si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: July, 2014

Why We Hurt

Buddha famously said – “Desire is the direct cause of suffering” (along with ignorance, but that’s a whole other chat).

Now, when I first heard this I thought “How can that be true?”

However, I’ve had a couple more decades to think about it, read and grow up a LOT (ha ha, oh boy) since then, so here’s how it breaks down.

As usual, he was pretty much bang on the money. Decent dude, that one.

Basically, there are two types of desire:


This is the desire for more of something. We like it, we want it closer, or again, or more often.

Thus, if someone takes it away, it bothers us.

You can see how this might lead to pain, right?


This is the desire for less of something. We want it the hell away from us.

If someone forces us to experience it, or more of it, it bothers us.

Again with the pain.



Really, it’s quite simple.

All of our suffering comes from wanting more of something or wanting less of something.

Now, there is nothing wrong with having more or less of something. The pain comes because of our wanting (and thus, attachment, or aversion).

This is a little subtle, but think of it this way.

Let’s say you like ice cream.

Ok, so, you have an ice cream and everything is great in the world.

However, if you’re attached to the ice cream, you’ll get upset if it falls on the ground.

If you’re not attached, that means having it is great and you enjoy it, but it being on the ground? That’s totally cool too, maybe the birds would like some as well.

Thus, no more suffering. Or at least, where ice cream is concerned.

Of course, there’s a lot more to life than ice cream (yeah, I know, I said it).

Thus, it’s quite possible to spend your entire life dropping all of these attachments and aversions.

That’s ok, there’s no rush. This is really why life is a journey, not a destination.

In my experience? It really does work though. Oh, and it doesn’t take anything LIKE a lifetime to massively improve enormous chunks of your life.

When you let go of your attachments and aversions to something? It being there or not really does stop bothering you.

This letting go doesn’t turn you into a zombie or anything crazy like that, just that if whatever is there you love it, and if it’s not there you’re equally happy.

Or, in the case of aversions – if someone is being assholey you’re able to be loving to them, and when they’re gone, you love that they’re not there too.

Either way, it doesn’t upset your chi, as it were. You stay more or less even the whole time.



Now, generally speaking, I like to keep things practical. It’s important. We can waffle about stuff all day, but if we’re not actually improving our lives, why bother?

So, here’s how to drop your attachments and aversions.

There are dozens of different ways of doing this.

The key is to work both sides of whatever the issue is. Clear both the attachments AND the aversions. I know this sounds weird – eg, why would I have an aversion to something good, or an attachment to something bad? Trust me here. Do it a few times. Our minds are tricky wee things that often come up with dumb/weird/emotional reasons for all sorts of bizarre things.

As a quick example. Think about money. Nearly everyone wants more money, right? But I bet, if you sat down you could think of half a dozen reasons why having more money would be bad. These are aversions. Eg, more stress, people wanting things from you. Maybe all rich people are assholes. Maybe you’d lose friends. And so on. See how it works?

Anyway, here are some methods that have worked for me:

  • Tap on the issue. Tap on HAVING the issue. Tap on NOT HAVING the issue (ie, both sides)
  • Take both attachments and the aversions (separately) back to wanting/lacking approval, control or security and then let that energy go until it’s clear
  • Imagine having, and then not having whatever-it-is. Focus on the feelings in your body, welcome them up and let them go
  • Get into your “I’m the boss” space, and simply make the choice to let “it” go – whatever “it” is (this is a bit more advanced, but practice, you’ll get it)

Obviously, as with all things, practice is key. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

As much as anything, even just understanding these deep internal drives can be helpful. Once you start looking you’ll start to see both attachments and aversions everywhere. In yourself and in those around you.

Plus, of course, the more of your own you let go of, the more imperturbable you’ll become. Ie, Peace. Happiness with no sorrow.


    The Patterns of Trauma

    You may have wondered why the same (bad) things happen to you over and over. Perhaps why you attract the same kind of guy or girl into your life. You get the same shitty job or find people mis-treating you no matter where you go.

    A short (and slightly incorrect) answer would be karma, but it’s not far from the truth.

    The thing is, trauma happens in patterns.

    Now, for our purposes, “trauma” refers to anything which has upset you, to whatever degree.

    So sure, it can be major things – mass murder, gang rape, etc. It can also be fairly minor things – someone at work getting under your skin, the particular way you don’t get on with your mother, and so on.

    The point is just that the situation has upset you (I’ve previously written about how to identify trauma).

    For an example, let’s say something mildly awful happened to you when you were a kid. Of course, you can look back now, as an adult and say “so what”, but you were a kid at the time, which meant it felt like the end of the world. This is very common.



