There is a terrible hunger for love.
We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness.
We must have the courage to recognize it.
The poor you may have right in your own family.
Love them. ~Mother Teresa
Sometimes it seems that all the positive psychology out there tends to neglect one very basic thing: We all suffer. If we are human, we will suffer, and to deny that is denying a very important part of our existence.
Sure, we don’t want to suffer, but alas, we do, and sometimes there’s nothing we can do to avoid it: things happen that are beyond our control, and we hurt because of them. If we take the positive psychology movement at its initial face value, it negates something very vital. Something that’s very much a part of the human experience, and we cannot live a rich, full life without acknowledging it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to cultivate a positive attitude, but not to the point where we become desensitized. The relentless pursuit of happiness, the focus on it to the exclusion of pain and suffering, is very limiting. It may initially feel safe, but the insulation required trying maintain this state in the face of all things becomes suffocating, both for ourselves and the world around us.
When we judge our own pain or that of others as not valuable or negative, we deny part of our humanness. And in doing so we live in a fragmented state, disconnected from ourselves and from others.
Suffering is a common thread that is shared by all of human existence. And being in touch with our own suffering helps us cultivate compassion, for ourselves and for others. Yet we try so hard to disconnect to that which makes our existence wholer and more meaningful. Where is the compassion for ourselves, and for our neighbors? Do we really, as the human race, want to continue to disconnect from something that unites us all?
Listen to how the news is conveyed. Machinegun style, bulleted facts about death, accidents, horrific and disturbing events. Behind those news items, real people are hurting. Families have lost loved ones. Our very human brothers and sisters are suffering. Where is the emotion? Where is the compassion?
The content of the news is negative, we all know that. But the very way the news is communicated sends a dangerous, inhuman message for society to internalize: Do not connect with suffering, do not connect with compassion. Disconnect from your emotions if they are not positive, and disconnect from others, too.
If Mother Teresa delivered the same news stories, or Jesus, the Dalai Lama or Buddha, would they be able to convey them in the same manner? How different would they sound, and what effect would that have on those of us who watch and listen?
I think we’d be moved.