Pain is discomfort. It can be mild or severe or very severe. No matter it’s degree, it is a condition of the body or the mind. It just is. In it’s nature there is no narrative. No sense that it should or should not exist. It might involve an attempt to reduce or eliminate it, but that is an instinctive response.
Suffering is the mental narrative associated with pain. It can be regarding pain in the past, present or future. It is not the pain itself, but the web of thoughts about actual or potential pain in one’s life and the world. It is the fear of pain.
Dread is anxiety that one’s self is drowing in suffering. It is the feeling that one’s self is being lost and dissolving due to excess of suffering, of more suffering than the self can handle.
Feeling cold in 0 degree weather is pain.
Thinking “if I lose my job, I won’t be able to pay my rent and will be homeless” is suffering.
Feeling “I just lost everything, I have nothing, I am nobody, I am worthless” is dread.
Ordinary ego consciousness is defined by suffering – either suffering or keeping suffering at bay. Suffering is called unhappiness. Keeping suffering at bay is called happiness.
Happiness is not a state intrinsically defined. It is defined as the absence of suffering. It is gotten through watching tv, drinking, sex, vacations, addictive eating, having all the good things in life – things that usually feel good because they turn down the mind and so dial down suffering. When the mind is unable to be turned off, suffering rises to the surface and presents itself as the ever present, natural state.
A life of happiness is a life keeping suffering at bay.
Since happiness is not the default state, one can lose it at any moment if there is bad luck. There could be an accident. An illness. Death of a family member. Bankruptcy. Spouse has an affair.
Ego consciousness is like swimming in a lake filled with crocodiles. Happiness is not having any crocodile in one’s immediate vicinity. Suffering is remembering that the lake is filled with crocodiles.
Dread is the realization that at some point a crocodile will get you. You only get so many moments when they are not in your vicinity. And when they are around you, you can only avoid them or out swim them for so long. Eventually you will be caught. Some crocodile will have you for dinner.
Happiness is contented forgetting of reality. Suffering is worry that happiness will not last; that one won’t be able to ignore reality all the time.
Dread is awareness of reality. But it is awareness tinged with denial. It is awareness of reality merged with thinking of oneself as outside that reality. That one is getting pulled into, drowing in, unable to avoid reality.
Bliss is awareness of reality without denial. It is awareness of reality merged with thinking of oneself as fully a part of that reality.
The most surface bubble of consciousness consists of happiness and pain. Underlying it is the realm of suffering. Below that is dread. Further below that is bliss: awareness of reality without denial.
In happiness, I am safe from the crocodiles. In suffering, I anticipate the crocodiles gathering around me. In dread, I feel like a speck and the crocodiles are everywhere, about to engulf me. In bliss, I am a speck and the crocodiles are specks and the lake itself is a speck in the broader reality.