"But you have to believe in something!"
The Zen aphorism "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" has been borrowed as the title of the book "Suffering Is Optional. Three Keys to Freedom and Joy" by Cheri Huber. I have not read the book, but the summary mentions three interesting rules:
- pay attention
- believe nothing
- don't take anything personally
These strike me as very clever. The suffering-inducing opposites would be:
Run away from everything, complain constantly.
- Have an opinion, defend it. I am not quite sure why that is, but the human need to "believe in something" is very strong and an advice that is frequently given to desperate people. Often, it seems not much more than the proverbial carrot that makes the stick bearable. But beliefs are only in your head. As an aside, most, if not all, wars would be impossible without beliefs or abstractions.
Take everything personally. "You" are the strongest reference point that you have, thus not to take everything personally is practically impossible (as is being selfish, but that is another post...). But, when you feel hurt or threatened (e.g. when somebody criticizes your work), it is still a good guideline to distinguish what is you and what you just identify with.