When my wife of 14 years decided to divorce me, I found myself in an extreme amount of emotional pain. Obviously, this was to be expected. But what was tricky about the experience is that on a certain level I got a sense of pleasure from it as well. It seems twisted, but I enjoyed the idea that my wife had hurt me, that it was her fault, and that I was the innocent victim in this situation.
Amazingly, my ego was able to turn around an incredibly painful situation and actually derive pleasure from it. And while it is easy for those around us to notice when we have fallen into the “playing the victim” game, it certainly isn’t obvious to the those of us who are doing it. We may be “willfully” ignorant of our addiction to suffering, but it is definitely an ignorance nonetheless.
In general, I don’t think there is a enough recognition of the fact that suffering is an addiction, and additionally a very common one. As with other addictions, the addict will refuse to recognize the addiction until the pain simply becomes unbearable. In the meantime, anything done to try to convince a person of his addiction rarely if ever seems to work.
12 Steps to Recovering from the Addiction to Suffering
Recently, I drafted a list of 12 steps that could be used as a guide for overcoming one’s addiction to suffering. These steps are listed below.
Note: I have never attended a 12-step program, and am only vaguely familiar with the actual 12 steps themselves. The steps below are not intended to be an analogy of the original 12 steps. Instead, I came up with 12 steps simply to emphasize that suffering is also an addiction, and that recovery from this addiction is a difficult and methodical process.
Admit that there is a problem. Consciously realize that you are in pain, and that it is negatively affecting your life
Consciously decide that you want to find an end to this pain, and that you will do what it takes to get yourself out of the pain.
Realize and accept that you alone are the cause of your pain. Not your parents, not your life situation: you. Throw out all beliefs of “if only things were this way, I wouldn’t be suffering.” You must willingly accept that the situation does not cause your suffering: you cause your suffering.
Accept that you will not be able to find your way out of this suffering on your own. Your suffering is an addiction, which must be fully acknowledge. Because it is an addiction you must understand that you will need help.
Surrender to a higher power. Admit that you do not have the power to beat this addiction alone, and ask for Divine help in seeing your through the process.
Seek the help of professionals and/or support groups. Professionals have the necessary training and experience necessary to guide people through the process of ending their addictions.
Identify the negative belief systems that are causing your suffering. This can be done by noticing the repeating patterns in (a) your negative life experiences, (b) your thoughts, (c) your daydreams and fantasies and (d) your dreams.
Closely examine the recurring negative patterns until you recognize the pleasure that you are achieving from the negative experiences and fantasies. For example, the negative belief that “I’m bad” is a self-victimizing image that is pleasurable for the ego. To successfully “complete” this step, it is necessary to actually feel the pleasure that is derived from the negative patterns and thoughts.
Make the conscious decision to release the pleasure you would derive from negative beliefs in exchange for the pleasure (without suffering) that will be produced from positive beliefs.
Reprogram your negative beliefs. For every negative belief that you find within yourself, exchange it for a positive belief. For more information on reprogramming negative beliefs, please see: Removing Negative Beliefs.
Continue to examine your life for negative patterns. Become aware of thoughts and fantasizes as they occur (or as soon as possible after they occur as possible). For each incident, reaffirm a commitment to release the pleasure associated with these negative thoughts.
Make a sincere effort to cultivate joy, bliss, love, and harmony in your life. This can be done via spiritual practices such making it a habit to be grateful for the things in your life, repeating positive affirmations, making an effort to perform actions based on love, etc.