From Awareness by Anthony DeMello . . .
Most people tell you they want to heal but what they really want is to mend their broken toys. “Give me back my wife. Give me back my job. Give me back my money. Give me back my reputation, my success.” This is what they want; they want their toys replaced. That’s all. Even the best psychologist will tell you that, that people don’t really want to be healed. What they want is relief; a cure is painful.
You can have a man go on a thirty-day retreat and come out all aflame with the love of Christ, yet without the slightest bit of self-awareness. Self-awareness is painful. In fact, when you’re beginning to awaken, you experience a great deal of pain. It’s painful to see your illusions being shattered. Everything that you thought you had built up crumbles and that’s painful. That’s what repentance is all about; that’s what waking up is all about.
If you’re suffering, you’re asleep. Suffering is a sign that you’re out of touch with the truth. Suffering is given to you that you might open your eyes to the truth, that you might understand that there’s falsehood somewhere, just as physical pain is given to you so you will understand that there is disease or illness somewhere. Suffering points out that there is falsehood somewhere. Suffering occurs when you clash with reality. When your illusions clash with reality, when your falsehoods clash with truth, then you have suffering. Otherwise there is no suffering.
Painful experiences lead to growth. Pleasant experiences make life delightful, but they don’t lead to growth in themselves. What leads to growth is painful experiences. Suffering points up an area in you where you have not yet grown, where you need to grow and be transformed and change. If you knew how to use that suffering, oh, how you would grow.
Let’s limit ourselves, for the time being, to psychological suffering, to all those negative emotions we have. Don’t waste your time on a single one of them. I’ve already told you what you could do with those emotions.
- Watch the disappointment you experience when things don’t turn out as you wanted them to.
- Look at that disappointment, that depression you experience when you are criticized.
- Look at what it says about you. I say this without condemnation (otherwise you’re going to get caught up in self-hatred).
- Observe it as you would observe it in another person.
Have you heard about the fellow who said, “Who says that worry doesn’t help? It certainly does help. Every time I worry about something it doesn’t happen!” Well, it certainly helped him. Or the other fellow who says, “The neurotic is a person who worries about something that did not happen in the past. He’s not like us normal people who worry about things that will not happen in the future.” That’s the issue. That worry, that anxiety, what does it say about you?
Negative feelings, every negative feeling is useful for awareness, for understanding. They give you the opportunity to feel it, to watch it from the outside. In the beginning, the depression will still be there, but you will have cut your connection with it. Gradually you will understand the depression. As you understand it, it will occur less frequently, and will disappear altogether. Maybe, but by that time it won’t matter too much. Before enlightenment I used to be depressed. After enlightenment I continue to be depressed. But gradually, or rapidly, or suddenly, you get the state of wakefulness. This is the state where you drop desires. By desire and cravings. I meant occasions when you make happiness depends on the fulfillment of your desire. You are saying to yourself, “Unless I get what I desire, I refuse to be happy.” You begin to drop all that.