Love your own misery?

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  • CinnamonGal
    Member
    • Apr 2008
    • 195

    Love your own misery?

    Dear TreeLEafers!

    I realised recently as I was watching my mind getting stuck in the stories it was constructing and the pain it caused that there was a side to me that sort of enjoyed this wallowing in its own misery, this suffering. This struck me as a rather unhealthy choice and choice it was: when I caught myself at being dragged by the thoughts that would then make me feel a certain way I knew all I needed to do was to let go of those thoughts but sometimes (not always) I'd have this but-I-rather-like-this-misery attitude, very subtle and almost impossible to spot but it was there!!! :shock: :roll:

    I am now trying to figure out where it comes from, this self-distructive behaviour. Maybe sometimes these thoughts give an excuse for feeling down and sort of let out the emotional load one carries?

    I also find "misery" being very helpful in waking up my creative side when I would feel like taking up a brush. Am I fuelling my own misery as a way to get inspired??? :evil:

    Anyone has similar symptoms? :wink:

    Gassho,

    Irina
    http://appropriteresponse.wordpress.com
  • chessie
    Member
    • Jun 2008
    • 266

    #2
    Re: Love your own misery?

    Yesterday I had a related 'light-bulb' moment. I had planned to do the Treeleaf full day recorded retreat (and, got through part of it, but that's another story). Now, being new, I'm still struggling with doing a daily sit for 30 minutes. As *soon* as I sat down to start the retreat, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that 'I can't DO this!'--kind of a panic, fear, frustration, some type of intense feeling that made me want to just get up and throw the pillow away and go clean the kitchen! So, I sat. By the end of the first session I felt calmer. By the end of the 2nd sitting, I was actually feeling good, and wasn't ready for it to end. Then, suddenly, I realized that my whole life I have constructed this self-image in my mind that I can't do this or that, even after I have proven I could. I realized that I've created in my mind a limited self, and cling to that in any way and at any time possible. So, if mind created, then mind can uncreate, and maybe I can do what I need to do, in the moment, without the attendant fear or apprehension or chastisement that accompanies the task.

    I think, for me, it's a way to avoid. The task, myself, I don't know exactly what.

    I wonder, if you tried to purposefully take up the brush in a moment of glee, just to see what happened, as an experiment, what kind of result you would create at that time? Maybe it just seems easier to focus in misery than in joy, since joy is open and we can go in all directions at once, it seems--misery is grounding, and keeps our feet solidly stuck in mud, thus forcing us to just do whatever we have to at that time and place.

    I usually wait until the fear is overwhelming, before I'm forced to do that thing that I think I *can't do*, and just start it as a way to try to get it over with. By the middle of the task, I'm into the task and relaxed usually, but starting is nigh on impossible. With the sitting, I think I can let go, or start to let go of the fictional 'me' since the sitting starts to break down those boundaries.

    Gassho, Ann

    Comment

    • CinnamonGal
      Member
      • Apr 2008
      • 195

      #3
      Re: Love your own misery?

      Thanks for the input, zoukithustra!

      So I would ask the question, if you are holding on to/wallowing in suffering, could it be because you are holding on to hope/happiness, as well?
      Never thought of it this way but this can be it: letting go of the suffering means I would have to accept the past without wishing to change it, give up any hope that things could have been different. Often I prefer to suffer rather than let go of that hope, at least for a while.

      Thanks for this and it does help! :lol: I will pay attention to it now. Probably painting is the way I have learnt to deal with it, sort of letting go of hopes about the past (how starnge it sounds!) by painting myself out of it. :lol:

      Gassho,

      Irina
      http://appropriteresponse.wordpress.com

      Comment

      • CinnamonGal
        Member
        • Apr 2008
        • 195

        #4
        Re: Love your own misery?

        Ann,

        Thanks for sharing about your sitting experience.

        Your words really rang the bell:
        I've created in my mind a limited self
        .

        So true! And I do it singlehandidly, don't need no help from any other helpful creature :twisted: .

        Ann, you really touched upon a sensitive subject here: what happens if one starts painting feeling good? :roll:
        I have been suspecting that I am afraid of doing exactly that and self-inject myself with a dosage of misery - nothing lethal, just so it works - so I can follow the old path. Sort of like a junky ops: Re-create the limited self.

