Taking the Suffering Seriously :: How It Shuts Us Down

Dark and light.

At ages 5, 6, and 7, through a string of unrelated events that felt like they were cut from the very same cloth, I learned two things:  

  1. The world is not safe.
  2. People will harm you in your most unguarded, vulnerable moments. 

I don’t need to go into the details of what happened. Just imagine the innocence of a 5-year-old girl, put her in a natural, commonplace setting, and then introduce cruelty, manipulation, and humiliation aimed directly at her.

And then imagine the same thing happening to her at age 6. And then age 7.

I was a pretty quick study, and so I wisened up after that. In what I’m sure felt like an incredible act of maturity at having learned a thing or two about the world, I shut my heart down completely.

Closed. Out of business.

No unguarded moments. No vulnerability. No trust. Just caution and vigilance. 

No freedom. No joy.

The collateral damage was pervasive. I grew into a young woman who lived more like an automaton than a vibrant, alive, healthy human being. I couldn’t let people in. I kept myself small. I stayed invisible. I didn’t know the first thing about being honest with myself or others about the truth of my experience of life.

I was completely shut down, for the world had shown itself cruel. 

Suffering teaches us many things. One of the things it teaches us to do is to shut down.

Have you ever experienced this?