Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by recoveringenabler, Jan 21, 2015.
True, that. But I wonder.......... I know too much of anything is not a balanced thing. Of anything. Still, I speculate that there is some degree of growth that may be had through MOMENTS of suffering. MOMENTS.........not a LIFETIME. Speculating, speculating.... Walking down a hallway, considering some of the doors on this one.
Does suffering have merit? Contrarily, is it arguing with reality to think that one can fully avoid suffering?
Just speculating....playing with it.
Now, that being said.......... I assure you I have ZERO plan to spend most of my moments in suffering! Life's too sacred!
This is the stuff of major philosophy and all world religions.
"Does suffering have merit? Contrarily, is it arguing with reality to think that one can fully avoid suffering?"
I was raised old fashioned Catholic. They believed in suffering. I hated it.
I discovered Epicurus and Ayn Rand, who believed in happiness (as does Rita Mae Brown and others) but who gave a black eye to hedonism.
No, of course we can't avoid suffering. But to believe that we have earned it and that it is our lot as a species is wrong. Humans are so much more than that. We have so much potential. And we are so lucky to be Americans (some people are born into devastation and never get a chance. I think of starving refugees and stick-thin babies who never live more than a month or two). There is a line in "The Sound of Music," where Maria falls in love and sings, "I must have done something right," --the quintessential Catholic philosophy of earning good and evil, by which I was raised.
Makes me sad and ticks me off at the same time.
I'll get off my soapbox now.
TerryJ2 -- Great post! Yes, it is the stuff of all major religious and/or philosophical debate (part of the reason I love it).
Absolutely agree with you that we (who are born into safety, security, leisure, and access to education, etc) are among the luckiest of the lucky.
I was not raised Catholic (nor have I ever been), so I appreciate hearing your viewpoint growing up and now. Well spoken, indeed. I guess I don't think of "suffering" in that manner. I'm not a fan of "original sin", per se. I can see where others could or would, though, depending upon their backgrounds and choices. I was thinking of "suffering" as a neutral thing (strange as that may sound....because it certainly doesn't feel neutral in its maelstrom). I also don't think of it as an "earned" thing (good or bad). I think of it as a struggle with self to grow. Might sound trite, but, perhaps like a hatchling breaking out of its egg. A struggle against odds, perhaps. But, primarily, a struggle with self. Maybe there's a place for that......maybe not. But I do love the question! (like you, I have an interest in philosophy).
I'm not a fan of Ayn Rand, per se, but I was quite enamored with her work "Anthem". Individuality and the secret word....... "I".
Thanks for your eloquent and insightful words! You're right.......we, as a species, have so much potential (individually and collectively)!
Interesting thoughts.......the quote, "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" is more or less my view. There is going to be pain, we can't avoid that, but I think suffering is what happens in our thoughts after the painful part is over. We ruminate, feel guilty, go over and over the thing, so that moment in our life when the pain hit, well, it hit, and then we go through the sadness or the anger, or whatever for a little while and then we could choose to let it go.
I was just talking to husband a little while ago about a book I read about PTSD and how this guy has a whole theory and therapy he put together based on what he saw in animals. He said ( and I am so paraphrasing) that let's say a deer is attacked by a tiger......the tiger has it in his jaws, and then miraculously the deer escapes. The deer has just been in fight or flight, his adrenals are wildly pumping........he runs in to the meadow and shakes it off. And then continues his life. We on the other hand, get into the jaws of life and once we are released, we now have all these fear thoughts about avoiding that same fate, controlling our lives so it never happens again, talking about it, reliving it, ruminating about it.........we think it back in to existence over and over again. It's not the event now, it's our thoughts about the event.
