Firstly- I take suffering to be all types of experiences that have emotional and/or physical pain. Suffering may vary in intensity but when it comes down to it the concept is the same: whatever interferes with inner peace.
I like philosophy (as much as you can like existential crises anyway), so based on my research and books I’ve read on the subject, suffering is inherent to the human condition. You probably know this already, but because I’m from the West this was a big realization for me.
So, what causes suffering?
The ego. Not ego as in self-esteem, but ego as in the disruptive thoughts that muddle reality. We are not our thoughts; we are their observer. This means that the ego is a created identity separate from ourselves. Who is the actual self is something we figure out, I believe, separating reality from what isn’t.
Impermanence is not the cause of the ultimate suffering. Unease at the face of change is caused because we believe that we will achieve happiness from what is permanent, like a steady job or relationship or whatever.
My history professor once said “Evil is the form of human stupidity”, which I think is totally accurate.
Should we resist suffering?
In my blog I hope it’s worth it, I talked about how suffering shapes us with experience. So suffering helps us, in some way.
I’m not saying abuse, poverty, and the like are excusable and in any way comparable with milder suffering; I’m saying that sufferings caused by/as a reaction of our ego are what shape and define us, and ultimately what brings us closer to our ideal selves if we are willing to face the truth.
What can we do to minimize suffering?
My theory is that we can make the ego less relevant in our lives by just recognizing it is there, which I personally do by meditating and breath work. Focus on being the observer of your thoughts. Observe them without reacting.
I’m essentially suggesting you start being aware.
There is no easy way out. We can’t fix suffering, much less avoid it, unless we truly face it and accept our sufferings for what they are. Sometimes we think that if we can be prettier, smarter, wealthier, more powerful, etc, things would be different. But it is important to remember that our circumstances do not define you; what you do about/nonetheless them does.
This is something that you can only do for yourself; I’ve tried to wake people up by force and it just ends up hurting them and our relationship more than waking them up. I’ve learned that some people will probably not wake up in a whole lifetime, because you can’t control them. And that’s okay.
The book that has most helped me with starting my spiritual journey is The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, and some tiktokers that really bring me peace are @leoleafs and @eternalheartflow.