This is the last of my musings on suffering. Unsurprisingly I have nothing new or radical to add. We watched a documentary last night about two homeless families in London. Both consisted of several children being raised by a single mum. It charted their journey from a succession of temporary hostels through to relatively happy endings in suitable accommodation. It was harrowing.These families spent two years frequently being moved around London boroughs for no apparent reason-except that an even more needy family was taking precedent over them for the accommodation. The overwhelming sense was “How can this be in 2015 in our capital city?” That highlights my thinking about suffering. It becomes destructive when it seems so random. Why should a previously bright granny deteriorate into a dense dementia? Why should this child be born with an obscure genetic illness? (If God plays dice, it seems to me that he uses genes as dice.)
As a therapist my work is to create a shared meaning with my patient. (I’m told that a great sculptor sees their task as liberating the form already implicit in the granite. So Rodin freed David to become the awesome sculpture that we see today. He did not create him. Which gives some interesting room to play with the Creation stories in Genesis.) It’s an analogy I like . Yes, if somebody comes to me for Anger Management I have a theoretical framework into which to place them. There are certain familiar patterns that I now expect to see. But I am always wary of making my patient fit my theory. My task is to walk with them and draw a map of their life, noting how many areas will be marked “There be Dragons.” Little by little we can go into these lands and demythologise them. Certainly there were monsters there when you were young. But let’s see what that monster looks like now. The monster of old was monstrous but is now a monster of memory who can be managed. (Which is why I so like Process theology with its God who walks with me as against a fat controller who only coordinates journeys.)
So, back to suffering. My major criticism of my experience of Papworth hospital is the lack of care given to us. Or the lack of time to help us create a story to guide us. The physical care was excellent but one was left feeling that the staff could have managed us more efficiently if we had been in comas. I have no idea what story will emerge of my own experience of illness. It will be shaped by many factors from my inner and outer world. And, no doubt this story has to incorporate the new and unforeseen material. But then , that’s the pleasure of stories. They change and grow with us.