I am not making any kind of right or wrong statement here, I am simply relating how I perceive it. I have been practicing staying in the present and not slipping in to the past to ruminate about my circumstances or jumping in to the future to try to control anything. The difference it has made in my life is pretty remarkable. I can look at how I, me, not anyone but me, has dragged my being in the jaws of life around for a long time........suffering. The pain left long ago, but the suffering, well, that became my story. The story I told myself and believed in and talked about and thought that was who I was. Well, I don't believe that anymore. It's all done. It's in the past. I can't change any of that. I can't leap in to the future in a single bound and figure it out and make it perfect so I am not hurt or in pain. All I can do is live right here. For me, suffering then became optional. I can get over pain. Suffering seems to be a sentence you have to live through until it's over. But often, its a life sentence. Todays suffering ends and tomorrow brings a whole new thing to suffer over. I see that now as a mindset. Just because most people do it doesn't mean it's right. I've had enough of suffering, I wanted OUT.
I just decided I was not going to suffer anymore. Does it have meaning? I believe it does. Buddha said when we figure out what the meaning is, it ceases to be suffering. For me, it's a lessen. Once I learn the lesson, I move on. Suffering usually means, (for me) that I am holding on, that there is something I can't let go of. Once I let go, the suffering ends. And, that statement, suffering is arguing with reality makes so much sense to me.
I was listening to a CD about this the other day. And, the guy said, 'when you don't like your reality, you say, I don't like this job, this day, the weather, my life, whatever'........so he said, 'you are superior to the moment, you are above what is happening to you.' I laughed out loud. He said, say "YES" to the moment. You're in it, you may as well say yes instead of no, saying no makes you suffer. I have been practicing this like when you are stuck in traffic. You can certainly bum out. You are stuck, there is no where to go. What can you do. Well, I can listen to music, I can practice being present, I can day dream, I can find a way to enjoy it. So that is my new practice, I do it all the time now. It seems we are hard wired to think ourselves in and out of suffering, it's a state of mind. I have to practice this a lot, it ain't easy, the mind is a powerful master and can drag you right back in the center of the suffering. But, I can say "nah, I think I'd rather go have some fun, move out of my way." And it works! When I have those creepy thoughts, I now notice them before I get dragged in to some movie I don't want to be in. I notice the thoughts, which is the most important part, to observe yourself about to sink into quicksand about something you can't control or happened to you 18 years ago, or something someone said which hurt you, or you dented the car, blah blah.......or yadda yadda......sure I can take that thought to infinity and look at every facet of it forever..........but really, why? Its done. So, I notice the thought and I say, 'wow, I can go there, or I can decline the invite and go to another party. Yeah, that's what I'm going to do.' HLM, I think you do that naturally, that seems to be how your mind works. It happened. It's over.What am I grateful for? That's how I am training myself to respond. It works.
I believe we have more power over how we perceive things and how we feel about them. The thought creates the emotion and then the emotion takes over and we are now in a full swing state of misery. We could just as easily think another thought and go in an entirely different direction. When I was studying more philosophical questions, I recall reading over and over again that first you clean up your language, you stop judging, comparing, all of that stuff...........but then........clean up your thoughts..........holy moly, think about how many thoughts run through your head a day!!!! And thoughts are what drag you around and around, all that mental chatter judging yourself, beating yourself up, making claims about what is right and what is wrong, incessantly.........it's exhausting. Meditating and staying away from the past and the future makes a lot of sense to me. Just staying in the present moment, I'm just fine here. And a bi product? A lot less fear.
My husband has this matter-of-fact way of saying, when I am spinning out of control about something, "It is what it is."
My first reaction was, "Well, DUH, Captain Obvious!" But I think there are a few deep truths buried in there. It reminds me to accept the situation for what it is and start dealing with it, instead of wishing it otherwise. It also reminds me that it is what it IS, not what it WAS, nor what it WILL BE FOREVER. And it reminds me to think about what it is, factually speaking, not what I am projecting and imagining it to be.
He probably just said it to stop me from spinning out of orbit like I sometimes do. HA! But it helps.
RE ---- Love this! True, true, true! Nature says, "Move on". Only our obtuse human mind insists on staying stuck in neutral..... "out of time" (the present). We so often tend to either relieve the past even ad nauseum or conjure up all sorts of worry about the future. I've done both. And, like you, do not care for it one bit!
RE --- Thank you for sharing your "story" of your "story". I understand. It can be quite a process of awakening and reawakening.
Agreed! I so enjoy your thought- and heart-process!
