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Glory Follows Afflictions

What is an affliction? 


“Something that causes pain or suffering.”


Have you ever been researching a diagnosis and a list of symptoms appear, and you naturally start identifying with them? The “oh, I hadn’t thought about that symptom but now that I am reading it, yes I guess I do have that”. 


It seems that our society has been overwhelmed with a new influx of afflictions, and I am not about to argue the realness of them, however, I have witnessed the dark side to these array of new afflictions. 


Let’s just explore a scenario: A person is diagnosed with 'X' as an adult and learns the list of symptoms and negative impacts of this diagnosis. One of the symptoms mentioned is: emotional outbursts. The next time the person experiences an emotional outburst the person says to me, “oh, I only behaved negatively because of my 'X'”. As if to say, “I’m not necessarily responsible, because I have no control over my symptoms”.


This identification to our symptoms or afflictions seem to only be amplified when we add social media to the equation. If a person goes to Instagram or Tiktok, they can find innumerable videos of content created specifically listing the symptoms of living with particular afflictions. This content can cause us to further solidify our identification to our symptoms which not only hinders our perspective but it also creates rigidity in our ability to change. 


Being the Victim and Playing the Blame Game.


Why are we naturally drawn towards the identification process, instead of exploring and attaching to our ability to change and grow? To me, this is the process of learned helplessness. Speaking from my own experience with addiction, being the victim became my entire identity. Without being conscious of it, I was trapped in the cycle of victimhood. The cycle became all encompassing, it gave me an excuse for my behaviour and ultimately, it made me feel special or different. I couldn’t get sober like other people, because my experiences were more traumatizing, painful or somehow unique. I was able to feel sorry for myself and wallow in self-pity, without even questioning my ability to change. Even when presented with opportunities or tools to change, I remained in my state of helplessness. I was attached to my specialness.


“All identification is for control and ownership.” - Bryan McGill


This initial reaction to cling onto varying degrees of identification, whether they are good or bad, could be explained as a personal blanket of control and ownership. Whether we want to admit it or not, identifying with our afflictions can create safety, versus stepping into the unknown path of a solution. Admitting that we ‘could’ reach for solutions opens the door to the possibility of failure AND the need for self-accountability in the process. 


What purpose do our afflictions and identifications serve?


I do not intend to downplay our afflictions, they are REAL, but instead, I would like to pose a different question - What are they telling us? What purpose do they serve in our lives?  I may not have the answer, but in my experience my afflictions gave me undeniable insight into the areas of my life that needed work. I had to learn to be the witness of my afflictions and step into the solution, versus attaching to them and creating more separateness.


“Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night but as the spring follows the winter; for the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory.” ― Richard Sibbes

With Love,

The Way

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