Monday, July 07, 2008

Suffering and the Human Condition: Ending the Suffering

For me, suffering occurs when people are alienated from their selves and everything around them. Suffering people have inside of them, an empty hole that aches with pain. People react to this pain in different ways. Some people fall into such despair, that they kill themselves to end the pain. Others are perpetually busy darting about, in hopes of being distracted from the pain. Still others do things to smother the pain, such as taking excess drugs.

The loss of hope lives at the root of human pain. I had my season in hell where I reached that place of no hope. In fact, I just wanted to lie down and die. To me, the world was bleak and gray. After seeking professional help, I was diagnosed with acute depression. The doctors told me that my brain was not producing the right chemicals. Now, I take medications to help my brain. What I had experienced was the secret strength of depression.

From my experiences of reaching out and receiving help, I know that the world can be kind and loving. In my opinion, people asking for help need to be sustained with hope and love. For me, when I was the most vulnerable, I experienced the Spirit (Divine), which came to me. Now, I carry that small spark inside me, never wanting to extinguish it.

To have a good day, there are three things I do daily. First, I get out of bed. I demonstrate to myself that there is something to get up for. I just don’t what it is yet. Second, I make my bed, which tells me that I can make order out of chaos. Third, I make myself a cup of tea. This shows that I care enough about myself to feed myself. If I do nothing else, I will have demonstrated to myself that I am worthy of love and that I am loved.

For me, the solution to suffering is in the struggle for wholeness. Conflict is an inevitable part of life, since it shows people what is worth fighting for. In avoiding conflict, a person may sacrifice their integrity. Resolution, the end of conflict, is a joining together. In order to be complete, the person needs to resolve their conflicts. The disunion of conflict and the unity of the resolution break the self apart, and then reforms it into a healthy whole.

To understand this further, consider the predator/prey dynamic of animals. When you ponder the animals’ interactions, you realize that they are more than the sum of their parts. For example, Elephant Seal and Great White Shark move from a position of strength. They use their strength and intelligence in different ways. Great White Shark is an apex predator of the oceans, while Elephant Seal rules his icy territory with an iron flipper. The shark preys on the seal, who escapes death by moving onto the land. The two animals dance in a synergy to form a new wholeness. The shark is yin to the seal’s yang.

The predator/prey relationship represents the primal forces of procreation and death, which is filled with a dynamic tension. From the struggle of opposing forces, a new life emerges. The new life is whole and in balance.

Copyright: Virginia Carper, Animal Teachers, 2008
To learn how animals can help you, email me animalteachers @

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