    Here’s what typically happens:

    That trauma will stick with us. We’ll think about it, worry about it, stress about it possibly happening again. We’ll get hyper-sensitized to the possibility of recurrence. We’ll be suspicious of those around us who might hurt us in similar ways. We’ll disempower ourselves and unintentionally put ourselves in harm’s way in our attempts to avoid it… and all this will happen below our level of consciousness.

    That’s right, we’ll recreate this pain without even realising we’re doing it.

    Now, there’s other things happening at an energetic level too, but it all amounts to the same thing.

    A side note: The theory behind EFT says that when we experience a trauma, we get blocks in the energy that flows around our body (just the same way that blood, electricity and lymph do). Therefore, by tapping on our body, we simply dislodge those blocks, get the energy flowing again and then naturally heal ourselves.

    Either way, we need to heal the trauma to stop it screwing up our lives.

    Ok, so, before we all start panicking and running around with our hair on fire, let’s look at it all in a slightly more loving way.

    When it’s time for us to learn a lesson, the universe will give us as many opportunities as we need in order to learn it.

    If we screw up and get hurt again, that’s ok. We’ll get another chance later.

    Right. You can breathe again.

    What this all means is, any time something has upset you, you can typically look back through your life and see other situations where the same thing has occurred.



    Now, these patterns won’t necessarily be exactly the same, but more generally similar. Abstract the situation out. Describe it simply. If you were going to have a movie describing this situation or trauma, what would the title of the movie be?

    Some examples, to help you get the hang of it:

    • You get upset because your girlfriend ignores you when you’re trying to tell her something important? – Someone I love won’t listen to me
    • Your boyfriend is always late home from work – he doesn’t respect me (notice how it’s more about the feeling or outcome than the specifics of the situation)
    • You work hard but don’t get paid much for your efforts – I work hard and get nothing (straight forward)

    Notice how once you’ve summarised it into a movie title, it gets much easier to look back on your life and see other similar situations. On the surface they might look completely different, but they actually end up with the exact same result – you feeling the same pain.



    The key is to examine the earliest time this type of trauma has occurred for us.

    Think of it this way. The first trauma is sounding an alarm bell. Any similar traumas that occur afterwards are like echoes off nearby buildings.

    The first trauma is the cause. Later traumas are the effects.

    So, in order to heal the whole shebang, you have to go back to the first trauma and heal that.

    Well, strictly speaking, you don’t HAVE to do anything. You’re the boss, remember? However, it’s by a huge mile the most efficient way of healing the whole kit and kaboodle.

    Don’t waste your time getting angry at the person in front of you. Most of the time, it really has very little to do with them at all.

    Typically, once you’ve healed the first trauma (which is often surprisingly straightforward) the others either disappear by themselves, or you’ll be able to heal them in almost no time at all.

    Conversely, if you start with one of the later traumas, you’ll struggle and struggle and STRUGGLE and seem to get nowhere. It’ll be frustrating. It’ll be tedious. You’ll feel maybe a little better but not really. Nothing you try will really seem to fix anything. Or it may go away, and then it’ll come back again. Why? Because you’re wasting time on the echoes, the effects, rather than going back to the root cause.

    Anything which is bothering you, if you can see that that movie has played more than once in your life? Keep going back as early as you can, look for that same pattern, that same movie title. A lot of the time it’ll be some innocuous thing that happened when you were much younger, that you can barely (at the conscious level) remember. Heal on that, and watch the whole rest of it collapse.

    The key is the pattern. Look to the root of the pattern. THAT is how you conquer trauma.


      Stopping The Downward Spiral

      Learning to love ourselves is generally seen as an upward path. With practice, and over time, we gradually treat ourselves with more compassion, respect and care.

      Life, however, is rarely so straight forward. The journey to this self-loving nirvana is fraught with dangers and challenges, peaks and valleys.

      Until we do reach this magical destination we can gain a lot of forward traction by watching downwards instead of up.

      Rather than looking only to treat ourselves better, how about treating ourselves less worse?

      I’ll explain.

      It’s pretty normal for things to upset us. That’s part of life, and of growing.

      Of course, there are lots of ways to help reduce this (and in fact, remove these stressors permanently) but I’ve banged that drum enough in the past. Right now, I’d like to talk about what happens after we get upset.

      Often? We start to spiral. Downwards. Fast.

      We get grumpy so we make bad decisions, which makes our situation worse, which makes us grumpier, which…

      You can see how it goes.

