People want to suffer.

If we didn’t, we wouldn’t.

I know this sounds like an over-simplification. It is to a point.

But it also isn’t.

It is important to distinguish pain and torment like the pain of malnutrition because of socio-economic forces around us. Torment is like suicide bombings and retribution attacks that maim and murder.

But our ego reactions–that’s where we have choice in any situation.

Most of the time, we choose to suffer.

1. We Want to Suffer Because of Familiarity

If you know you’re going to be punched in the gut at 5 PM PST, then at least you know what is coming.

There’s even a strange pleasure in our familiar hope-despair cycles (the ego is getting what it wants, oops, no it is not. This takes you through a cycle of hope and then despair). We can enjoy self-pity, sadness, indignation/anger, anxiety, and so many other things.

We can enjoy the drama of the swinging of the pendulum of emotions. Some people like the excitement.

We enjoy all of them because they are familiar. (BTW, never under-estimate our ability to resist new forms of love and joy.)

2. We Want to Suffer Because of the Fear of the Unknown

This is the other side of the first one. We really don’t trust our ability to change. We assume that in changing, we will be worse off than we started.

We even get scared of new things that are good simply because they are unknown. Sometimes we use terms like bizarre, strange, and awkward instead of unknown, but they mean the same thing.

We don’t know what this is.

So we back away from the doorway of the unknown and stay in our familiar suffering.

3. We Want to Suffer Because of Pride

It is extraordinary to me how massive people’s prides can be. They would rather fall on the sword over and over again than to admit just how wrong they are about something. They’d rather cling to their suffering and justify it and blame the external world than to accept that they are the sole source of their suffering.

Underneath pride, there tend to be a whole lot of fear, and sometimes, there’s a whole lot of shame. But pride is a big gatekeeper that we must be willing to pass through.

Many people aren’t, and so they choose suffering over confronting pride.

Worse Here Than Over There

When things are truly bad enough where you are, you may finally risk change. You may decide that you can confront your suffering. But you’ll have to make this choice multiple times. Each time you do, the easier it becomes to go through the transition of letting go of a piece of your suffering. Each time you see that your predictions about how horrible everything would be are wrong. This emboldens you.

But that’s not where most people are.

Most people are at the doorway, and they don’t trust it.

So they choose to keep suffering than to open the door and find a way out of it.


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

Write A Comment