Manual Pain and Memory: Reflections on the Strength of the Human Spirit in Suffering

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Contents

  1. Care of the Dying: A Catholic Perspective
  2. Grief Quotes
  3. Pain and Memory: Reflections on the Strength of the Human Spirit in Suffering
  4. Introduction

Those who heal from extreme suffering have to work incredibly hard to overcome barriers that prevent them from having full access to the innate healing resources within. Survivors of abuse are often consumed with self-loathing. They may fear allowing themselves to experience positive emotions because these can lower defensive armor and cause them to become flooded with trauma memories. All people are born with intrinsic healing capacities; in cases of extreme abuse the perpetrator not only inflicts suffering but tries to destroy these organic resources for healing. For me, it is essential to affirm that all children are born good, full of blessings and potentials, innate compassionate capacities, brimming with light and love as well as the potential for aggression and cruelty.

We learn life lessons best when they are taught with love, with patience, and with a profound, unconditional belief that children and all human beings everywhere are meant to thrive, to have joy, to heal, to be comforted in grief, to gain strength and courage, and to overcome adversity. For me, it is essential to assure them that adversity is not being sent to them to refine them like they are metal in a fire but because that is simply part of being human.

Karmic destiny is fulfilled in spite of evil, not because of it. Finally, I had a client who was very attached to her suffering as a way of achieving enlightenment in the next life. This was, for her, a powerful and helpful shift for her depression.

God and Suffering - The Problem of Pain

This premise is absolutely NOT true. Suffering often kills, if not physically, then mentally, spiritually, and morally.


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All too often, suffering breaks people. I repeat: When people do emerge from hell and heal and are even, some of them, especially strong at the broken places, it is my experience, my belief, that it is because of the love, the comfort, the attuned connection, the listeners, the helpers, their own inner wisdom and healing abilities, their courageous hard work and determined, tenacious struggling to heal, NOT the atrocity that made them strong.

The good at work in their lives: the care of others, the courage and the hard choices they make every day to live and to heal, those deserve the credit for their healing, NOT the perpetrators. There are versions of redefining the goodness of God in every spirituality by making God exempt from morality, outside of ethical standards.

It is common in many religions to invoke an angry, vengeful even violent deity at times and tell sacred stories of the deity behaving in immoral and destructive ways toward humankind in order to either execute punishment or bring about some greater good. The message is that fear is part of faith and they teach followers ways to appease the wrath of God. This includes teaching that people should pray, perform rituals, make offerings, or otherwise cajole the deity into mercy.

This is chilling in its similarity to the way abused children respond to those who hurt them, especially when they are being abused by people they are attached to, dependent upon, or love.

Care of the Dying: A Catholic Perspective

It reinforces the distorted but common perspective that victims bear responsibility for abuse by insisting that the abuse could have been averted if only they would have prayed the correct prayer or performed some other placating action. When victims are able to connect to their anger at the abuser, to shift from appeasement to protest, there is healing. I am an avid student of the novels of holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel; they provide a powerful description of this journey.

In his first novel Night, Wiesel describes in excruciating detail his experiences as a child in a concentration camp. There is no hope, no comfort, no meaning-making. In the book Dawn, the character decides whether he will kill, take revenge. In The Accident, the character wrestles with the pull to commit suicide. In Gates of the Forest living becomes a protest against an all powerful and morally corrupt God. There is a scene at the end of that book that I must have read times. Holocaust survivors are ecstatically dancing, angry, defiant, pronouncing God as less moral than they are and that God is the one in need of forgiveness.

In that moment of rage however, they are deciding to live if for no other reason than to protest against God. I will never forget the moment when I saw a newspaper photo of Elie Wiesel throwing out the first baseball in the world series. It is especially meaningful because he is not a baseball fan and initially declined the invitation; he agreed to throw the ball because when his son heard about it he was so excited that Wiesel agreed.

I have a copy of the photo tucked away in our fire proof safe with our important papers. It sounds ridiculous, silly, but this little newspaper clipping showing a look on his face that is boyish and playful, connected to the happiness of his son, is sacred to me. If this premise is true, then God is sadistic. What exactly should infliction of suffering measure? Profound suffering as differentiated from growing pains is not instructive but is destructive. Again, what transforms all suffering is love, care, support, compassion, comfort, and for me, THAT is where the Holy is found, as a Source for healing, comfort, and transformation and10 not as the source of the torment.

