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.”

bigstock-Sad-young-woman-looking-down--052113The 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.


Thanks for reading my blog.  Please post your questions or comments about how to stop suffering.  Your comments will add value for thousands of readers.  I read them all and respond to as many as I can.

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Copyright © 2013 Morty Lefkoe


  1. Salim Lalani May 22, 2013 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Excellent Exercise.

    • One MUTENDE Osward, June 11, 2019 at 3:23 am - Reply

      Can you please arrow me to come and Marie you. Ilike you. And feld sick to see you soon too please let me know.

  2. tony May 22, 2013 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Thank you for giving me back my life.

    • Morty Lefkoe May 22, 2013 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Tony,

      I cried when I read your comment, and then I sent it to everyone on our staff. This is why we come to work every day.

      I am so happy we could help you.

      Love, Morty

  3. CM May 22, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

    I hope Marty won’t mind that I made a slight change when I forwarded this to my mom, who found out last week has cancer which is in her bone marrow and is waiting for the results of a bunch of tests to find out just how long she has left to live (she’s already been told it’s untreatable).

    I took out the word “meaningless” (i.e., ‘the meaning we give to meaningless events’). This event DOES mean she is going to die, and fairly soon. But I hope she (and the rest of us) can lessen our suffering, both while we’re waiting to know the full truth and then while we walk through the remaining time, by not adding on to the unavoidable sorrow with useless distress we generate “voluntarily.”

    • Morty Lefkoe May 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm - Reply

      Hi CM,

      Your situation is one in which the exercise can be especially helpful. I’m happy that it is helping you and your family.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      Love, Morty

  4. Angela Minelli May 22, 2013 at 6:49 am - Reply

    I’m so “guilty” of having ascribed unnecessary meaning to events in my past that kept me stuck in negative emotions for years. Had I known then what I know now! Thanks Morty :)

  5. Martynas May 22, 2013 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Thank you for the article.I too believe that in this case the mind is what keeps us suffering.It sounds logical and sound.I will keep this information in mind.

  6. bianca May 22, 2013 at 4:59 am - Reply

    well, the time has come to put my money where my mouth is. Over the past year I have tried to learn as much as I could from your method, Morty. I have found that it works for real, it has taken the sting out of a lot of everyday issues and I thought I was doing great. Right up to the point that my husband told me a week ago that he is leaving me. Ha, I did not know that one event could bring on so many occurings so fast! Any one of you who’s been there will be able to name a few, starting with: this is not fair! I am old and now you take everything away from me. You will find a new partner soon and I never will! people will pity me, avoid me, laugh at me. Our daughter will resent me for not being able to keep my marriage ok. She will loose all faith in love and probably start using drugs or something. There must be something terribly wrong with me and now everybody will know. I will not be able to make it financially. How am I going to celebrate my birthday on my own? and so on and so forth. I am not saying I handled it well right from the very beginning, but Morty, your method did help me find a way through the blind panic a bit, by sorting out all these occurrings, which are not the truth and separating them from the event, which is: my marriage is over. That is the only fact that is certain, the only thing I have to deal with and I intend to do that as well as I can. Everything else is open and uncertain and I will try to leave it that way and not fill it with assumptions that scare me or make me mad. But that is not easy. I am so grateful I happened upon your post when I did and I want to thank you for sharing you insights so generously. You and Shelly are doing a lot of good.

    • Morty Lefkoe May 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      Hi Bianca,

      Thanks for sharing that this exercise is helping you deal with this situation.

      I’m sure you will find a way to deal with it.

      Love, Morty

  7. Miguel May 22, 2013 at 4:16 am - Reply

    I’m an english student an I found an error (I think) “You open your truck and discover you have no jack.” Do truck should be trunk, no.

    • Morty Lefkoe May 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm - Reply

      Hi Miguel,

      Thanks for catching the typo. I fixed it.

      Love, Morty

      • Miguel May 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm - Reply

        thanks you! now you can delete my comment!
        Very interesting your reflexions!

  8. hannah May 22, 2013 at 2:43 am - Reply

    So losing can be a good thing?

    • Jared May 24, 2013 at 5:59 am - Reply

      There is no losing. Never. Only in games. But you are probably way too smart too get it.

  9. Liane May 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    I love that second story. Ever since taking the Freedom Course, I’ve noticed that for most events, I never even create meaning – even when they’re related to my son. At the same time, I’ve seen my wife react to things and create meaning without even realizing it. One night we were sitting at the dinner table, and my then 8-month old son looked like he was gagging. I watched him to see what would happen, but my wife immediately got up and yelled, “he’s choking!” 2 seconds later, he spit up a piece of fruit that was just a little too big for him. What’s funny to me is that her reactions used to upset me – and now, I don’t create meaning for them either.

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