There are people for whom feeling good with themselves is a cardinal sin, even some of them show a sort of hidden “algophilia” (a morbid search of a painful experience).
Probably, considering this picture, perhaps a bit exaggerated, everyone will think it is not our case. But let’s try to deepen that trying to answer this simple question: why is it so hard to accept happiness?
Part of the answer can be found in the book: “Essay on the sociology of religion” by Max Weber. After he made a comparative study between the six major religions of the world, the writer notes that suffering is, by them, a way to:
– Purge the sins committed by us in a previous life, of which we currently have not the remotest memory.
-Purge the sins committed by the previous generations, that is, I have to pay a share of pain for the mistakes made by my grand-grand-grandfathers.
– Purge the banality contained in almost all the creations of humanity, that is, we have to pay for the new technology and its consequences, and for the exchange of experiences and values that the society will experience.
At this point, to remedy these “faults” (which generally are not ours) there’s the path of suffering, happiness can be achieved only in the distant future. Suffering takes on a cultural value of which we appropriate unconsciously.
The other part of the answer lies in the opposite direction implemented by the scientific community to numb pain. Some days ago on the TV there was a documentary that showed the attempts to eliminate the painful memories from human memory. I immediately imagined a society full of “radiant clones”, in fact, I think that anyone would believe he could be happy being able to eliminate memories that cause him depression.
The progress of science comes to offer us hope: the possibility of mitigating physical pain. It starts to spread the idea that we didn’t come to the world to cross a valley of tears but to discover and enter a Hellenic paradise. Until the mid-nineteenth century physicians were using analgesics with very little power, so to achieve a surgical operation they had to tie the patient to the operating table. Now it just takes an aspirin to eliminate the “headache”.
Currently, efforts are focused on reducing or eliminating pain at any cost, including the use of synthetic and deadly drugs like LSD or PCP. In this way the “algophobia”, the fear of pain, is spreading more and more. Therefore, in this society where the ideal of happiness is overrated, suffering becomes dramatic reaching epic proportions.
At this point, following a path or the other, we assume unconsciously that suffering and the consequent depression have their dignity and glory, we recognize them a higher value. We accept the social value that is given to suffering and depression.
I think both attitudes are limiting our ability to grow as persons. Then are equally negative beliefs such as: “I am a good person because I care and suffer for my pains and those of the entire world” (although probably the only thing I can do is bring me down, since the control I have on these situations is very low) or its opposite: “I am a very intelligent person and I do not suffer at all” (in this case I am probably a person which represses his feelings).
When a negative fact involves us directly, it is almost inevitable to suffer the consequences and fall in depression. This makes sense. What makes no sense is to assume suffering with a “karmic” attitude that defeats and immobilizes us. Suffering does not make sense when we do not learn anything from suffering, when it transforms us into depressed and desperate people. It makes sense when we learn a lesson from pain, when this helps us to give more value to happiness, when transforms us into people who resist to adversity.
We have to face every social representation finding inspiration in this verse of a poem by Mario Benedetti: “not always a person does what he wants, however, he always has the right not to do what he doesn’t want”.