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.