Self-made millionaire William Arntz‘s latest book How to Suffer… in 10 Easy Steps (Watkins Publishing, 2019) reveals the things we all do to create earthly angst and misery (no matter how much money we make or how amazing our love life is). Set forth with sly, tongue-in-cheek humour, Will’s suffering formula shows you how to go from suffering in silence to suffering in style, walking the peaceful pathway from regret to acceptance.
Will answers some frequently asked questions about How to Suffer below.
What inspired you to write this book?
One evening my wife was lying on the couch in pain. Her back was out. I asked her if she wanted to go to the kitchen for a glass of wine. She replied “No, I just want to lay here and suffer.” I DID A DOUBLE TAKE. I had never heard someone just come out and say it. Say the obvious. Say it without an underlying “Poor me”.
Jokingly, I said “You say it so well, you just know how to suffer. Someone should write a self-help book on ‘How to Suffer’.” We both laughed and riffed on the idea and I figured I’d come to my sense and discard the idea. However, that never happened. (And after our good laugh, my wife was thankfully no longer suffering.)
Is the book a satire of self-help books?
Yes and no. The ’10 easy steps’ (or 5, or 7, or…) of the self-help world is a joke – not a funny one, either. If it was easy to get rich, or find your soulmate, or any number of other things, everyone would be doing it. Ask anyone who made themselves a pile of money if it was easy and they’ll just laugh. That being said, those steps can and often do really help a person achieve their heart’s desire. But really, the only thing that is easy to do is suffer. We all do it and we all don’t want to. Go figure.
What is a Sufferometer?
In the chapter on “The Pseudo-Science of Suffering” I use the language and analysis of science to take on the subject of suffering. Concepts like “the threshold of suffering (TOS)” looks at the transition point when increasing pain suddenly becomes suffering. At the end of the chapter I point out that any science – pseudo or otherwise – needs a metric, and that metric is the Sufferometer. Its a device that you can make to log your suffering states. And if prominently posted in your domicile, warn others when to stay clear.
Why do you call suffering ‘The Gorilla in the Room’?
People rarely use the S-word: suffering. They talk all about the causes that trigger suffering – getting fired, losing your lover, having your car stolen – but never actually state where they are at: suffering. Because it’s never acknowledged directly, people tend to not deal with it directly. They turn to external tricks – drugs, alcohol, extreme sports, pornography – instead of dealing with the problem, which is essentially internal. And yet it looms over so much of what we all do. Big, hairy and scary, it fills up our internal room while we pretend it just ain’t there.
Is there anything beyond the 10 easy steps?
Yes. After we’ve all had some fun at suffering’s expense, the tone of How to Suffer turns a bit more serious, bringing up the 6 Slippery Steps to end suffering. Of course there are steps, techniques and awarenesses to alleviate or at least change one’s suffering. But they are slippery. One example is non-attachment. The Buddhists make a big deal about attachment causing suffering, but the slipperiness is that one can go to such lengths of non-attachment that they don’t care about anything, anyone, anyway, anyhow. They’ve slipped into an uncaring, unfeeling, disconnected, heartless state of assholed-ness.
What is the most profound concept in the book?
Well, I didn’t come up with it. Some old Rishi did. It’s from the Vedas, the ancient teachings from India, and it is Klesha Number One: “All suffering is caused by the misapprehension of the nature of reality.” There’s actually four more Kleshas on the causes of suffering, but it’s said that those four are all contained in numero uno. And they are. I can’t explain it here – read the book.
Is there an end to suffering?
Buddha said there is, and he proved it. But it’s a short list of those who have forever ended suffering. However, what you are currently suffering over can come to an end. And that is something you can do. Is it easy? Maybe yes and maybe no, but even if it isn’t easy, isn’t it worth doing?
Find out more
Almost every self-help book seems to be about how to be happy, how to be empowered, how to be in a fabulous relationship, how to make a million… in other words, how to be anything other than the inevitably suffering human beings most of us are. Taking the exact opposite tack, award-winning author, filmmaker and self-made millionaire William Arntz has chosen the surprising and frequently comical approach to self-help by teaching people how to suffer.