Anguish allowed here

Sea of life

Anguish is a word I don’t hear very often.Today I saw a synopsis of a biography of Henri Nouwens,a Dutch Canadian priest and writer of many much loved spiritual writing.Yet the title included the word,anguish.
I wonder if nowdays we are allowed to be anguished.First of all,it’s very painful and we ,ourselves ,may try to obliterate it and if we don’t friends may advise us to see a doctor as if all anguish,grief and woe are a mental disorder.Yet surely being humans leading a puzzling fragmented life in a strange consumerist society where death is hidden and illness blamed on the sufferer for being obese,drunk,lazy,manic,frantic,stupid,oversensitive then it’s not an easy task to allow our anguish to have its time and to convey to us and maybe others that something is going on in us that is important.Of course,taking time off work is frowned up on and sitting idly all day is thought lazy.But work may be going on in our psyche/soul which matters. Many people now deny the existence of a soul but we do need a name for the unknown self within which may try to reach us in our night time dreams.

But to label all our inner pain as a mental illness is a mistake,I feel.Indeed the term mental illness can be misused or may be a metaphor.
Suffering is going on all the time as we walk down the street and through the city.We may be wrapped in grief like mantle or if we know the signs we can read the faces of others around us and see the eyes and the lines of anguish mapped on their pale faces.And do we accept this in our friends or do we push them away? We may not need to speak,just to be present.

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About Kate Thwaite

I love writing , conversation, art, wild flowers, music and air.And books
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2 Responses to Anguish allowed here

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    We’ve been taught to hide so many of our deeply felt emotions that I sometimes think we do not know how to articulate them, should we even have the chance to vent them. One thing’s for sure, keeping them inside is not good for us. Yet, as you suggest, we’re also not at all comfortable at responding to the pain of others. We do not know what to do or say. In traditional societies when something bad happens to someone, the dealing with it is usually a community affair. It would be seen as a ‘cleansing’ – a getting things out of the system for all concerned. I think we all would benefit from such a process from time to time. And indeed the presumption in favour of diagnosing people with mental illness/acute stress might indeed dwindle. People do actually have things about which they are justifiably upset/angry or anguished.

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    • Katherine says:

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment,Tish.I think you are so right about the rituals in other societies such as Judaism and certain forms of Irish Catholicism where they have clearly marked steps to walk in bereavement.I have sometimes found it helps me when I feel very distressed to say to myself,It is alright to feel like this.I even read in a book on meditation that people fear that feeling sorrow or depression will harm them whereas they can help us.Sometimes we may need extra help but I feel acceptance and allowing feelings and hopefully at least one friend who l will be with us for a while can get us through the painful trials of life,And the idea that we should sit and do nothing for a time seems to be unfashionable yet we need to be present to our own suffering[ and joy] to be real.Some of us suffer more than others but we all lose people,skills.health etc so nobody escapes which should bind us together. as human beings.
      I do feel therapy can be good for some but also if we get like the USA it’s aalmost become a religion.I learned a lot from something terrible that happened to me yet I do hope I never have quite the same experience.I feel it is true that in the depths of despair we can be in touch with a mysterious other and can gain from it but it may be a dangerous journey too.
      If we can talk about it as being normal and acceptable I believe it helps.

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