Why to focus on reducing intense suffering?

Why to focus on reducing intense suffering?

  • First of all, suffering is bad, so reducing suffering is good (or less bad). But why to focus on reducing suffering instead of focus on increasing happiness? Well, I think that
  • Almost everything that we can call “increasing happiness” has in fact a very strong but hidden “reducing suffering” motivation. We don’t eat only just for pleasure but for preventing hungry. We don’t look for a partner just for being happy together but also for not being sad and lonely. Although we believe that we decide to suffer a little for a big pleasure, is very much common to suffer a little for avoiding a bigger suffering. Alas, pain and pleasure are not symmetric and up to now the potential suffering is much bigger than the pleasure can be. Additionally, increasing happiness is not relevant by definition. Happiness is “good”, but is not “relevant” to make it bigger. Why? If someone is over the zero, really over the zero in all aspects, with absolutely no negative experience (like being jealous of other’s happiness), by definition that being is already happy and for that being to be more happy is… well… is “good” but it’s not relevant at all. It’s very difficult for us to imagine it, maybe because we never have been in that status or even because we didn’t ever know anybody that has reached that status, but we can try to imagine someone very calmed, without fear, completely relaxed and satisfied with present, past and future.
  • If all sentient beings were a single being and I were that being, other things being equal, I’d improve my situation starting from fixing my most intense suffering. But yes, “all things equal” is not how things usually work,
  • Of course, if with 1 resource I can solve 100 sufferings of level “9” or just one suffering of level “10”, I’d choose the former. But this is not a very common case because:
  • Most of the intense suffering is hidden and neglected for a number of reasons:
    • intense suffering is so bad that is difficult to think or read about it. Intense suffering is one of the things that repels attention.
    • a big part of intense suffering is under reported because is suffered by beings that are close to death and / or extreme situations (like being tortured to death)

so I think we have huge opportunities to prevent intense suffering.

Posted by Manu Herrán

Research associate at the Organisation for the Prevention of Intense Suffering (OPIS).