Positive Effects of Suffering
Published on Friday, December 9th, 2011 at 4:10 pm and is filed under Spirituality
Are there people who don’t suffer? Who has never felt pain? Is not about the pain from stomachache or illness or wound, but the pain in our chest – the pain of losing a child or parent, the pain of being humiliated in public, etc. – a pain that is know to the close ones or a pain that we don’t share with anybody.
Yes, all suffer. Is like there is something that leads us to suffering, like we are programmed to suffer and we search a reason to suffer from. As if we need to suffer.
If we don’t have what to eat we are hungry and imagine how would be if we were full we would be happy. If we have what to eat we suffer from cold and we imagine a hot stove. If we are cold we suffer from love – if we were loved by parents or if we had near a person who would love us as we are to accept without any conditions and to offer everything without claiming something back. If we still are loved we suffer that our professional plan has not success or we are not recognized in our society as an important person, valuable, worthy of all respect.
What if we have that?
We will suffer when we begin to lose some of these and if not we will surely find a new reason for suffering, even if we have to search for it deep inside our soul.
We will suffer again. Not all the time of course, but sometimes after a quiet and happy period.
Why do we suffer?
Because, is something missing? Did I fail? Is fate against us? Do we want something more than we have or maybe we have a sin? There is pain which cause is outside ourselves: natural disaster, accidents, people who hurt us, bad relationships, diseases that affect our life. As there is suffering that comes from within us: we don’t know what we want, we make bad choices, we aren’t satisfied with what we have.
We are forced to confront the change that we wanted, secondly we must support consequences of our decisions, choices, desires. In both cases we know that it won’t be as it was before that something has changed or must be changed whether we like it or not.
How do we know this? Because we suffer.
Suffering helps us to grow, we review the needs and desires, we deal with ourselves or we lose everything.
Dealing with pain reminds about memorable scene from the movie “Indiana Jones” where the hero searching the Holy Grail must choose the holy goblet among hundreds. If he chose well he would chose life, but if bad that death.
Suffering forces us to make similar choice. It forces us to take a decision: life or death, growth or stagnation, the shift to a higher stage of self-consciousness or regress to a more primitive existence. Suffering forces us to look where we don’t want to see what’s wrong with us or the world we live in, because suffering we can’t ignore as we did before.
Psychologist Jean Piaget, who revolutionized the psychology of child development through his discovers, described the process of adaptation of the child as an adult, as consisting of two aspects, which are in permanent confrontation: assimilation that tends to perceive the world and us in terms of what we already know, accommodation that is the way of seeing the world to make “space” for new experiences that no longer fit with what we knew before.
Pain is an expression between two similar tendencies: the one to preserve what we have, what we know, what is familiar for us, especially related to us, and the tend to change ourselves, to grow, to reach our human potential.
Neither of the two forces is good or bad, useful or useless. We need to keep what we already have to remain ourselves, as is planted in us and the need of growth, to develop spiritually, psychologically, as people. Suffering is the tension between these 2 needs, or if you prefer, is the earthquake that puts tectonic plates in a new stable position.
Let’s see some examples. The abandoned lover – suffers because he is hopeless, disappointed, forced to accept that his love was just a dream that his love was perfect only in his mind. The reality comes over like a bulldozer and forces him to come down the earth. The young man faces the failure – suffers because he found that he is not as good as he thought or he found that is not enough to be good to do succeed, sometimes the success depends on other things that he ignored before.
Bereaved spouse – suffers because he/she had lost the person that became a part of him/her and now is forced to live alone with pain. A disappointed parent – suffers because he believed in unreal hopes because he waited for something that is impossible to do and now he realized this.
As long as suffering is seen, accepted and lived with tears, stunned faces, slow steps and heartbreaking feelings, it achieved its goal, is consumed and disappears with time.
In psychotherapy there is the phrase “to mourning” and it refers to accept the loss as an inevitable and open expression of pain. Those unable to mourning are usually unable to begin a new life.
There are also people so “skilled” to ignore themselves and their needs that suffering is “forced” to take extreme forms to show off.
The first example that comes to mind is a panic attack – this is because without a rigorous study of personal impression, the number of people who suffer from such attacks has increased in recent years. The explanation may be related to disproportionately high ratio of daily stress and ability – apparently quite low for many people – to manage this stress properly.
Another example is the conversion disorders such as hysteria where desires and needs ignored manifest their presence through symptoms related to body function. Neurotic depression is also the result of a conflict between desire and reality or between the way of thinking and reality.
Therefore, there are few who believe that the one who suffers comes to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist should help to get rid of pain and to be helped to understand the sense of it, where it comes from and what should be changed in his life – if he is released of pain he will be less tempted to find out the reason.
It’s tempting to believe that there is probably pointless suffering. Free contents, which can’t teach anything that doesn’t lead to anything good. For example, pain that occurs in some of those with serious mental illness: the organ that should be used to “interpret” and assimilate suffering is unable to do it.