Embracing the Unknown, Letting go of Familiar Suffering

Embracing the Unknown, Letting go of Familiar Suffering

153240710“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

~ Thich Nhat Hahn

How many times have you prevented yourself from trying something new because of the unknown.  This can be manifested in small ways, such as not wanting to try a new cuisine, or in much bigger ways,  such as staying in a bad relationship because of the fear of being alone.    We naturally like to live in our comfort zone, which can be great, but when our lives change and the status quo is no longer working, we resist change and prefer to live in the suffering state — just because it is familiar.

This pattern is often found in wives who are physically and verbally abused by their husbands, but still stay in their marriages because of the fear of being alone.  They are scared of the independence of raising their children or providing financially or just being by themselves, which are all understandable, but when they stay in the marriage, they are doing so at the expense of their own happiness and their children’s well being.  For these women, they truly believe that they have no other choice and don’t realize the wealth of resources and opportunities out there.

My father  practiced the same familiar suffering in a different way.  Growing up, we would always hear him complain about the Korean carpenter, plumber, banker, et al, but whom did he end up hiring: the Korean carpenter, plumber, and banker.  Why didn’t he try the American plumber, because, for my father, it was the devil he knew vs. the devil he didn’t know.  In my own life, I have always had a hard time with technology and always resisted learning how to use new gadgets, new apps, etc.  In an age of rapidly changing technology, as an entrepreneur, it is imperative to use technology and to have some knowledge in them to succeed in my own business.  While I admit that I will never really enjoy learning about technology, I know that it is good medicine for my business.

A big part of our personal growth and transformation is to learn, and we only learn when we try new things.  Our journey is not to stay stagnant, but to change with the times and environment. So, be proactive about trying new things.  This doesn’t mean that you have to hastily dive in.  Test it out slowly.   It is like going into the water: first you feel the water with one foot.  If that feels good, then slowly put in the other foot, and if both feet feel good, then you can start to put in your hand, arm, and other parts of your body.  The next thing you know, your whole body is in the water, and you realize that the water was not so bad after all.   The upshot feeling you often get is: “It really wasn’t that bad as I thought,” right?

Our fear of the unknown is really just the fear we fabricate in our own minds, and does not have anything to do with reality. What the reality is, is a world of unlimited possibilities, which you can tap into if you are open to it.   So shift your thoughts, and look at the unknown not as a negative experience, but as a positive one, which can bring you infinite opportunities.   Don’t let the unknown stop you from living your best life. Become friends with it and live with familiar happiness rather than  familiar suffering.

In the words of my wise sister, So, to her son, “The unknown is not an obstacle, but rather a challenging adventure,” so let’s embrace the adventure!

By Moon Cho, Creator of Ying & Yang Living

Recommended Reading:

“Your True Home: The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh: 365 days of practical, powerful teachings from the beloved Zen teacher” by Thich Nhat Hahn