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Suffering vs. Mental Pain

Jan 26, 2022

Dear Souls and Hearts Community Members,

Last week in our weekly email we discussed how we avoid silence.  Today, we are getting into how we avoid suffering. But what is suffering?  And how is it different from pain, especially mental pain?

I take on those questions in a 41-minute premium podcast episode for the Catholic members of our Interior Therapist Community – and as I was planning that episode, I really wanted to include all of you in the broader Souls and Hearts community as well.  There’s also an experiential exercise to help you get in touch with how you handle suffering within you.  

Avoiding Suffering

Because of the effects of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we suffer from concupiscence, and therefore we naturally avoid suffering.  We confuse and conflate hurt and harm – believing if something hurts us, it must be damaging us.  So we naturally avoid and distance ourselves from pain to reduce our suffering.  


But we have a great gift in Christianity – it’s the religion that most directly addresses the problem of suffering.  Judaism does as well, and Buddhism argues that suffering is a result of inordinate attachments, but only in Christianity do you find the that main symbol, the cross, bring suffering to the center stage.  And in Catholicism, have , with an image of the body of Jesus on it, instead of the cross being bare in other denominations.  

The Meaning of Suffering

As I discuss in the premium podcast, suffering is all about meaning, about how we frame our pain, how we contextualize it.  Catholicism brings meaning to our suffering in a way no other religion or denomination does.  The major challenge is whether we will lean in to and embrace our crosses or whether we will try to flee.  Will we go with our inclinations to avoid being hurt hurt (and therefore harmed, in our minds) or will we embrace our crosses? One recommended book on suffering is by Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering 

My Avoiding Suffering

Remember how last week I told you that I was so into solving chess puzzles on the internet to avoid silence?  Well, it just turns out that chess puzzles on the internet are my preferred way to try to avoid suffering as well.  I realized that parts of me love chess puzzles because no matter how dire the situation on the board is, there’s always a way out!  If I am clever enough, resourceful enough, persistent enough, I can win!  That illusion, that there is always a solution, that winning is a guaranteed prize for the smart and the tenacious, is really appealing to my parts who want to avoid the grief of losing my father to death.

Update on Dad

I am amazed at the power of prayer.  Thank you all so much for your prayers for my father.  He has come back from the brink of death, and I am convinced it was because of all the prayers for him.  We still can’t visit him (COVID policy at his hospital), but he is much, much better, and that is so important, because both his hospitals were unable (or unwilling) to allow a priest to see him, hear his confession, and administer the Last Rites, as he had asked.  Now he has a second chance.  He may be discharged to a nursing home later this week.  Thank your for your prayers for me, I know they helped.  (I did many fewer chess puzzles this week and had much better prayer and silence myself).

See you next week!  In our Lord and our Lady,

Dr. Peter.

P.S. If you are so moved, feel free to forward this email to someone you think might benefit.

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