Independence: Possible if There is Suffereing in the World?

Woman jumping in fieldOn the 4th of July we celebrate our declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776. As independent as we are in relation to many countries in the world, are we really independent? We could seek answers to this question through many lenses. Today we will choose one.

In my mind and heart, we are not independent as long as we suffer needlessly and as long as we cause needless suffering to others. Now there is some suffering that is simply part of life. And others where it’s a delicate balance. If lightning strikes someone’s home, simply as a result of natural causes and no negligence on anyone’s part, causing damage to the home and maybe someone in the home, that suffering might be very painful, while at the same time it was from a completely random act of nature. On the other hand, if there is a flood, which causes untold suffering to thousands and thousands of people, and the flood isn’t simply an act of nature, but rather the result of negligence on the part of people and groups whose job it was to keep dams and levees in good, safe, working order then that is needless suffering. I know even with my explanation this is still very delicate.

How do we know if we suffer needlessly? If you were wounded as a child – let’s say through abuse or neglect, or even lack of awareness by the one who wounded you – and repair was never made, and you haven’t consciously, purposefully, safely worked through the wounding and its impact, you are suffering needlessly. And in addition, you are likely wounding others by not working through your own experiences, thus causing them needless suffering.

There are many who would use or have used (or misused) science to try to prove this, meaning to try to prove their own prejudices. What about the Milgram experiment at Yale, in which people (all adults) were urged by “an authority” to inflict pain and suffering on someone (even though the person on the other side was an actor and wasn’t really receiving the shock)? As the result of their own unhealed wounding, the unwitting subjects of this experiment were capable of following orders that caused what they believed wholeheartedly to be blatantly needless suffering on total strangers. Perhaps they were afraid of suffering needlessly at the hands of the “authority.” Or perhaps they were afraid of feeling the suffering from long ago that disobeying authority would trigger inside them.

Claiming that some don’t feel pain and suffering has gone on before and continues to go on in our world today, in blatant ways and in subtle ways. Anyone who believes others can’t feel pain and suffering is in denial. Anyone who tries to teach people that living beings don’t feel suffering is dangerous.

What will you do to heal the needless suffering within yourself, the needless suffering you may cause to others, and by so doing, the needless suffering all over the world?

© Copyright 2011 by Judith Barr, MS, LMHC, therapist in Brookfield, Connecticut. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Marie

    Marie

    July 5th, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    This only comes with knowing yourself and knowing the many ways that we influence others. We may not think that the things that we say or do haven any kind of impact on other people but this article certainly proves otherwise.

  • Angelina

    Angelina

    July 6th, 2011 at 4:48 AM

    Working through the past is one of the best ways that we as adults can all break free from the ties that bind us and move on to become a better person. If you had bad things happen to you as a child, you cannot allow yourself to remain hampered by that, otherwise you are never going to be able to reach your fullest potential. The past does not have to define you. It is done and over and you have to break free from that to move forward. Wipe the slate clean and begin anew, fully independent from who you always thought that you were, and begin the journey toward who you would like to become.

  • helen k

    helen k

    July 6th, 2011 at 7:07 AM

    a great read,Judith.I never thought about these things to be honest.while reading the article,I was thinking about the things mentioned and yes,the world is full of unnecessary suffering.I also agree with you saying a person who is unnecessarily suffering can subject others to the same.and I would like to tell why it is so-it’s simply because unnecessary suffering has become a way of life in this world,it has become a everybody-has-it-so-it’s-normal kind of a thing.

  • Judith Barr

    Judith Barr

    July 16th, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    I’m so glad you found Independence? Not As Long As . . . meaningful, and wrote to me about it.

    Yes, unnecessary suffering has become normalized in our world. That’s part of people’s defense against the feelings and experiences at the root of the suffering. And yes, the things we say and do impacts people profoundly. But so also – whether we’re aware of it or not – do the things we think and feel impact people profoundly.

    To clarify . . . from years of experience I have witnessed again and again that we cannot simply cut ourselves off from what happened to us long, long ago. If we try to just bury the past or sever the past, we will end up being haunted by our past and all that came with it – haunted more unconsciously than we were before. The solution is to work with and through whatever in our past wounded us – most especially to find safe and healing ways to go through the buried feelings. This will help us resolve our own unnecessary suffering, help us prevent causing unnecessary suffering – or take responsibility and make repair when we do, and help us have true compassion for unnecessary suffering when we come into contact with it.

    Many blessings,
    Judith

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