        I have the same strategy of dealing with fears. I also find them very helpful as they help me see what I think is important for me and try to pay attention to it without letting it prevent me from doing the whole thing.

        I will follow your advice and see what happens when I just pick up the brush in the moment of glee :wink:

        Thanks and good luck with sitting!

        Gassho,

        Irina
        http://appropriteresponse.wordpress.com

        Comment

        • AlanLa
          Member
          • Mar 2008
          • 1405

          #5
          Re: Love your own misery?

          Great post and question. A few thoughts jumping enthusiastically in my head.

          Over my few years of practice I have noticed that I cycle through good feelings to not so good feelings, each arises and fades, each slowly and repetitively replaces the other, not always predictably so (keeping a daily journal really helped me see the pattern, the forest from the trees). Noticing these feelings and this process of change doesn't make anything go away, but slowly, very slowly, I am beginning to see equanimity develop. The highs and lows are no longer as high or low. Which brings me to my next thought, that highs need lows, and lows need highs, because the one defines the other. It's that old duality thinking that gets me into trouble, and maybe you also. Somewhere in here also is that old zenny of when happy be happy and when miserable be miserable. But at the same time I try to be mindful that neither are going to last. It's like my favorite George Harrison song, "All Things Must Pass."

          Also, we LIKE to suffer, because it is a strong feeling; it goes deep inside us, and we crave that depth in some ways. Here is an odd example. I used to work with kids that were severely mentally retarded. One of the residents, John Doe, would often bang his head against a wall, HARD. Naturally, us smart people said this was stupid and he should stop, which is true. But then one day a wise (different from smart, but she was that, too) coworker went up and started banging her head against the wall just as John Doe was doing. He quickly stopped banging his head and started laughing at her. She turned to me and said, "Hey, I get it! This actually feels pretty good. Come try it." So there the two of us were banging our heads against the wall as this "retarded" person watched us and laughed. And, to my surprise, it did feel good in a way, especially when you stop . It doesn't hurt as much as you might think, and it is a deep, powerful, stimulating sensation. And here is the real interesting part: this feeling was under our control. We had a new respect for head-banging, but just because we understood why John Doe did it didn't mean he should keep doing it. There are better and more constructive means of deep, powerful, stimulating sensations (like perhaps zazen). Anyway, even though this is a true story, it is also allegorical in how we "bang our heads" a lot in life. I want to say more about this, but nothing seems quite right, so I think it's better that you each relate to it in your own way.

          A word of caution: please do NOT try this head banging at at home. We were trained professionals under expert supervision. You might say John Doe was our head banging sensei :wink:

          As for the painting, I can sort of relate to this also. I used to write a lot of (unpublished) fiction, and I thought I wrote my best stuff when I was feeling bad or depressed. This was because I felt it came from more deep and powerful place in myself (see above paragraph). Maybe this is why so many great artists tend to be self-destructive, maybe not. Anyway, one day for some odd reason I wrote when feeling good and was surprised to find that it was just as good, if not better, than my writing when feeling bad. I ended up giving up my writing ambitions, but for a while there writing was just writing, with no emotional prerequisites. Sorry for the repetitive zenny here, but maybe when painting you should just paint. I don't know, that is up to you to figure out, but this is the kind of stuff that is working for me.

          I paint these days just as a means of expressing creativity, no quality judgments (because then I would realize I am no good and would stop, just like I did with writing), and I really enjoy it. A great book got me started: Life, Paint and Passion, by Cassou and Cubley.
          AL (Jigen) in:
          Faith/Trust
          Courage/Love
          Awareness/Action!

          I sat today

          Comment

          • KellyRok
            Member
            • Jul 2008
            • 1374

            #6
            Re: Love your own misery?

            Hello Irina and all,

            I too can relate to the wallowing in misery. I've done this many times in my life...I've suffered from bouts of anxiety and depression, but they always seem to cycle through and back to higher, lighter points in my life. Just like Alan mentioned, I see nothing wrong with wallowing in misery at least for a little while; accept it, embrace it - allowing the creative energy it provides to flow through you, then let it pass.

            I've used it to my advantage as well...allowing it to consume me so that I may purge it through writing poetry. Some of my best poems (at least in my humble opinion ) were written out of fear, sadness and despair! But I have learned that I can write just as well with "happy" energy once I embrace those feelings and ride them out. Like Alan also mentioned, I too try to realize that these feelings don't last and I try to let them come and go as they please. This is what mainly pulled me to Zen Buddhism - getting help with the letting go part.

