Dark Emotions have Value

“We have lost our connection to the dark side of the sacred. We prize status, power, consumerism, and distraction, and there is no room for darkness in any of that. Americans tend to have a naivete about life, always expecting it to be rosy. When something painful happens, we feel that we are no good, that we have failed at achieving a good life. We have no myths to guide us through the painful and perilous journeys of the dark emotions, and yet we all suffer these journeys at some point. We have high rates of depression, anxiety and addiction in this country, but we have no sense of the sacred possibilities of our so-called illnesses. Instead we have a medical culture. Suffering is considered pathology, and the answer to suffering is pharmacology.”

Miriam Greenspan, author of Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair, in an interview

can’t wait to get this book! Could the “American Idol” of optimism be a source of some of our problems?


Rohr on Addiction and 1st World Problems

“Our suffering in developed countries is primary psychological, relational, and addictive: the suffering of people who are comfortable on the outside but oppressed and empty within. It is a crisis of meaninglessness, which leads us to try to find meaning in possessions, perks, prestige, and power, which are always outside of the self. It doesn’t work. So we turn to ingesting food, drink, or drugs, and we become addictive consumers to fill the empty hole within us.”

What I been Reading

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron

You can read the DSM and doctor’s comments but reading a narrative by a gifted author (Sophie’s Choice, etc.) about what it’s like to have Major Depressive Disorder is enlightening.  He talks about how his view of depression (and suicide) change after suffering himself.  He talks about suicide, including how close he got, and various artists he knew who killed themselves. Provides great insight into severe depression.

His writing skill, personal experience, and research (he himself read about his disease in the DSM) provide for a fascinating and brief (less than a 100 pages) read.

Scarred Faith by Joshua Ross

I have already loaned my copy so I can’t quote much except this: “May God forgive us for taking better care of our buildings than we do our neighbors.”

The book is very personal and very powerful.  It focuses on the loss of Ross’ sister who died unexpectedly at a young age and that death’s impact on his faith. He says a lot of important things about risk, adventure, and faith. His style is humorous and down-to-earth but also be warned: Don’t read it in public unless are you okay with crying in public. Big, ugly crying.

The second half of the book has a lot of great stories about what God is doing in Memphis.

Would be great for anyone who has lost a loved one, for ministers, and Jesus followers of all kinds.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

Only halfway through this one but it is interesting.  It’s a personal account about living with Bipolar Disorder (technically Schizo-Affective because she also had delusions/hallucinations but she focuses on the more commonly known Bipolar) written by a psychologist.  She does a great job of painting the picture of the mood swings, especially the highs of mania and the spending, risky behavior, etc. that accompanies it.  Jamison does a good job of explaining why so many who suffer from BPD resist taking medication in spite of the severity of the symptoms.

The most interesting tidbit so far is that she made it all the way through graduate school without recognizing she had Bipolar Disorder.  She was well aware of her moods and struggles but didn’t connect the dots.

“Only a Suffering God Can Save” (Breathing Under Water, Rohr)

This was an epilogue on the problem of suffering. It is concise and, I believe, more effective than all the books written on the topic of “Why?”

If God is somehow in the suffering, participating as a suffering object too, in full solidarity with the world that He created, then I can make some possible and initial sense of God and this creation.Then I stop complaining long enough to sit stunned and awakened by the very possibility. At least if we are participating in something together, and human suffering has some kind of direction or cosmic meaning, I can forgive such a God for leaving us in what seems like such desperate straits, and maybe I can even find love and trust for such a God.

Only if we are not alone in this universe, can we tolerate our aloneness.

Only if human suffering is first of all and last of all divine suffering can we begin to connect any dots.

It is the truest level of love, as each and every thing offers itself for another.

only people who have suffered in some way can save one another

Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure

I do believe this (Luke 22:31-32, Peter being sifted like wheat) is the only ordination that matters and transforms the world.

Only survivors know the full terror of the passage, the arms that held them through it all, and the power of the obstacles that were overcome.

From the cross, he draws all suffering people to himself.

The Parable of the Band-Aid

So, my son was upset and scared about his band-aid that was half off.  He scraped his knee at camp a few days ago and the band-aid was falling off, the wound was looking good.  It was time to come off.  I offered to help, but he screamed and fled in tears while flailing.

(Side note: with his sister, I told her that Nutella would get her band-aid off easily.  She fell for it.  I put Nutella on a cotton ball, which allowed me to get close enough to her band-aid to rip it quickly.  She had the funniest stunned look on her face-knowing that she had been duped.  But no tears.  No pain.  It was over and she was fine.)

But the boy was freaking out.  Did I mention this was in public?  At the community pool?  Yeah, I had the eyes of Westfield’s moms watching and listening to everything.  Probably wondering what I was doing to my boy that upset him and caused him to say, “I don’t want toooo!” as tears fell. As he pushed away from me and sobbed.

I told him to get out of the pool until he pulled it off.  I had a knot in my stomach.  Sure, some was selfishly from embarrassment.  But some was also out of feeling bad for my boy.  He was SO scared of the pain he expected and I knew that it would be over in an instant.  I tried to reason with him.  I told him he had the power to end the suffering (maybe I didn’t use those words).

“You can do it!”

“The pain will be gone in a few seconds.”

“You are wasting precious pool time.”

It didn’t help.  He wanted to go home.  I didn’t want to punish his sister by leaving early so we waiting awhile before leaving.

Sigh.  Parenting is hard.  I could have easily used force or trickery to get it off, but felt it was important for him to do it.

I have things in my life that I should do, but keep putting off.  I procrastinate.

I expect the worst.  I don’t want to deal with the brief and minor pain.  I get worked up.

I avoid confrontation.

I know God looks down at us often and thinks, “If he would only make that decision now, things would get better.”

“If she would just do it and get it over with, the tears and drama could end.”

I can’t fathom how frustrating it must be for God.

What are you putting off?

You probably need to bite the bullet and just do something.

Maybe it’s asking for forgiveness and apologizing.

Maybe it’s asking for help.

Maybe it’s confessing sin.


GET IT OVER WITH!  It won’t be as bad as you think, and even if it is, doing the right thing is often hard.