The psychology of suffering…

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in contemplating what it really means to be awake, adding: “Only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred million to a poetic or divine life.”

That’s what legendary philosopher and founding father of modern psychology William James (January 11, 1842–August 26, 1910) addressed half a century after Thoreau’s famous words, in a superb speech he delivered before the American Philosophical Association at Columbia University in December of 1906.

“Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake… We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”

This statement is still true today.

Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known as Reverend Ike, was an American minister and evangelist based in New York City. He made famous the following statement:


His newspaper ads proclaimed:

  • “UNLEARN sickness and know health.
  • “UNLEARN poverty and know prosperity.
  • “Learn how to break every limitation and solve every problem YOURSELF.”

In our search for success, what we don’t realize is that we are really looking for ourselves. Sadly most of us don’t realize it.

Most of us believe that in order to experience happiness, we must first go through suffering. We must suffer first, before earning our reward.

We were put on this planet fully loaded to significantly contribute to our individual success yet the psychology of suffering requires that we not use the very tools and talents that we were born with.

No one is average

In his book ‘The End of Average’ Todd Rose shows that no one is average. Not our kids, not us, not our employees or our students. It’s a fact with enormous practical consequences.

While we appreciate that people learn and develop in distinct ways, these unique patterns of behaviour are lost in our schools and businesses which have been designed around the mythical “average person”.

It’s time to change that!

We must accept the challenge of using the tools and talents we possess. Abraham Lincoln said that “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Let our purpose be to make our lives as successful and as happy as we possibly can.

To paraphrase author, Keith DeGreen from his book ‘Creating a Success Environment’ – Let us view our existence, not from a mantle for suffering but as a dress rehearsal for the eternity of happiness we deserve.

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