            I also agree with Ann, I'm a big self-defeater. I think I can't do things, so I don't even try. That's starting to change with sitting zazen. I'm learning it's okay to not be good at something...the trying is what is important.

            Alan, thank you for sharing your story with us here. You brought up some really good points about having these intense strong feelings and how we want to hold on to them - they truly are those that let us know we are "alive." That's how I feel, I just could never quite put it into words. You've stated it beautifully!

            Keep up with the painting Irina and Alan...it is a great outlet. I might start drawing again - yikes, maybe I should just stick with my poetry. There I go again - the self-defeater. I think I'm going to go sit with that and be quiet.

            Gassho,
            Kelly Rok

            Comment

            • Skye
              Member
              • Feb 2008
              • 234

              #7
              Re: Love your own misery?

              Originally posted by CinnamonGal
              I will follow your advice and see what happens when I just pick up the brush in the moment of glee :wink:
              Let us know how it goes! I'm also working through the relationship of misery and creativity :mrgreen:

              I find any notion of happiness or misery pretty much disappears while I'm "in the moment" of creating. I'm pretty miserable dragging myself to the point of doing it, then in the moment creating, and then usually pretty chuffed with the result :roll: haha

              Skye
              Even on one blade of grass / the cool breeze / lingers - Issa

              Comment

              • John
                Member
                • Sep 2007
                • 272

                #8
                Re: Love your own misery?

                Originally posted by CinnamonGal
                I realised recently as I was watching my mind getting stuck in the stories it was constructing and the pain it caused that there was a side to me that sort of enjoyed this wallowing in its own misery, this suffering. This struck me as a rather unhealthy choice and choice it was: when I caught myself at being dragged by the thoughts that would then make me feel a certain way I knew all I needed to do was to let go of those thoughts but sometimes (not always) I'd have this but-I-rather-like-this-misery attitude, very subtle and almost impossible to spot but it was there!!! :shock: :roll:
                Hi Irina,
                This is my experience too. I don't have many bad moods now, or at least they don't last as long, because I realise they are caused by allowing myself to dwell in negative thoughts, and I see the thoughts starting to develop quicker than I used to. Our zazen practice helps us to become more aware of these types of thoughts, doesn't it? I think we enjoy wallowing in dark thoughts in a sadistic kind of way because it strengthens our ego by making us feel important - 'nobody suffers/has suffered/will suffer the way I do, because of .......' - fill in your own content.

                I do a lot of painting too, but I tend to see it as a kind of samu, work practice, something to do. I think what Alan said is right, it's best to just paint and see what happens without worrying too much about results. You can't control it anyway. Picasso once said "Painting is stronger than me, it makes me do its bidding"

                Gassho,
                John

                Comment

                • Dojin
                  Member
                  • May 2008
                  • 562

                  #9
                  Re: Love your own misery?

                  only happy when it rains... by garbage

                  i see many times how people are so used to feeling sad and miserable that they are afraid of changing, they dont know anything but suffering.

                  i sometimes like the melancholy feeling myself... it is not even such a bad feeling as much as a butter sweet sensation.
                  like being happy with everything and shading a tear in awe of its beautiful complex simplicity.
                  I gained nothing at all from supreme enlightenment, and for that very reason it is called supreme enlightenment
                  - the Buddha

                  Comment

                  • Dosho
                    Member
                    • Jun 2008
                    • 5784

                    #10
                    Re: Love your own misery?

                    Hi Irina,

                    I was definitely in love with my own misery at various times in my life and am fortunate that now is not one of them. However, I am well aware that I could fall back into that pattern very easily given the proper conditions, so I would never say I "got over" that feeling.

                    There's always been a notion out there that pain, suffering, depression make "better" art and while I would never subscribe to that or any absolute I do think there is some truth there. My favorite singer growing up produced albums with intense amounts of pain described, but in later years since she got married and says her life is happier her art is clearly not what it once was. Notice I didn't say worse...it's just different.

                    For me, I don't think I could have begun the practice I have while I was in those moments, but I was rather young during the majority of them and that's a whole other avenue. But I was never fully aware of the cocoon I had enveloped myself in and I was afraid to let go of what had sustained me for so long. It kept me from going into very bad places in my mind, but after awhile I realized I didn't need it anymore and was just clinging to the staus quo.

