“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering” – C.G. Jung
Neurosis develops when we try to avoid “legitimate” suffering in ourselves or others.
Legitimate suffering is the unwanted conditions of our reality. If I’m poor but don’t want to accept it, sick but don’t want to face it, lonely but don’t want to admit it; in every case it is healthier to admit and face the unwanted conditions as our starting point, rather than twist and writhe in efforts to deny or offset the discomforting truth.
Today I realised that since I was a child I have wanted people to be happy. In all relationships and interactions I took it as unquestionably good to wish for the happiness of others and, where possible, help them in their own striving for a happy state of being.
I took this benevolence for granted, and didn’t even consider it open to doubt.
But I was wrong. We each create our own reality, and the happiness of others is categorically none of my business.
This might sound harsh but the fact is that we all have unwanted conditions in our own reality, and no one can remove those conditions for us. No one can make us happy.
I can’t control other people’s moods, nor they mine. We are each responsible for our own happiness.
And the path to happiness cannot bypass acknowledgment and making peace with unwanted conditions. In other words “legitimate suffering” must be faced for us to move on to genuine happiness rather than neuroticism.
Trying to make other people happy is itself a recipe for neurosis. When we do things for the people we love, it is our own love of them that inspires us. And our inspired actions are best accomplished when we do not carry the impossible burden of making people happy.