Experiences of personal suffering, or encounters with the pain of others, offer spiritual opportunities that have the potential to put us in touch with the sacred dimension of experience from which callings emerge
The road to emotional and spiritual growth is difficult
Because of our egocentrism, all of us are inclined to resist the process of growth.
The call to authentic personhood involves a commitment to continual growth and change, which requires a willingness to undergo the emotional and spiritual pain and discomfort that are a necessary and inevitable part of the process of coming to know ourselves.
Self-protective, defensive efforts to avoid the pain of self- knowledge almost always end up bringing us other kinds of trouble. “Neurosis,” says Jung, “is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” The neurotic misery of an inauthentic existence, it seems, is the price we pay for refusing to embrace the pain and risk of living an authentic life.
Mature love requires that we find the energy and will to make the moral effort to extend ourselves on behalf of others—even when we don’t feel like it.
We get sick in one way or another when we are living in a way that is out-of-synch with who we really are. At such times, the painful physical or emotional symptoms we experience can be interpreted as a wake-up call, as a kind of cry for help from our soul.
From this perspective, the soul might speak through a feeling of nagging anxiety, a knot in the stomach, a stubborn depression we can’t seem to shake, boredom or burnout in our work, or a persistent inner sense of spiritual restlessness or emptiness in spite of apparent contentment on the surface of our life.
According to Abraham Maslow, when our deeper spiritual needs are ignored or neglected, we get sick.
Our first inclination may be to try to fix or cure the annoying or uncomfortable symptom, to rid ourselves of the thing that is disrupting the status quo of our life…From the perspective of the soul, however, this may be exactly the wrong approach, because it signals that we are unable or unwilling to hear what our soul may be trying to tell us through the symptom. ==If it is a cry for help from our soul, then the right thing to do is to pay attention. Instead of ignoring our own pain, we need to begin by compassionately listening to it, by allowing it to have a voice.==
“We should not try to ‘get rid’ of a neurosis,” said Jung, “but rather to experience what it means, what it has to teach, what its purpose is. We should even learn to be thankful for it, otherwise we pass it by and miss the opportunity of getting to know ourselves as we really are.” In Jung’s view, the neurotic symptom itself offers an opportunity or invitation to learn something about ourselves; it is a potential blessing in disguise.
“The unconscious,” says Sanford, “knows what we do not know and what we must learn about ourselves and life in order to become well.”
Appreciating the meanings and getting the messages of our symptoms can teach us what our soul needs, what it may be craving or longing for. Is there something missing in our life, some need that we are neglecting? Is there some unfinished emotional or spiritual business that requires taking care of? Is there something we must do, some action we are called to take, that can help us to recover our emotional or spiritual health?
Example: Or perhaps a woman’s neurotic guilt and fear have always held her back by inhibiting her inclinations toward personal authenticity and individuation, with the result that she ends up feeling emotionally constricted and spiritually trapped by the circumstances she has chosen for herself. Her mounting desperation may signal the stirrings of a calling to overcome her fears by taking steps to liberate herself from her self-imposed bondage
Damn this hit me hard
If we are willing to learn, symptoms can teach us humility.
The spatial metaphor for where we are located emotionally or spiritually when we are sick or suffering is down. Spiritually, we find ourselves in the “valley of the shadow of death” or in the “belly of the whale.” Emotionally, we are brought low by depression or disappointment or emotional trouble. We are reminded of our weakness, our vulnerability, our lack of control—including control over emotional states that cannot be overcome by the power of our own will
Symptoms humiliate; they relativize the ego. They bring it down. Cure of symptoms may but restore the ego to its former ruling position. The humiliation of symptoms is one of the ways we grow humble—the traditional mark of the soul
Such humbling and even humiliating experiences serve as a reality check for our ego. They remind us that we are not God, and they put us in touch with our need for a power greater than ourselves to heal and save us from whatever is ailing us.
One factor that determines whether suffering will have a redemptive outcome is our attitude toward it.
The “right” attitude enables us to discern meaning in our sufferings. Meaning is what makes it possible for us to make spiritual sense of what otherwise seems senseless, to bear what would otherwise be unbearable.
When we are contending with painful life problems, finding the blessing has to do with discovering the hidden spiritual meaning or message contained in the problem, the “blessing in disguise.”
one thing suffering seems to do quite effectively is to remind us of our need for God, for “access” or connection to a higher power that can save or deliver us from misfortune or danger.
Access to the beloved makes possible a redemptive experience of shared suffering, a compassionate experience of “suffering with” in place of the crushing experience of suffering alone.
Authentic Christian spirituality is not about suffering for its own sake. It is about the redemptive breakthrough of love and compassion through suffering, or in the midst of it, or in spite of it.
In a mysterious way, the crucified Jesus not only provides us with a concrete image of God’s love and compassion for suffering humanity but also evokes compassion in us for the God who suffers.
The image of Jesus can also serve as a point of compassionate connection with suffering humanity, with the God who is suffering right now in suffering persons and in the “crucified peoples” of the world.