Suffering Successfully

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This is Part 3 in an open series.  If you missed Part 2, it’s here.

It’s a question that is not going away any time soon:  what do we do about extremism?   How do we understand it?  How do we translate that understanding into ways to prevent its rise and influence?  What positive strengths can be put in place to offer a hopeful alternative?

Building on the previous post, in the next few posts on overcoming extremism, I want to lay out how fear and anger, if we leave them unattended, become themes in the way we identify ourselves.  If we master fear and anger, we develop a capacity for engaging the world in highly creative ways that allow for the expression of greater degrees of our potential than would otherwise be possible.  This becomes the basis, the “bones,” of the anatomy of civility.

Once we understand these points, we can lay out a framework in the final set of posts for building the strengths of resilience and civility that not only will act as an inoculation against extremism, but are the foundational skills needed to develop our own potential and strengthen the fabric of our democracy.

Mr. Ali Nakhjavani

David Ruhe, M.D.

Mr. Ali Nakhjavani is one of my heroes. I once heard him speak glowingly about another hero of mine, Dr. David Ruhe.  Mr. Nakhjavani gave Dr. Ruhe one of the most interesting compliments I have ever heard fall from anyone’s lips.  He said, “Ah, Dr. Ruhe!  There is a man who has suffered successfully!”

We all suffer.  There is no way around it.  Some seem to do so sucessfully quite on their own.   Most of us need help.

In general terms, we can say that fear and anger become the dominant themes of the two types of identity structures that arise when we have not yet succeeded in managing our suffering.  I call these the “Weakened Identity” and the “Rigid Identity.”

There is a third identity that distinguishes those who, like Dr. Ruhe, suffer successfully and find themselves equipped to deal with the slings and arrows of life with integrity and compassion.  I call this the “Compassionate Identity.”  To best understand this Compassionate Identity, it will be helpful to know a bit about what takes place in our lives if we neglect to develop it.  The next  posts deal with the Weakened Identity and its opposite, the source of extremism, the Rigid Identity.

Click here for the next post:  Part 4: Extremism to Civility: The “Weakened Identity.”

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All Rights Reserved, John Woodall, MD, copyright, 2011

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  1. Dr. John, Here in Ft. Walton Beach, Joel Smith mentioned at our Interfaith Celebration gathering that you may be visiting the area in the near future. As a guest of Ron Frazer (Baha’i), I heard you speak in a private home a couple years ago. I would like to invite you to speak to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Emerald Coast (121 members) on Feb. 27, 2011, or on another date that you may be in town. I am especially interested in your thoughts on healing the reactive mind suffering from fear from some level of PTSD. Serving a largely military/contractors community, how can we be a healing community just outside the gates of Eglin Air Force Base in Niceville, Florida? Blessings!

  2. John says:

    Thanks Rod! I sent you an e-mail just now. I hope we can work something out. Warm regards, John

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