What types of connections do you have in your life? You are connected to your identity, to people, to animals, to the natural world, to your sources of joy, and to memories, both good and bad. These threads in your life provide a foundation for character, for emotions, for values, and for spirituality. To lose a thread or two, here and there, is natural; to lose all connections is to suffer.
Disconnection is the single biggest source of suffering no matter what the circumstances might be. Whether you have cancer, addiction, or chronic pain, to disconnect is to suffer. When someone turns to spirituality, that person is trying to reconnect to something bigger or outside of one’s self. This is not about religion, beliefs, or creed. Spirituality is about relationships that run deeply and touch the soul.
Why do some people seem to suffer more than others given the same set of circumstances? In regards to chronic pain, Dr. Michael Clark at John’s Hopkins University recently wrote about character traits that influence the way someone manages the pain. He stated that “Introverts suffering in pain are more likely to suffer in silence, wonder what is wrong, and become preoccupied with the details”. On the other hand, according to Dr. Clark, “extroverts will actively pursue health care hoping someone will figure out the problem”. Perhaps, based on this explanation, introverts have a tendency to suffer more with chronic pain than extroverts. (1)
No matter what your character traits may be, maintaining connections, particularly spiritual connections will help you overcome your tendencies to suffer. Many forms of spiritual connections exist. Connecting to a group can be a spiritual connection. Connecting to an animal or even a tree can be a spiritual connection. At the opposite end of the relationship spectrum is being completely focused internally where you can lose perspective and lose a sense of purpose. This is quite the opposite of what happens if you have an outwardly focus that helps you stay connected and find boyancy in the suffering.
If you are feeling disconnected right now, take some steps to reconnect on a spiritual level. Here are some ideas to try:
- Take a walk in a beautiful place, being attentive to all the wonders of the natural world
- Reach out to a friend by writing a card or a letter because the handwritten word is a personal touch with deep meaning
- Get a pet, many people’s lives have been saved by animals because of the unconditional love found in these relationships
- Find a group of supportive people that can offer sense of belonging and some threads of hope, acceptance and understanding
However you choose to do it; to connect is to suffer less. To experience spiritual relationships is to thrive.
- “A Bang or A Whimper: how extroverts and introverts manage pain”; Michael R. Clark, MD, MPH, MBA; Pain Week Journal; Vol 3 Q3 2015