If Someone You Care About Is Making You Suffer

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If you’ve begun to feel that someone you care about is making you suffer then it’s virtually guaranteed that this person is suffering too. None of us are naturally very good at handling our own suffering. We seek to escape it through all the psychological defense mechanisms at our disposal, through repression, projection, and rationalizations. We want to get as far away from suffering as humanly possible and we’ll do just about anything to accomplish that desire, even when this ‘anything’ is mean spirited and destructive.

If you know that the person making you suffer is basically goodhearted then it’s likely what’s really going on is that you’re feeling annoyed and frustrated by a change in the typical patterns of interactions and life together to which you’ve grown accustomed. This person probably isn’t actively or even consciously aware of trying to make your life miserable. But they are feeling miserable and this internal state is going to profoundly affect their constellation of behaviors, including words and actions directed towards you. For all you know they’re trying their very best to not make you suffer.

But at any rate when we feel we’re being made to suffer, when we feel annoyed and frustrated by the situation, our instinct is to lash out at the offending party, to punish the person who we believe is punishing us. What happens? Suffering gets multiplied. Through our own thoughtlessness, through our own inability to effectively manage our own suffering, we place even more suffering onto a person we care about, onto someone who is already suffering and struggling and sad. We sacrifice long-term health and happiness in our relationship for the short-term gratification of unburdening an uncomfortable psychic load through destructive words or actions.

Most of us do feel a little better in the moment when we lash out, there’s no denying it, but we pay a terrible price, first and foremost of course because we make someone we say and believe we care about suffer more not less. We approach them with meanness rather than love in our hearts.

And at the purely practical level if you think you’re going to escape unscathed after unloading your suffering onto the person who is making you suffer you’re sadly mistaken. They’re going to get you back for it, maybe not right now but certainly down the line. This is because you both, in your own little bubbles, unquestioningly believe that the other is making you suffer unfairly and that therefore getting even is righteous and justified not petty and mean.

There is only one way to interrupt this vicious cycle and it’s to decide that you’re going to handle your own suffering better. This starts with looking deeply and seeing that someone you care about is suffering and it’s your job to help alleviate it not add to it. You’ve got to open up those channels of communication by approaching your loved one with compassion and saying “I see that you’re suffering. I’m suffering too, and I’m determined to help us reduce it.”