I’d like to say that suffering has been on my mind lately, but I know better. Suffering is always on my mind, I’m Jewish. Inexorably drawn to it. As a pattern analyst, I sit with people as they connect with and make meaning of pain and suffering, while at the same time, trying to interrupt the repetition that will keep them suffering the same fate. I don’t deny their suffering or try to make it better, I cede to suffering its rightful place in the human condition.
I know from my studies that suffering is the beginning of spirituality (individuation). When we can no longer suffer what has held us imprisoned, that is when the possibility of a new attitude can come into being. In psychological language, when we depotentiate the complexes and come into creative contact with Psyche, then we can live more freely and wholly into our destiny. Suffering has a purpose and a goal.
That is all good and well and it serves us to know that our suffering has a meaning. But, I worry about too easily accepting the idea of suffering as a necessary part of human development as though once gone through, one can blithely move on. I am thinking of the 7 steps of grieving, or the 10 ways to lose your lover or the 50 steps to efficient individuation. We get impatient when people “suffer” too long or too much. They need to ‘let it go’ already.
Of course people can get stuck or refuse to move out of the place of pain for any number of reasons. And they have a right to stay where they are. I am talking more about the assumptions that once we go through suffering, it has served its purpose and needs to recede into the mists of the past. That misses the most important aspect of being transformed though suffering, while we are no longer the same person, what once caused us tremendous pain is now a vital and important component of who we are now, and it is not to be denied.
There is something profound about recognizing that our suffering needs to be carried consciously as a precious part of ourselves. Etymologically, ‘suffer’ is defined as ‘to carry something under.” Whether we carry the pain, memory or trauma under our hearts or our skin it is crucial that those experiences be carried neither as a burden or a trophy, but with dignity, consciousness and grace. It is suffering which has lined and etched our faces, molded our hearts and made us recognizable as human beings. Let us carry it well.