Key Drivers of Pain and Suffering

November 7, 2016
The three drivers of pain and suffering: existential fear, obligations of love, ambitions of pride.

At the surface level, there are three main types of drivers of pain and suffering: suffering existential fear, suffering obligations of love and suffering ambitions of pride. These are powerful forces that underlie harmful expression of our human needs. If expressed negatively, these needs generate pain and suffering for the person.

Suffering existential fear is a strong generator of pain and suffering. The basic need for survival and security is strong that people will do anything to survive. When we experience scarcity and limitation that will threaten our survival and security, we feel fear, pain and suffering. Due to human greed, several people distort human systems to accumulate wealth, creating exploitation, injustice and poverty for the rest. The scarcity mindset of many people sustains this environment, which creates the reality of poverty for them. The poverty and scarcity mindset of people remains the main driver of existential fear.

Suffering obligations of love creates pain and suffering when people strive to do anything to belong to a group. It is a natural instinct of a human to belong to a social group. To sustain its belonging to the group, a person needs to adhere to its rules, customs and culture. Failure to adhere will lead to exclusion which can make it difficult for a person to live and survive. Thus, a person will do anything to conform even it is not giving him joy but pain instead.

Suffering ambitions of pride creates pain and suffering when people strive to do anything to achieve the expectations of others or to wield power over others to control and make them conform to his will. Many people try to conform to the expectations of others so they will feel valued, worthy and appreciated. In some cases, they try to control people and make them conform to his will as an expression of his power and worth. In both cases, pride and ambition drive the person, which can create pain and suffering for him.

At the deeper structure, pain and suffering is driven by fear, greed and ignorance. Fear is a main motivation that drives many people into action. When they fear their survival, security, belonging and face are threatened, they react to defend themselves and survive. In most cases, their reaction is not appropriate which create pain and suffering.

For some people, greed is a major motivator. Greed impels people to do anything to accumulate wealth, things or experiences. However, they will never be satisfied by what they have accumulated. They will always suffer pain because they will always think that they still need more to be satisfied. However, we need to understand that greed is a flip side of fear. There is always a fear toward something that underlies greed. Because of the fear of scarcity, of not having enough, the person strives to possess more.

Fear and greed are basically emotional drivers. Underlying both is ignorance. Because of incorrect beliefs, perspectives and paradigms, they fail to see reality accurately. Thus, because they do not understand reality, they are driven by erroneous fear and greed that moves them to do unhealthy and unskillful actions. These wrong choices and actions create pain. If they achieve enlightenment and fully understand reality, then their choices and actions will be aligned to the Divine Purpose, which will generate joy and happiness instead.

About the author