Saturday, April 20, 2013

I See Your Pain, It Runs Deep


The Suffering Of Self-Exile
by John O'Donohue
excerpt from Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger To Belong

"Many people sense a yawning emptiness at the centre of their lives. This secretly terrifies them. They become afraid that if they engage the emptiness, they will lose all control over their life and identity. This fear drives them towards permanent flight from any possibility of real self-encounter. They keep conversations always on safe ground. Often they are the humourous figures who constantly joke and will not allow any question through their subtle protection shields. They labour valiantly to be accepted by others, but no-one, not even themselves, ever gets near them. A phalanx of language and movement keeps them hidden. It is as if their every word and gesture strain desperately into the safe middle distance. Yet they long all the while to enter the door of their own hearts but fear has hidden the key. This is a neglected and unattended region of suffering, the secret suffering of the permanently self-exiled. They are always circling within inches of home, yet they seem never to be able to get there. They are somehow forlorn and their presence is dislocated. The suffering here is the exile from true inner belonging. It is the voice of forlorn longing. It is as if a secret limbo has opened in that region between a person's intimate heart and all their actions and connections in the outer world. In the intense whirr of dislocation and fragmentation which assails modern consciousness, this limbo has become ever more extensive. There is a consuming loneliness which separates more and more individuals from each other and from their own inner life.
Post-modern culture is deeply lonely. This loneliness derives in large part from the intense drive to avoid suffering and pain and the repudiation of commitment. People relentlessly attempt to calm their inner turbulence by all manner of therapy and spirituality. They seek refuge in each new programme or method as if it offered final resolution. Yet so many of these programmes have no earth beneath the seductive surface. They can offer no growth, nor enable a person to identify the pain at the root of identity. Such external tamperings never manage to reach or embrace the inner loss which is a natural part of being a human person. Every heart has to manage the emptiness of its own dark. Jung suggested that neurosis was unmet suffering. This dialogue with your inner loss is slow and painful. Yet to avoid or sidestep this necessary pain only brings a slow, seeping sense of loneliness which continues to shadow and haunt your life. The Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran said: 'Suffering is the cause of consciousness. (Dostoevsky) Men belong to two categories: those who have understood this, and the others.'"