Imagine you’re driving down a country road at night and suddenly you get a flat tire. Have you ever had a flat tire late at night? How did you feel? Annoyed? … You open your trunk and discover you have no jack. Now you are really upset. You decide to walk back to a farmhouse you remember passing about a mile back. As you walk you start thinking: “Oh boy, I’m going to look like a city slicker who doesn’t even know how to change a tire. The farmer probably will laugh at me. He’ll make me feel ridiculous. He probably won’t even loan me a jack.” You continue imagining how badly the farmer will treat you. “He’s probably a real SOB.” By now you’re enraged. You knock on the door and before the farmer even has a chance to say hello, you hear yourself shouting: “Keep your own damn jack.”
The event was getting a flat and deciding to ask a nearby farmer for a jack. The meaning was that the farmer would make fun of you and wouldn’t want to help you. That meaning caused you to get angry. Not the event.
The meaning we unconsciously and automatically give events is the source of our negative feelings, which in turn, are the source of our suffering.
She remained calm for her daughter
A woman who had learned how to dissolve meaning in my Lefkoe Freedom Course told me the following story: “My 11-year-old daughter was taken ill and rushed to the emergency room. After the first exam the doctor said he didn’t know what was wrong with her and he would have to give her a battery of tests.”
As you read her story, imagine how you would feel in this same situation.
“I started to panic and realized the meaning I had automatically given the situation was that she was very sick and might die. I suddenly realized that the fact that she didn’t feel good and the doctor didn’t know why had no meaning. I didn’t know anything for sure about her condition. Suddenly a calm overcame me. As a result for the next four hours I was able to be relaxed and comforting with my daughter, which kept her from being frightened. After four hours the doctor came in and said, ‘she’s fine; you can take her home.’ Being able to dissolve meaning in that situation was a miracle. Not only was I able to experience calm instead of terror during the four hours it took for the doctor to figure out that nothing was wrong, I was able to be with my daughter in a calm way—in a way that kept her from being scared.”
That the daughter didn’t feel well and the doctor didn’t have a diagnosis at the moment was the event. That she had a serious illness or might die was the meaning the mother unconsciously and automatically added to the event. As soon as she made a clear distinction between the event and the meaning, the meaning dissolved. And when the meaning dissolved, her suffering stopped.
And the point isn’t that the daughter was ultimately okay. Being calm and not suffering for four hours when you don’t know if there really is anything to worry about is the point. And being able to be calm so your child doesn’t suffer is priceless.
I’m not talking about changing what happens to us, like sickness or losing a friend or losing all your money. I’m talking about changing the meaning we give such events—and even less significant events. It is these meanings that are responsible for most of our negative feelings. And these feelings, in turn, are responsible for most of our suffering.
In retrospect it wasn’t a disaster
Here’s another way to look at this issue that will make the idea of no meaning clearer. How many times have you looked back and realized that what seemed to really be a disaster at the time turned out to be a blessing in disguise. What’s important to get is that it wasn’t really a disaster at the time. You just didn’t realize that for some weeks or months.
I am suggesting that it is possible to realize at the time, that the meaning we made up and added to the event, is not The Truth. You don’t have to wait months or years to discover that what looks like a terrible result might actually be good. It didn’t have an inherent meaning at the time. And you can learn how to recognize that.
And when you recognize that at the time and you dissolve the meaning, you stop your suffering.
Buddhism agrees that suffering is unnecessary
There is more than one way to stop suffering. Practicing Buddhism is one way. Learning how to automatically dissolve the meaning you give to meaningless events is another. Suffering really is not necessary.
See an earlier blog post for details of how and why we give meaning to events and how to dissolve that meaning. https://www.mortylefkoe.com/important-improve-life/#
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