Albatross ---- LOLOL! "Captain Obvious"! I love your humor! Yeah, I've done my share of "spinning out" over the years, too. Much less so these days. On occasion, yes. However, I've concluded that when I "spin out" these days, it's usually because I didn't stick to my own boundaries. Or didn't heed my own warning sirens that I was getting too close to not sticking to my boundaries.
PS ---- Check this out........Here's how the dictionary defines "Suffering". Note that we all brought our own interpretations of "suffering" (which is to be expected). But look how conversation can be misinterpreted based on each others' cultures, backgrounds, perceptions and choices. My interpretation was not at all focused on culture (religious) or perception (chronology -- past/present/future). I think it's fascinating what perceptions and experiences we all bring to the table. I ALWAYS learn something new here and am ever appreciative of that! New doors in the hallway! Maybe the more appropriate distinction here is between "suffering" and "unnecessary suffering". I'm all about ditching the latter!
the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.
"weapons that cause unnecessary suffering"
"To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering." - Nietzsche.
RE, you explained this all so beautifully. Thank you. I too have learned to just be in the moment. There is a lot of peace in that.
I like that a lot.
I just noticed on another thread that Midwest Mom and husband have the same motto...it is what it is! And that is perfect! MWM, you know you are my hero for a number of reasons. Now you are my hero for that one too!
Yes! That's closer to what I was originally thinking and far more eloquent (hey, it's Nietzsche). I'm also a big fan of "Man's Search For Meaning" (Victor Frankl). Also, thinking perhaps a more accurate word for my thought would be "struggle" not "suffer".
RE, Crazy in VA, Albatross --- Thanks so much for the thought-provoking chat! Like I said, I always learn something new in this forum! And, yep, MWM always insightful ideas and posts!
Goodnight, all! Pleasant dreams!
I do believe in suffering as a necessary experience to have a full human life. I also believe in original sin, but more in the sense of who we people, related to human nature, are than as a reason for our suffering. I certainly do not believe that our suffering would be earned by bad deeds or our happiness or fortune being earned by being good. For those I blame pure, blind luck. I mean, I'm very fortunate person in many ways and I certainly know my good fortune is not earned so I assume neither is others'.
While it is impossible to understand why some people are given a life time of torture and suffering, and there are lots of people, who have very little anything good in their lives ever, and some, like me, get so darn lucky, I still don't believe it would be a good thing for human beings to avoid all suffering and grief. Not anymore than avoid happiness and joy. Not experiencing those feelings and situations would rob us from experiencing full humanity and life. And that would be a shame.
As far as background goes, I'm socially liberal, theologically old fashioned (all those solas and man being small and God being great, absolute no to any kind of faith decisions etc. made by men) Lutheran.
RE, I am on the same page as you as how you are choosing to deal with your life. I'm also Buddhist leaning when it comes to wisdom and advice and I agree that suffering is optional, at least for long periods of time. Suffering is a behavior and neither the rich, gifted, the average person or poor are immune from it nor definitely going to suffer.
Suz, I grew up in a very well off neighborhood. Some had it all, as far as looks, money, family, you name it. Yet the man who lived across the street from our house hung himself one day, shocking everyone. Why? Who knows? He had his own business and was very well liked in the community. So suffering is a state of mind, not something you HAVE to endure. At least, I don't feel it is. I am not discounting your point of view, which was valid and a good one. On another point, I am a social liberal too and in the U.S. that makes me a "commie" to some No, I'm not exaggerating!!!!! I have often thought I must have been a European in another life because American conservatism is just not me at all. Back to the topic...
I personally am choosing to use the skills I have to allow sadness for a reasonable amount of time, but then to give myself a time limit for this suffering and to move on. I have done it over and over again in my life and could have made my life far more fruitful if I had realized I couldn't control what happened to upset me and to choose to move on either with help or with my own coping skills.
RE, these days, I don't "suffer." Well, I START to suffer...lol...then say "STOP!" out loud and use distraction, which is an awesome coping mechanism to get my mind off of what I'm suffering over. By the time I've watched the great movie or read the wonderful book or exercised for an hour, my mindset is ALWAYS better. I have the kind of persoanlity that can get into quite a funk if I allow it. But only I can allow it. And only I can do what helps to get out of it.
