CFN – When we envision life we often come up with the issue of suffering as a difficult subject to deal with. Victor Frankl did us all a favour when he wrote his epic Man’s Search for Meaning as he described how he was able to not only survive the worst conditions of imprisonment in the Nazi camps, but to overcome a descent into total despair and still have love for the human race. My purpose today is to take a look at how we can personally deal with suffering. In today’s world, suffering is seen as something that is to be pushed away from at all costs. We are supposed to be happy. It’s the topmost message in all the popular culture and the way to be happy is to have and get stuff. That is putting it simply, but I think it captures the world we live in right now.
Are we happy? Not if you look at how much medication we are taking to combat depression, nor if you look at our suicide rates, especially in our youth.
SD & G, in particular, has one of the highest rates of youth suicide in this country. I was baffled by this as I have lived in a Northern community until 2007 and am wondering what is going on in this area. It is a very difficult subject to grapple with. So how can we deal with the subject of suffering in a way that moves us forward and may be helpful? Perhaps looking at it from a spiritual perspective can provide more understanding?
One of the characteristics of our society is an exaggerated focus on individuality and identity. We spend so much money and attention on being the best we can be – on standing out, on looking good and having it all – that it can create so much pressure inside of us that something snaps. We are not taught to have limits and boundaries when it comes to social pressure to conform or to fit in. Then, when we run into an issue that is painful it seems like the best thing to do is to push it away and have nothing to do with it.
Avoidance is a strategy that can be very useful and it has its place. However, I believe that we need to have a different approach to human relations. We need to place a much higher value on our social relationships and treat them with the care, consideration and respect they deserve. So, when it comes to people and relationships, and having a sense of connection, which is, in itself, a higher human quality, I would suggest a more humane approach.
Some people counsel us to be more detached in our approach to life, to understand that feelings are fleeting and can soon change – that situations are temporary and not to do anything that could be a permanent solution. One common saying in that way of thinking is to “Let go and let God”. That can mean to let go of the need to control the situation and to allow matters to take their course. In other words, to get ourselves, our ego out of the way and allow the correct action to take place. It can be a very useful strategy for some issues, but does it work for all of them?
(To be continued)
Shirley Barr lives and works in Cornwall and is a member of the Bahá’í Community. Please contact through: firstname.lastname@example.org