The concepts “suffering”, “consciousness” and the “unconscious” are very ambiguous, multi-layered concepts; also depending from which platform of understanding you depart (Jungian, Freudian, Phenomenological, Existentialism, Buddhism, Taoism, Integral (and so on).
My understanding at the moment is the following:
Over time, the living breath of the universe within us (our experience of inner reality) had frozen into a concept of an unchangeable individual self (ego), an immutable, eternal soul monad incapable of growth and development. This individual isolated self has therefore become completely self-preoccupied and has forgotten the true nature of reality – that the world is in a continuous process of becoming and dissolving. This is the true source of suffering, but also the source of all spiritual growth.
The realization of the nature and cause of our suffering is an arduous path, rife with challenges. This process is also a process of making that which is hidden and unknown (the unconscious), known (conscious). In Jung’s thinking, the unconscious is essentially the seat of the deepest sources of wisdom, while the conscious is the intellectual part of the psyche.
“The modern mind suffers from the odd prejudice that consciousness is a purely superficial outgrowth of reality, and that the more fundamental the power, principle or substance becomes, the more blind and unconscious it must be.” (Alan W. Watts) In this sense the “conscious” and the “unconscious” are seen in dualistic concepts (good and unacceptable), with an implied judgment and further polarization and resistance from the individual to embrace an essential part of his/her being.
We suffer because we have forgotten our true nature. We suffer because the mind creates wrong attitudes – grasping (attachment, greed. desire), objectification of reality through suppression, denial, repression, distortion of our inner experiences of the world, abandoning the subjective to the forgotten and hidden place in the psyche, the unconscious.
Ramana Maharsi says, “The obstacle is the mind, which must be overcome…”
The process of becoming is painful, until we remember that it is not a matter of becoming, but of being.