Is your interpretation causing your suffering?

Are you suffering interpretation? Photo taken through sunglassesIs your interpretation causing your suffering?

By that I mean, are you aware that you suffer, not at the hands of other people, but because of the automatic, unconscious interpretations you make?

Pure coincidence –  my last article was about being stuck to our ‘phones and not relating to real people around us. And it turns out that the people who knew about it, were taking part in National Hello Day this week. I expect you can guess what that was all about!

Well, I missed it. Perhaps you did too. But there’s nothing to stop us taking part in our own Hello Day, so…


Sorry? I’m missing the point?

You’re right. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of people are reading this right now, it only counts if you say hello face-to-face, in person. For real.

What are you waiting for?  🙂

Get out there and build some rapport with an actual, real, genuine Human being. Go on, I dare you!

Here’s a reminder of why you should.

How to talk to strangers

We’re all different. Or at least that’s what Monty Python’s Life of Brian would have us believe. And talking of which, I don’t know if my local readers managed to see Spamalot at the Kenton Theatre in Henley on Thames last week. So proud of everyone who made it the stupendous success that it was.

Congratulations everyone.  🙂

Are you a figment of my imagination? Or is it me?

Are you suffering interpretation? Photo of interesting tree trunkNow where was I?


It doesn’t seem to matter how many times we’re reminded that we’re all different, we still expect everyone else to think and feel the way that we do. And oh, how that can lead to pain and upset!

I witnessed this first-hand, twice last week. And it all comes down to interpretation.

A says X

B hears Y and automatically reacts (stress response firing up)

A in turn, reacts to B (now their stress response has also kicked into gear)

And that’s how the fight started!

Whenever we get our monkey up… (Thanks Grandad for that expression) 

The Chimp Paradox

…it’s because our automatic unconscious mind which is there to make sense of the world and keep us safe, has done its usual pattern-matching thing and has concluded in a flash, and long before we are consciously aware of it,


In kicks the stress response; fight, flight or freeze and… boom!

Houston. We have a problem!

Are you suffering interpretation? Photo of spiral staircaseSuffering interpretation

It’s all down to interpretation. And unconscious interpretation at that. Because it all happens automatically and usually before you’ve had a chance to use your clever prefrontal cortex to assess whether reacting is truly appropriate in this particular situation.

And then we suffer. And everybody else around us suffers too.

Good innit?  🙂

The Chimp Paradox – Managing the Chimp

Ah, but of course, once that monkey has escaped, our logical, thinking brain has to make sense of the whole thing. On the basis that the problem (danger) appears to be very much out there, (over there with the other person), we begin to justify and defend our position.

And, by the way – bonus points if we can find someone else to agree with us, and validate our point of view!

Suffering interpretation: Sandy Newbigging - image of book: Mind CalmPhoto of Sandy Newbigging and Lysette OffleyBut of course we do this. Our unconscious, and next our conscious brain have to make sense of what just happened. However, as Sandy Newbigging points out in his book, Mind Calm, there are hidden causes of what he calls a ‘busy mind,’ you know, the one that causes you stress. So when you go looking to change other people in order to solve your problem, you’ll be barking up the wrong tree!

What are these hidden causes?

He says, our busy minds can fall into the following traps by playing one or more of these games:

1. The Judgement Game

Judging things as being bad, negative, wrong leads to problems. And the mind becomes very busy finding solutions and avoiding problems.

2. Resist Persist

Resistance to perceived problems leads to stress and suffering. When you feel bad your mind gets busy trying to understand why you feel that way, and then goes on to try and fix, change and improve those things in order to make you you feel better again.

3. Attach Catch

Believing that a particular thing needs to happen in order to feel good and be successful. The mind gets busy thinking about what needs to happen next, then next, then next for you to have what you need.

4. Time Trap

Thinking that your past and your future determine your current level of peace, happiness, love and success. Your mind gets busy thinking and thinking about what happened and what might happen.

Are you suffering interpretation? Photo of infinity poolIn both the events I witnessed this week, I heard people I love, declare a stance on the world and on the people in their life. An attitude designed to keep them safe, but actually making them miserable.

So much suffering inadvertently created for themselves and the people around them, in the name of avoiding pain.

It’s like taking poison but expecting the other person to die.

Everyone has their own interpretation

And all down to their own interpretation, leaving the rest of us, who’ve been running our own (and different) interpretations…

…wondering what on earth just happened.

Have you ever been caught up in someone else’s upset, or indeed your own, feeling confused – and helpless to make everything OK?

Were you able to broker a peace-deal? What tips or advice can you give us? Please let us know in the comments section below. Hey! And maybe share this blog too. Thank you.



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About the author

Lysette Offley


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