A Major Cause of Emotional Suffering By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

Is it possible that there is one major cause of emotional pain and suffering?

Yes! The major cause of suffering is UNKINDNESS – to yourself and to others.

Let’s take a look at why unkindness causes most of the pain in the world.

When you are unkind to yourself though your thoughts, such as judging yourself by telling yourself you are not good enough, how do you feel? Anxious, fearful, hurt, angry? Your unkind self-judgments are causing your suffering.

When you are unkind to yourself through your self-abandoning actions, such as eating badly, not exercising, or ignoring your own feelings and choosing addictions, how do you feel? In the long run you may end up feeling physically ill, scared, alone and so on. Your self-abandoning lack of self-kindness is causing your suffering.

When you are unkind to others through your words or deeds, how do you end up feeling? Angry, lonely, empty, alone? Your unloving actions are causing your suffering.

Suffering is the result of unkindness to ourselves and to others. Would we have wars, famine, crime, homelessness or abuse if we were focused on kindness to ourselves and to others?

Suffering Is Caused By The Wounded Self

The suffering in the world is caused by our wounded selves. The wounded self is never focused on true kindness. Even if we seem to be focused on kindness to others, when we are unkind to ourselves we end up suffering. The wounded self is focused on control, and may even use kindness toward others as a form of control, but control is not kind and will eventually lead to suffering.

This can never change on the level of the wounded self. We cannot move to kindness unless that is our intent, and the intent of the wounded self is always to control ourselves and others. The wounded self believes that controlling brings safety. It is devoted to controlling since it came into being when we were young to try to make us feel safe. The wounded self does not understand that its current efforts to make us feel safe cause our suffering.

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Consciously Shifting Your Intent Can Heal Your Suffering

It is only when our intent shifts from control to learning about what is most kind to ourselves and others that true change can occur. When you choose to focus on the question, “What is most kind to me in this moment?” and then follow through with the kind thought or action – toward yourself and others – you will be on the path of ending your suffering. As long as your major focus is unconsciously on the questions, “How can I have control over feeling safe and loved? How can I have control over not being rejected and hurt? How can I have control over not being controlled?” you will be perpetuating your suffering.

Kindness is always a CONSCIOUS choice. When you don’t consciously choose your intent – your focus in the moment – then you may unconsciously be focused on control.

Practicing Inner Work Healing Process Can End Your Suffering

This is what practicing Inner Work is all about. It is about choosing to be conscious of your suffering so that you can consciously choose to take responsibility for it by consciously choosing the intent to learn about how your wounded self is causing your suffering. It is about consciously choosing to open to your guidance about what is most kind to yourself in any given moment regarding your thoughts and actions toward yourself and others. It is about consciously choosing to put kindness into action through your thoughts and actions.

If you choose to practice Step One of Inner Work – practicing mindfulness of your inner experience, of your feelings, your emotions, your suffering, and consciously choosing to take 100% responsibility for your feelings – then you can consciously choose the other steps of Inner Work Healing Process. Practicing Step One is the first step toward ending your suffering.

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