Suffering and Spirituality


1. Ordinary suffering corresponds to neurotic conflict between impulse and prohibition within a stable self-structure and whole-object relations, as well as to ordinary human unhappiness, which Freud once said was the exchange for resolution of neurotic suffering.

2. Suffering caused by change corresponds to the borderline conditions and the functional psychoses where disturbance in the sense of self continuity, fluctuating drives and affects, contradictory and dissociated ego stages, lack of a stable self-structure, and lack of constant relations with the object world are the core problem.

3. Suffering as conditioned states represents, to western psychiatry, an entirely new category of psychopathology which is pervasive. At this level, object-seeking as such is experienced as pathogenic, contradictory as that may sound in terms of normal developmental theory. The very attempt to constellate a self and objects in time, and space and across states emerges as the therapeutic problem. A cohesive and integrated self . . . is seen as a "position won in order to be moved beyond". From this perspective, what we take as "normality" is a state of arrested development. Moreover it can be viewed as a pathological condition insofar as it is based on faulty reality testing, inadequate neutralization of the drives, lack of impulse control and incomplete integration of the self and the object world.

If you are suffering for your own sake, no matter what its form may be, this suffering will hurt you and will be hard to carry. If you are suffering for God and for His sake, the suffering will not hurt you and will also not be hard for you because God will be carrying the burden.

Wilfred Cantwell Smith


Unease, in the full sense of the term, is universal: we are not, in any lasting sense, at ease in the world as we experience it; we are not at ease in ourselves. It is therefore true to say that, looked at without illusions, to live is to suffer. All philosophies and religions agree on the condition. Disagreement begins when it comes to analyzing the causes of this unease and to finding remedies for it. Here the Buddha's answer is remarkable for its simplicity and directness: to suffer is to want, i.e. to need and therefore desire, something one does not have.

Amadeo Sole-Leris - Tranquillity and Insight