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RE: [xmca] Notions of suffering, enduring, undergoing

Hi Larry,

I certainly didn't want to suggest that children are (or even should be) care-free, only to note that not ALL of their experiences (or ours) are  best described as suffering. Your post clearly helps to explain why we tend to focus more on distressing experiences, since it is these, more than more positive ones, which call others into sympathetic action so they are more note-worthy. An unusually happy child is not likely to have a teaching assistant allocated to provide special support, nor to be seen by an educational psychologist but this does not mean that we should understand experience as suffering.

There is another can of worms around the relationships between emotions and the development of individualised identity but that may be for another thread!

All the best,


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Larry Purss
Sent: 05 November 2011 12:46
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [xmca] Notions of suffering, enduring, undergoing

Hi Rod and Andy

Thank you for the article on Dewey.  I thougt that article should remain the focus of that thread, but the question of the centrality of suffering to experience is also worth exploring.

Rod, you wrote

 I am intrigued by the focus here, as in many of the postings on perezhivanie, on experience as 'suffering'. The etymology of 'suffer' (from 'sub' - under and 'ferre' - to bear) makes it a close cousin of 'undergo'
and it is, I think, interesting that both terms have been used in ways which have moved their meaning towards the dark side.

Rod, you caution us not to impose our care-worn adult sufferings onto the experience of children who are more "care free".

In my work in schools I am called to respond to children who are experiencing what I will call "foul frustration" as an experience of what is not working.  This experience is often expressed as anger that is a passionate response to what is not working.  Infants also seem to express e-motions that may be understood as frustration for what is not working.

A developmental psychologist in Vancouver [Gordon Neufeld] sees development as biological and innate. Though his origin narrative I don't agree with, he does have an interesting perspective on how to respond to a childs foul frustration for what is not working.

He believes that a person must come to a place of "rest" before going in a new direction.  What is sometimes needed to move frustration from anger to experiencing saddness are for what is not working are "tears of futility".
He suggests that these tears of futility are expressed within particular types of relational configurations that are safe, secure, and "attached".

When the tears of futility are met and "held" by the other this releases the frustration for what is not working and the child can lean into the other person and come to rest.  Often the child at this point is exhausted.  However, after coming to rest the child is now moved to exploration of the world and is care free and open to new experiences.

This idea of expressing "tears of futility" for what is not working [foul frustration] within intersubjective forms of caring and "holding" gives me a way to respond to expressions of "anger".  Suffering or enduring or undergoing can sometimes be an experienceof stuckness in patterns that are not working.

In summary

The ideal is for children to be care free but frustration is an inevitable aspect of becoming and e*motion.  If not met and "held" by others this frustration can lead to a stuckness that must be endured, and undergone.
It is others who are central in channeling the path of frustration for what is not working.  Now I want to emphasize it is not "merely" intersubjective as the artifactual "worlds"  mediating experience are the conditions which lead to frustration or being care free. Focusing on changing the conditions that lead to the frustration is also a central project but frustration is inevitable and unavoidable. When undergoing foul frustration how one is met within this experience is vital for how the child goes on.

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