The Three Directions of Suffering

As we progress in our spiritual growth, we begin to see there are three distinct ways of dealing with any emotional upheaval. Such upheavals can be due to a specific traumatic and confronting event, or can be just waves of emotions that sweep us occasionally for no apparent reason and seem to want to stick around.


In the beginning we may automatically ask the question ‘why’ : why is this happening, why do I feel like this? It’s important to remember that our minds are incredibly agile, but very literal – it answers the question we pose. So if we ask a ‘why’ question the mind will run wild bringing us many many MANY reasons as to why. Sometimes this can be helpful, like when we are trying to solve a mechanical or work issue. But when trying to sort out our emotional state, it is woefully inadequate and more often than not spirals us in a downwards direction.

We may be tempted to run for help – anything that divines the ‘why’, our star charts, past lives, astronomy, psychics etc. Of course all this has its time and place, and can help enormously in the moment to help us understand what is going on, but rarely – in my experience – does it help in the long term conquering of our suffering.


Here we ‘take control’ of our emotional life and shift it from negative to positive. We realize we are in control of our emotions, and that they do not define us. Here the main question is ‘how’: how do I change this into something positive, how do I feel good again? Again the mind comes to our aid and can be extremely effective with its ability to mold and move our thinking into a more positive mindset. Our emotions follow our thinking, so as the mind succeeds in manipulating thought, so our emotions follow – we feel better!

To move emotions upwards we need to master thought, so techniques like Law of Attraction, and hypnotherapy are helpful. Body and thought are linked, so yoga and exercise – anything to do with body wellness and bodywork has a positive impact on our thinking and our emotional state. Again, all good and well in its own time and place.

But the same problem persists, we are always on guard for those pesky negative emotions, and they do not go away, we just get better at morphing them.


‘Through’ is the family crest motto of my Scottish ancestors, I remember thinking it was the dumbest motto when I was young, but now I see the infinite wisdom in it. Emotions come and go, up and down, but what remains? If something comes and goes, it clearly isn’t ‘you’, its just something that happens to you – I feel good, I feel bad, I feel scared, rage, happy, jealous, ecstatic, blissful. Every hour, minute, second it is changing. It is exhausting to have to be so vigilant, to believe we are meant to only feel ‘good’ emotions, and to try so desperately to manipulate the ‘bad’ ones out of existence…have you noticed how that just doesn’t work? No matter how good we get at feeling good, and manipulating the bad, we still get the bad sneaking up on us!

‘Through’ simply means acceptance: to feel the emotion, to watch the thought, and then let it go (and be ok if it stays around). Simply watching our emotions, and how damn uncomfortable we are with the negative ones, will be enlightenment itself. Our preference for positive emotions, and our disgust at negative emotions is quite interesting to watch, and accept that too. Life – ALL life – moves towards the positive and away from the negative – it is how we biologically survive on this planet. Our human experience is dualistic, it’s not all one and none of the other. Emotions always are. Trying to make one se