I have seen that saying before and I liked it. Thanks for the reminder. People like me need a "tune up" every so often and these words of wisdom are so helpful for those of us prone to brooding.
To the point that is true (in fact people in many African countries report they are happier than people in many developed countries), but there is also the breaking point after which that is not true. When you are constantly in huge physical pain due for example illness, when you are literally starving, when you are tortured, when you live in constant fear (for example because of living in war zone or under terror), no, it is not about the state of mind any more. And unfortunately many people around the world have to live in those conditions.
Wealth doesn't have so much to do with happiness, not after certain point (after you have enough food and safety) at least and extremely wealthy can of course suffer greatly.
Most people, luckily, do get their share of happiness and suffering and only so little suffering that they find ways to deal with it. I'm one of those lucky ones to whom that is true, but I would find it rather pretentious to tell someone, who has had much worse luck in one way or another, that suffering is his or her own choosing and state of mind. That those ten years of daily torture and killing of your whole family you endured in that political prison camp, was not a reason to suffer. Or being forced a child prostitute or soldier. Or being a slave. or even just having a health condition that causes constant high grade pain and for example makes it almost impossible to even sleep and not being able to sleep more than hour at the time because of the pain for months. But I doubt, MWM, that you actually meant it like that.
Suz, yes, you are right. Of course, if somebody is subjected to political torture or has a disease that causes chronic pain etc. they will suffer. Or chronic mental illness too. Sadly so.
You are right that I was talking more about the ins and outs of daily life.
I thought you were. And I was coming more from the whole spectrum of fates people can have, angle. Partly because I was just yesterday watching this document about rehabilitation of tortured people in my country (apparently shockingly high percentage of, especially male, refugees we take in, have been victims of torture before coming here) and also effects it does have for also every day life also in future and after getting safe. And because today I talked with a friend, who has suffered very treatment resistant rheumatic disease over a decade now. She is again getting better after one more pneumonia (which her biologic drugs cause and because of which the drugs have to be taken break from, which causes her high grade pain, makes her disabled and makes it almost impossible to sleep.) And well, it sucks to be her. And I'm darn lucky one in so many ways.
HLM, I am also a fan of Victor Frankl. I read Man's Search for meaning when I was quite young, in my early twenties, and it had a lasting impression on me. The fact that he was in a concentration camp and lost his entire family and chose to respond very differently, was at that time in my life, a revelation. I think that book set the stage for me to begin to look at life in a different way, in particular about how we suffer. It had never occurred to me that we had a choice in it.
Here are a couple of quotes of his that really define it for me:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance."
"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom" (I just love this one!)
“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
I have that kind of personality too MWM, my mind can be like a steel trap when it comes to thinking and feeling. It's taken me most of my life to learn that "I don't have to believe everything I think!" Once I began to realize that I had a choice, I began to figure out that if I could 'think' my way IN to a funk, I could 'think' my way OUT too.
I also lean in the direction of Buddhism because to me, it makes the most sense. Compassion, kindness, non judgement, personal responsibility for our actions, it represents how I feel in my heart.
This conversation has been intriguing, thank you for your insights, I always come away, like HLM mentioned, with a new slant, some cool tidbit to think about.....keeping an open mind to all of our views..........just wonderful.
Suzir, on a little tangent ... I can always spot the black American taxi drivers in D.C and the foreign black taxi drivers. The foreign-born are smiling.
This is based on race only because it's a quick, easy thing to do.
Also, if I were to include women, it would change my observations.
Anyway, yes, many poor cultures don't teach the gimme want-it-now attitude that we have. We have to teach ourselves, as was pointed out in a traffic jam, for example. Listen to music. Breathe.
I edited a book once for a guy from Zimbabwe. He hates Mugabe, as do most people, and he is the only family member to have made it out of the country.
He loves it here. But it's more than that. Deep down, way more.
I love all of this and I am working to live by it now. Thanks RE.
Hmm ... just came across this online: "... the word 'happy' was derived from the term luck or chance."
Separate names with a comma.