                    If any of that made sense, I'd say it's a miracle. I did appreciate your post though and thought I'd add my $0.02.

                    Gassho,
                    Scott

                    Comment

                    • disastermouse

                      #11
                      Re: Love your own misery?

                      I've had this experience too. I had identified with the suffering.

                      I remember that there was a unique feeling that went up my spine when it was really intense. Even when I think of it now, a part of me is drawn to it.

                      Comment

                      • Jundo
                        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                        • Apr 2006
                        • 39459

                        #12
                        Re: Love your own misery?

                        Hi,

                        Just a good time for me to remind folks that there is a difference between "sadness" and "suffering". The Buddha did not say that "old age, sickness and death" are the reason that "life is suffering". Those things will always be around, and even the Buddha eventually got old, sick and kicked the bucket. No, he meant that our resistance to what "is", our resistance to "old age, sickness and death" is Dukkha, meaning "suffering", but also often translated as "friction" or "resistance" to what is. Be "at one" with and embracing of life ... even "old age, sickness and death" as they arise ... then, if you don't see events as a "problem", where's the problem! :wink:

                        In my view, same for our acceptance of our human emotions.[*]

                        So, even "being sad" (maybe even "being depressed") is not "suffering". Instead, "suffering" is the added bits of tension and struggle, self-flagelation, that come when we are not only "sad" or "depressed", but resist that fact and wish life were some other way.

                        Time for me to drop in my favorite story about my first teacher (I probably retell it once a month) ...

                        My first teacher, Ikuo Azuma Roshi of Sojiji, lost his wife after I had known him a few years. For many weeks, he was not himself and was easily a bit teary eyed. I was SHOCKED because, of course, Zen Masters are supposed to have surpassed life and death and all such petty human emotions. So, as I had known him so long and we talked about anything and everything, I asked him about this, "If life and death are states of mind, why are you upset?" He said to me, "Life and Death are nothing; I am sad because wife die."

                        That shut me up. He looked at me like it was the most obvious thing!
                        Now, our Buddhist Practice also allows us to see all these emotions as something of a dream, a mental created fiction we impose on the world. When the mind feels and thinks "miserable thoughts", it tastes the world as "miserable". And when the mind feels and thinks "happy thoughts", we taste and experience the world that way. So, it is important to always know that our mind is "creating" the flavor of the world in this way. This is important. During the many years I suffered from depression as a young man, I thought my depressed thoughts were "the only way to experience the world, the world really stinks!" Later, I got a handle on the fact that my thoughts were just mind created scenery, and that the thoughts and emotions were not fixed ... they can change like the weather. On sunny days, the world no long stinks! As Alan said with his little Zenny, "when happy be happy and when miserable be miserable. But at the same time I try to be mindful that neither are going to last." To be that way is very different from thinking that they will always last.

                        Do not be attached or cling to one's sadness and depression, neither be attached to or overly "crave" happiness. Also, our Buddhist practice counsels us not to go to EXTREMES in our emotions. Ours in the way of moderation in all things. So, there is a difference between being sad, or even a little depressed, and being trapped by those thoughts, basking in them and being chained by them. When I was depressed, it often felt like going into a deep, dark black place from which it feels that there is no escape. No, that is an extreme and being trapped by our mind.

                        I am not sure of "wallowing" (Irina's word) in misery in order to be creative. If one can just "be one" with the wallowing, not take it too seriously or as more than a passing phase ... then maybe it is fine. If one really gets sucked in, then maybe not. I still am an "everything in moderation, even "moderation" Buddhist", so I believe it even good and important to fall off the edge now and then ... it gives perspective and is all too human.

                        By the way, ours is a way of moderation and balance in all things, but that does not mean that one is doing Buddhism "wrong" if one loses one's balance once in awhile (Just watch the best gymnasts in the Olympics today ... even the best lose their balance quite often). I still have days in which I get up on the wrong side of the bed, even feel a little depressed. That does not mean that I am a Zen "failure" so long as I see it just like the weather ... let cloudy days be cloudy, tomorrow the sun will shine again! ....