      I can remember when I was much younger, if something seriously upset me it wouldn’t be too surprising for me to be angry and in a bad mood for weeks (unless I got drunk and forgot about it or had a good rage out). Not particularly healthy – or fun for anyone around me. Yikes!

      Thankfully these days all that junk is well gone, however this basic pattern is part of human nature:

      Something upsets us, and then we do things that make the situation worse for ourselves. After that, we spiral downwards into a gigantic cesspit of doom. Doom doom doomy doom.

      The good news is, when we’re starting to get into this kind of space, we can make gigantic improvements with only a tiny modicum of self control. Not a huge amount of self-control, just enough to stop us seriously self-harming.

      So, what are some of these crappy self-harming things we might do?

      • Eat a ton of sugar or junk food (eg, *cough* an entire packet of donuts)
      • Drink too much (*facepalm*)
      • Take it out on those around us (thus flaring up other issues, which never helps)
      • Stay up too late at night
      • Engage in risky or dangerous behaviour (casual sex, cliff diving, starting fights)
      • Worse

      The trouble with all of these behaviours is that they have side-effects that last much longer than the period of time we might otherwise have been upset for.

      Eg, if I eat a whole bunch of junk food, generally I’ll break out and otherwise feel crappy for the next few days. A serious bender can leave me feeling maudlin and low for as many as three days. Staying up too late is guaranteed to screw up my next day. And so on.

      Of course, the real problem is this – it’s all very well pointing OUT these behaviours, but when we’re feeling crappy, we feel compelled to do them. Merely knowing they’re bad isn’t going to help us. We know they’re bad, but we don’t care. If we had the self control to not do them when we were upset, we wouldn’t be doing them. Hello? We’re upset!

      So. How do we get around this?

      First of all, acknowledge that it’s ok if we do these dumb things. Really. They’re just choices. Beating yourself up for making a bad choice is often as bad, if not worse than the actual behaviour itself. How long can guilt last for? Do you think our body is going to optimally process whatever poison we’ve put into it if we’re also pouring massive amounts of hate its way as well?

      Another drum I’ve beaten to death in the past.

      Here’s something new though.

      If, even while we’re upset, we can acknowledge that we’re going to do something dumb, we can easily take tiny steps to minimise the damage.

      Sure, go ahead and eat all those donuts, but follow them up with washing your face before you go to bed and drinking a bunch of water. Then tomorrow when you’re feeling a bit better, do some crunches and have a salad to “balance it out” (yes, those are air quotes).

      If you wanna get hammered, go ahead and do it. But do it somewhere safe – eg, at home, not at a bar where it’s going to cost you way more and you might get in a fight (or worse). Drink something you know won’t give you a terrible hangover (for me, avoid white spirits and stick to Guinness or whisky). Before you start, line up pints of water and make sure you down ’em so you’re WELL hydrated before you sleep.

      If you know you’re going to take your bad mood out on those around you, get the hell away from them. Just say “Shitty mood. Need space. Not you. Will come back.” Whatever minimum communication you can grunt out to ensure that the other person doesn’t think it’s their fault, then go burn off that energy some other way – even if it’s screaming and swearing your whole way down the street – getting angry around people who don’t know you (and thus don’t care as much) is way less damaging than being around those who know and love you.

      If you have the compulsion to go randomly fuck someone – make damn sure you (or they, or both) wear a condom. The last thing you want is to wake up post-anger with a kid or a disease. For bonus points, have casual sex with someone you already know and care about. It’ll be less harmful to you emotionally and energetically (but that’s a whole other blog post).

      When we’re in a seriously shitty headspace, finding the discipline to not hurt ourselves is often outside our reach. This is totally normal and nothing to be ashamed about.

      However, finding enough discipline to minimise the damage from this behaviour? That’s much easier. And you know what? It’s still loving ourselves.

      Most importantly, it’ll shrink the post-blow-out damage. Instead of feeling crappy for days, we’ll cut it back to feeling crappy for hours instead. This is a huge win. It gets us back in a higher energetic space sooner. It stops our lives from spiralling uncontrollably downwards.

      Sure, it’s not as perfect as immediately dropping whatever’s upset us (which is quite feasible, with practice) but it is a huge step in the right direction.

      The sooner we’re back in a happy place, the sooner we can deal with whatever’s upset us. Minimising self harm and thus preventing a larger downward spiral is a great improvement. It’s a practical way to love ourselves that doesn’t require superhuman self-discipline.

      It’s still loving ourselves, even in the midst of disaster. It’s still taking small but certain forward steps, and that’s what this journey is really all about.