Torture is toxic and cruelty is catastrophic.

Grief Quotes

Sadistic hunger for the pain of others and the need for control over their minds, spirits, and bodies is an atrocity. All of these are evil. These convictions arise from her image of God, her image of self, and her understanding of authentic discipleship. Furthermore, France still reeled from its loss in the Franco-Prussian war. Consequently, God appeared more as a just Judge who was punishing France for its sins. The spiritual climate called for reparation, mortifications, prayers offered in atonement. Therese, of course, was also influenced by this climate.

Yet the God of Judgement did not obscure what she learned from the Scriptures and from her own religious experience: God is above all a God of merciful love who has come to us unsurpassably in Jesus Christ. In Manuscript A of the Story of a Soul, Therese makes it clear that as a child she experienced God as love: 'God was pleased all through my life to surround me with love, and the first memories I have are stamped with smiles and the most tender caresses.

But although He placed so much love near me, He also sent much love into my little heart, making it warm and affectionate.

Pain and Memory: Reflections on the Strength of the Human Spirit in Suffering

I was thinking about the souls who offer themselves as victims of God's Justice in order to turn away the punishments reserved to sinners, drawing them upon themselves. This offering seemed great and very generous to me, but I was far from feeling attracted to making it. From the depths of my heart, I cried out: '0 my God! Will your Justice alone find souls willing to immolate themselves as victims? Does Your Merciful Love need them too?

Introduction

How I want to apply myself to doing the will of God always with the greatest self-surrender! She frequently refers to weakness, being little, imperfect, limited. Yet a second level of consideration would reveal that Therese had strong character: she trusted her own experience in relationship to the Scriptures 'Jesus will be my director' ; she spoke the truth as she understood it, whether popular or not; she handled suffering without carping and with a sense of ultimate purpose.

What she did encounter in her own culture was the preoccupation with perfection, merit, degrees of sanctity. The situation of the child enables her to accept weakness and limitation and to trust in God's love and mercy. God as father is a warm and inviting image for her. While perhaps not the ipsissima verba of Therese, the sense of 'spiritual childhood' is recorded in the Last Conversations:. It is to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father; it is to be disquieted about nothing, and not to be set on gaming our living.

To be little is not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices. It is not to become discouraged over one's faults, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much. Therese is providing an alternative view of relationship to God: not a formal, stiff, perfectionist, scrupulous, fearful model, but a relaxed, loving, open and meaningful one. Her popularity among Catholics, particularly from the s through the s, perhaps stems most of all from her picture of a merciful God and her ability to articulate relationship to God in clear, simple language.

Because she put little stock in an act-centered approach to sanctity it was too self-focused , she was able to centre upon the heart of the gospellove. What Therese reveals is the paradoxical character of Christian discipleship. While God seeks covenant fidelity, people are weak and sinful. Therese therefore sees the ground for hope in God's mercy. Furthermore, Once the virtue of hope finds a place in one's heart, there is every reason to get on with the mission of Christ: to love unto folly.

Conrad De Meester, O.


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  7. Therese's spirit of discipleship:. Love demands a fidelity that is centered round the countless mundane 'little' things of each day, things that are within everyone's power. We see that Therese is not advocating an easy solution. Heroism is not eliminated, rather it is brought within reach of the poor [person].

    The torrent of love is channeled into ordinary everyday life. Certainly mindfulness and other contemplative methods for engaging with and transforming suffering are not quick fixes or panaceas. Even after cultivating the self-care and self-regulation skills needed to engage directly with trauma or other forms of extreme suffering, engaging with and transforming suffering can be a long process.

    Also, we are all creatures of habit, and old habits can be hard to break, especially if they have seemed to ensure our physical or psychological survival. Our seeking circuitry is always active. Its functioning is something we can bring into awareness and contemplate. What should I seek as my highest priorities? What do I want to seek in this relationship? In this moment? In this moment with its conflicting motivations, in which very different parts of me are wanting to respond in very different ways?