each time you find it doesn’t exist.

The greater the fantasies you seek in life, the more nightmarish your life becomes. 


I often say that:

  • Depression is a comparison of your current reality to a fantasy you're addicted to; and
  • Suffering is an addiction to this fantasy life that you're hoping for.

the-balance-of-both-sides

The Balance of Both Sides:

It's been shown biologically that you require both support and challenge to grow.

The entire ecosystem has predators and prey. Your autonomic nervous system has both sides. Your brain has both sides. Your breathing mechanism has both sides. In fact, your entire physiology is set up to master life.

Think of it this way: if you were to access prey without the predator, you'd end up being gluttonous and fat instead of fit. If you were to access predator without prey, you'd be emaciated and starved instead of fit. But put the two together and you are likely to have maximum performance and fitness as a result.

In other words, you need a balance of opposites to operate at your peak and continue to grow.

Suffering is therefore FEEDBACK to let you know you're not living congruently with your highest values or priorities and not realistic, balanced, or objective.

Your identity revolves around your highest value - the thing that's most important to you and where your authentic self is expressed.

If you fill your day with your highest priority actions, wake up your executive function, and start being objective and living by what's truly meaningful to you, you're most likely to embrace both sides of life, become more resilient, and be less likely to experience suffering.

You’ll also tend to realize that:

  • If you get cocky, you’re likely to be humbled and criticized by society to bring you back into equilibrium; and
  • If you get humbled, you’re likely to be lifted up by society to bring you back into equilibrium.

In other words, everything that’s going on in your life: your physiological symptoms, your psychological symptoms, your business responses, your sociological feedback, your family's responses, etc., are all trying to give you feedback to embrace both sides and be your most authentic self.

Your authentic  self includes and emb races both sides.

You’re not a hero or a villain. You’re a combination of the two.

You’re not a saint or a sinner. You’re a combination of the two.

You’re a pair of opposites.

So, if you’re conscious of your upsides and unconscious of your downsides, you’re likely to attract events to humble you.

If you’re conscious of your downsides and unconscious of your upsides, you’re likely to attract supporters to lift you up.

Every event in your life is ultimately feedback trying to get you back to authenticity instead of polarized thinking that everything is good or bad, right or wrong.

Any absolute black and white thinking is likely to make you suffer because you’ll tend to fear the loss of that which you perceive is all positive, and fear the gain of that you perceive is all negative.

The moment you embrace both sides simultaneously and see both sides, you’re most likely to be centered, balanced, objective, neutral and empowered. You will also be least likely to suffer and you’ll be most likely to enter a state of gratitude because you can see a hidden order in the apparent chaos.

Chaos and disorder mean “missing information”.

Order comes from seeing all the information and being MINDFUL instead of MINDLESS.

The source of your suffering is simple: your addiction to fantasies about how life's “supposed” to be.


Anytime you're addicted to one side and the other side smacks you, you are likely to experience distress.

Distress and suffering are there to let you know that you're holding onto an unrealistic expectation and fantasy about how life's supposed to be. As such, suffering is not your enemy. Instead, suffering helps to smash to pieces the fiction that you're running your life by and get you grounded into the reality about how life IS.

The magnificence of the way life IS, is far greater than the fantasies you'll impose on it.


So, suffering is a biological mechanism that you create in your mind when you strive for unrealistic expectations of one-sidedness, or when you expect other people to live in your values, or you to live in theirs.

It is unrealistic to expect other people to live in your values.

You have your unique hierarchy of values, and the people around you have their unique hierarchy of values.

They can only live in accordance with what’s most important to them, what we call their highest values.

If you expect people around you to live in your values, you're likely to end up suffering because that is again a one-sided fantasy.

Or suppose you expect yourself to live in their values, for example, if you’re in a new relationship and are so infatuated that you sacrifice your own values. You are likely to become resentful or experience suffering because that too, is a one-sided fantasy that is impossible to sustain.

Feelings of resentment or suffering are symptoms to help guide you back into an authentic state.

Suffering is therefore not your enemy but your friend – one that guides you back and helps you break the fiction in your life so you can get back to the facts. The objective facts about how life really is and that the truth has two sides.

When you finally grasp that and quit running a story about how you’re the victim of your history, you start to become the master of your destiny. In other words, someone who's prioritized, living by objectives, setting plans, mitigating risks, calming down the impulses and instincts of your animal nature, staying inspired, and ready to do something extraordinary with your life.

You are less likely to suffer if  you have your highest value congruent and realistic expectations. 

The difference between fantasy and an objective is that:

  • A fantasy involves looking for a one-sided world; and
  • An objective involves embracing both sides in the pursuit of something deeply meaningful, the mean.

You are less likely to suffer if you’re grounded in what you're PURSUING and EXPECTING in life.

demartini-method

You have control over your PERCEPTIONS, DECISIONS and ACTIONS in life.

William James said that the greatest discovery of his generation was that human beings can alter their lives by altering their perceptions and attitudes of mind.

You can change your perception of an event and therefore change your attitude, so it is unwise to blame an event and it is wise to stop running a story about how you are at its mercy.

You have the capacity with your mind to transform your perception of that event and turn it into something you perceive as instructive, not obstructive, ON the way, not IN the way.

In other words, your suffering is optional. I teach a process called The Demartini Method in my signature program The Breakthrough Experience that consists of a series of questions that enables you to see both sides of any event you’ve experienced. It gives you the ability to gain governance over your perceptions and thereby bring balance and objectivity back into your awareness.

If you’d love to find out how to use the Demartini Method, then join me at one of The Breakthrough Experience seminars where I introduce you to this incredible transformation process that individuals, coaches, trainers and psychologists are using all over the world today to transform challenge into opportunity and emotion into gratitude.

the-buddha

In Conclusion:

  • The Buddha said, “The desire for that which is unobtainable and the desire to avoid that which is unavoidable is the source of human suffering.”
  • The greater the fantasies you seek in life, the more nightmarish your life becomes.
  • Everything that's going on in your life is trying to get you to be authentic and bring you back into balance.
  • All events have benefits and drawbacks, upsides and downsides. If you take the time to see both sides, then you can neutralize the event and not have it run your life.
  • Suffering is FEEDBACK to let you know you're not living congruently with your highest values or priorities.
  • Suffering is optional. It's up to you. You can choose to keep looking for a one-sided world or you can allow your authentic self to embrace BOTH sides of yourself, of others, and in the world.
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The Source of All Your Suffering

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