Why We Suffer: An Example from My Own Life


Anytime we experience psychological suffering in our lives, we are also experiencing a direct invitation for self-understanding. This is why grief, disappoint, frustration, and even hopelessness can be seen as gifts possessing great value for us.
I would like to present an example taken from my own life. After all, it is the life I know best.
My wife asked me why I become so upset and even militant when people disagree with me at social networking sites, such as Facebook. Often when someone posts, what seems to me to be a spiritual quip that is naive or doctrinaire, I become quite annoyed and without much delay, post a strongly worded rejoinder. She asked me, why do I seem to care so much what anyone says?
Why do I care what someone else thinks?
This was an invitation for exploration into a very real and immediate source of suffering.
Here is how it played using the Theory of Invalidation as it is proposed in Liberation from the Lie.
First we need to know that when we are experiencing suffering of this type, we need to know that this is psychological suffering. This means that the suffering is a direct reflection of who we believe we are, which is in conflict with how the world is presenting itself to this psychological being (me). We also need to know that this psychological suffering is an echo of a much older and self-sustaining pattern.
All psychological suffering is a consequence of invalidation. The expression of anger, frustration, depression – each is an expression of the invalidated self. So what is happening in this example?
I could see that this need to reply, this intensity, was really a need to be heard. I was the youngest of two brothers. In my family of origin, I was thought of as the lesser person. My voice was more one of annoyance than of integrity. Although well intended, my parents tended to ignore who I was and often made light of what I had to say. The attention that I needed (as well as the love) was roundly ignored and I was placated by occasional gifts.
In this way, among others, I was invalidated. What resulted was a psychological profile that I call the Fear-Based Expert. Because I needed to be heard, I needed to have the authority that lots of information would provide me. The Expert profile is one that believes it knows a lot and generally feels some superiority over those that are seen to know less.
In my own case, this Expert Profile is tempered by lots of compassion and love that I have for most people. If I weren’t expressing these ideas in this blog, few would guess that this is true for me. But it is.
This pattern of militant, strongly worded replies on Facebook reflected a deeper expression for a need to be heard, respected, admired, and even loved. It was a plea for serious attention, the one thing I lacked as a child.
But there is a lot more to this realization.
Frankly, my life has been fraught with failure in just those areas where I focused my expertise. I failed to complete two Ph.Ds on account of my controversial topics and occasionally anti-authoritarian attitude I had against well established academic protocols. My statistical work with various foundations ended because of their tendency not to be politically correct, and even the book I wrote about this process had received relatively little attention at amazon.com.
Thus, not only was I struggling for attention in much of my adult life, but I was continuing to fail in the very endeavor that has been most important to me.
It is for this reason, that I would sink into despair over a world that just didn’t appreciate me or what I had to say, no matter how diligent I was about the quality of the ideas and their contextualization with human experience as well as their academic rigor. I continue to fail and thus my tendency to melancholy and sadness are sustained. The child that needed attention was still alive and well in the 57 year old version of me.
Now part two – I also could see that people whose views I consider naive and, frankly, unoriginal received much more public accolade than my own. I resented these people and wanted to “set them straight” by showing them how uninformed they are. When we are invalidated and living through our Fear-Based selves (like 99.9% of the human population), we will also replicate, ironically, our primal invalidators, just when we are feeling the pain of our own invalidation. So, when I am resenting the admirers of people I generally don’t respect, I am replicating the behavior of my parents who invalidated me. I become the invalidator and the people I invalidate reflect my invalidated self! In this way, the whole invalidation process is repeatedly recreated. I am both victim and perpetrator!
We can also see how this process further informs my life. My quest for knowledge and understanding was made possible through this invalidation. It, literally, made me to be the person I am. When we see the manifestation of invalidation in our lives, it is clearly NOT a black and white situation. It is, nearly always, gray. If we look deeply enough, we will see that nearly every psychological element of our personality is explained by our core invalidation experience. The psychological self is the invalidated self.
The moment I can see the whole trajectory of the invalidation shadow in my life, I become one step removed from it. I am not, necessarily, healed from its effect, but I am, to some extent, liberated from its hidden effects.
The question becomes, “who am I without this invalidation behaviors?” This is the key question we need to ask ourselves as we explore the effect of invalidation in our lives. Only we can answer this question.
There is great poignancy to this exploration. When we feel our own sadness, we know what everyone else is going through. The investigation of invalidation becomes authentic compassion, not only for ourselves, but for all people. We see how fear-based psychological strategies, of which conventional nonduality is one, become our essential psychological self. They are all attempts to adapt the pain of invalidation.


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