Cole's new book is a great introduction to the struggles we face and how we might learn to grow from them. Some of the material has appeared on his blog, so if you have been reading him for any time, you know what he is about.
The Furies download page. It's free!
Here is a little snip from the book, to give you a sense of what you get in this fine book:
Bad things happen to good people. They are unable to control the events and are rendered helpless. They are sad more for themselves than for their loss. They struggle to accommodate violations to their core beliefs and self-concepts and suffer trauma. If we see the suffering, how do we respond? If we have no response, we turn away. We are at least apathetic, indifferent to our empathy, or perhaps somewhat psychopathic, without empathy.Cole brings together mind science, spiritual practice, and daily wisdom to his explication of how we handle emotional pain (or fail to) and how we can grow from the hardest experiences in our lives.
If we respond with rage, we turn against. We demand that others stop suffering and atone for the pain they cause us. We hold them in contempt. We are mad at their madness. We are cruel, egotistic and perhaps narcissistic. Rage at helplessness is the negation of empathy.
What if we turn towards the victim and also towards our own empathy?
Pity and compassion are behaviors and emotions evoked by the suffering of others. The difference between the two is the way we practice our response. If we respond with sadness, we risk offering only pity. If instead, we respond with generosity and love (joy in a sense), then we offer compassion. Do we respond to their helplessness with helplessness or with caring action? Do we respond with rigid prescription or empathic coaching? With egotistic defense or with unguarded attunement?
We can offer pity to individuals, families, groups, cities, societies, etc. We can only offer compassion to one person at a time. For compassion to be compassion, the person suffering must feel felt and we must suffer with them. If we defend against our internal experience of their pain, we compromise our practice of compassion.
And what if we defend against our own emotional pain?Bad things do happen. When we cannot control events. We fail, disappoint, err. Some of our crises become trauma.Trauma generally involves a violation of basic assumptions [knowledge] connected with survival as a member [achievement] of a social group [social relationships]. These include assumptions (not necessarily conscious ones) about personal invulnerability from death or disease [achievement], status in a social hierarchy [social relationships], the ability to meet internal moral standards and achieve major life goals [achievement], the continued availability and reliability of attachment figures [social relationships], and the existence of an orderly relation between actions and outcomes [knowledge].
Chris Brewin et al.:4
A traumatic event is a violation of primal assumptions - a knowledge wound. It overwhelms our life-concepts: self-concept, concepts of others, and our understanding of the world. It's a kind of existential terror, like awe in a way.
Awe is a knowledge emotion (as are curiosity, wonder, foolishness or cluelessness) and tremendously potent. Awe is a positive emotion, and terror is its negative counterpart. These emotions weaken our attachments to our life-concepts and our sense of self. (p. 8-10)