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September 8, 2020

Facts Have Never Caused My Suffering


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In this going deeper I want to propose a radical, even preposterous, claim. It’s a claim I’ve been exploring now for many years that I find to be true for me: 

Facts have never caused my suffering. My suffering is caused by the stories I make up. Therefore, my mind, and not reality, is the cause of my suffering. 


Before I break it down, I want to say that my direct experience is that living according to this personal truth has created tremendous empowerment, liberation, and opened my heart to greater and greater love. 

Let’s break down the claim into its parts: facts, suffering, stories, mind, and reality. 

Facts
I define facts as that which is unarguable, what a video camera would record. It is what is occurring free from all interpretation. Facts never include adjectives, adverbs, or comparisons. 

Suffering

Suffering is any form of upset, including stress, drama and conflict. 

Stories

Stories are what our minds make up about the facts, including interpretations, judgments, opinions, beliefs and positions. 

Mind

For the sake of this conversion, mind refers to the ego-identity aspect of mind. Its job is to guarantee its own survival. The mind interprets facts in ways that allow the identity to remain intact. The mind makes up stories so that the ego identity can survive. One of my favorite teachers, Loch Kelly, describes this ego identity as a “mini-me” that lives in the middle of my head and believes it is both the center of my life and the world. 

Reality

What is occurring. 

None of these are bad. They just are. They’re part of being a human. 

Part of being human is that we can deconstruct the natural pattern and learn new ways of being that greatly reduce—and even possibly eliminate— suffering. 

Suffering is normal and suffering is optional. 


Suffering is greatly reduced when we see that the ego-identity aspect of mind is the cause of all of our upset. Our ego spins stories and attaches to being right about them instead of deeply examining them, which is how we cause ourselves to suffer. The good news is we can examine our stories, let go of being right about them, and come into a relationship with reality that welcomes what is. 

Let’s test this radical idea. Think about something that is bothering or, upsetting you, and causing you stress or relational conflict. For example, “I’ve lost my job. Now is not a good time to be looking for a job, and I’m running out of money.” 

Facts
Unarguable, what a video camera would record

  • My boss said, “We’re eliminating your position and there is no other job for you in the company. You’ll get four weeks of severance. Your last day will be today.”  
  • During this last year I spent $8,000 a month. I have $30,000 in the bank.
  • I have a signed lease on my apartment for 9 more months.

Stories
Opinions, judgments, beliefs

  • My boss was unfair in letting me go.
  • I should have been reassigned to another job in the company.
  • They should be giving me twelve weeks of severance, not four. 
  • No one in my industry is hiring right now as they’re all waiting to see how things will shake out. 
  • I’ll run out of money in just over three months. 
  • I should have taken the job the competitor offered me last year. 
  • My parents will be upset and tell me they were right that I should have been saving more money.

Suffering
Any form of upset, including stress, drama and conflict.

  • Anxiety, worry, mental perseveration on everything that is going to happen and 
  • Sleeping four hours a night. I wake up at 4 AM and can’t go back to sleep.
  • Loss of appetite and when I do eat I eat sugar and drink alcohol.  
  • Resentment and bitterness toward my boss and my company.
  • Shame, a voice in my head saying, “My parents were right, I’m never going to amount to anything and I should have been saving more money.” 
  • Lack of motivation to do anything. 


Pause and ask yourself this question: What is the cause of the suffering? Is it the facts or the stories? Have any of the facts caused any of the upset, pain, or drama? If there were no stories attached to any of the facts would there be any suffering? If the facts are just the facts with no interpretation would they upset anyone? 

My answers are that the stories are the cause of all the suffering and that the facts, apart from any stories, did not cause any upset. Facts never cause suffering. Stories cause suffering and we (specifically our ego identity, mini-me mind) make up the stories. 

Another way of saying this is that we are the source of our suffering; not life, not others. At first this can be heard as self-critical, like we’re to blame for our pain. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m actually saying is that you and I are the creators of our experience and we can change what we’re creating., Suffering is natural and normal, and it’s optional. We can choose to make up and believe stories that cause us suffering or we can choose to make up other stories, or to live with no stories at all. The choice is ours. 

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Practice

Fact vs. Story Game

Read about the Fact vs. Story game that Diana walked a team through. Feeling curious and courageous? Play with your team or family or friends.

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