                        Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
                        and I say it's all right
                        It's all right


                        Anyway, why not learn to create balanced, peaceful, Wise & Compassionate Buddhist art? George Harrison did! (Okay, he was a Hindu ... but same difference)

                        Gassho, Jundo (Today, partly cloudy)
                        [*]By the way, some schools of Buddhism took the Buddha's message as being that we should lose and "extinguish" all our human emotions. Others do not, and see it more as a matter of living "at home in our shoes" as a truly "human" human being, with balance and good perspective on our emotions ... perhaps even some control over them.
                        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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                        • CinnamonGal
                          Member
                          • Apr 2008
                          • 195

                          #13
                          Re: Love your own misery?

                          Thanks for the insights, TreeLeafers!

                          AlanLa: I can relate to what you wrote:
                          Also, we LIKE to suffer, because it is a strong feeling; it goes deep inside us, and we crave that depth in some ways.
                          When I do "suffer" I don't go as far as depression and have a pretty good control over the situation, kind of allowing myself to stay in it as long as I get "something out of it". At the very first signs of the situation getting too far I do what I know helps me: drag myself to the gym for a sweaty workout, put on the favourate tune or watch "Me and You and Everyone We know" by and with Miranda July.

                          But I LOVE this sensation of a strong feeling, down to your very guts (I guess this is somehow akin to head-banging but on the emotional level) and somehow find a correlation between it and making art.

                          Alan, I have been reading Peter London's "No more secondhand art: Awakening the artist within" that rocked my world and how I perceive art and making art. London sees art as a tool of personal transformation and discovery. Great book!
                          Yet I still have this idea lurking in the back of my head that I can only paint when I feel very deep which is when I "suffer".

                          Everyone,


                          Thanks for your inputs!
                          Let us keep up writing, painting, making music, feeling...!

                          I have yet Jundo's post to read through.

                          Gassho,

                          Irina
                          http://appropriteresponse.wordpress.com

                          Comment

                          • CinnamonGal
                            Member
                            • Apr 2008
                            • 195

                            #14
                            Re: Love your own misery?

                            Jundo,

                            Thanks for your post! I can relate to "suffering" not being the same as "sadness". When I cry I cannot say I am unhappy or suffer but I would say I do suffer when things don't go the way I'd want them to or when I cannot get what I want.

                            Distinguishing between thoughts, emotions and feelings , it is not the emotions that I see as causing "suffering" (those are the body's reponse to the world when we touch reality with all our senses) but feelings that come as a response to those thoughts.

                            Love the story you keep re-telling.

                            Originally posted by Jundo
                            Anyway, why not learn to create balanced, peaceful, Wise & Compassionate Buddhist art? George Harrison did! (Okay, he was a Hindu ... but same difference)
                            Honestly, Jundo, I don't know what the result itself could be like (if any in the form of an accomplished piece). I strive to make genuine art, that is the process itself to be genuine and hopefully the result would reflect this too.

                            Gassho,

                            Irina
                            http://appropriteresponse.wordpress.com

                            Comment

                            • roky
                              Member
                              • Jul 2008
                              • 311

                              #15
                              Re: Love your own misery?

                              great story, jundo

                              i think the ego suspects that between birth and death there is a big hole, and it's task is to fill it up with anything, as long as it isn't empty, since that is terrifying to ego -- people with good coping mechanisms fill it up with career, family, etc. -- those with not so good coping, fill it up with drama, misery, etc. -- of course, these are the same people on different days -- but from another point of view, i suspect it doesn't matter what it's filled with, is it so necessary to always keep it full? -- i think zazen, and other things, is like a time of not cramming it so full

                              interesting to compare depression with,say, making love -- both take all of you, but in a different way -- depression is total "self" involvement, draining you of all your energy, wearing you out, you're withdrawn into your own misery, unable to be there for others -- sex, on a good day, is, as they say, the "little death", you are, for once, gone, merged with the "other", and once you've come back to earth, renewed

                              and so it also is seeing the grand canyon, or a beautiful flower, or music -- so maybe the equation is: gone = joy, self-involvement = suffering?

                              i suppose its possible to open your heart, to be more open to, depression, as you would to these other states, and maybe that would then be joyful? -- as thaddeus golas pointed out, its not the "object" of awareness thats actually determining our "inner" state, its our reaction, our openness or closing to the "object", that feels "positive", or "negative"

                              gassho, bob
                              "no resistance"
                              thaddeus golas

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