Could you please help me to deal with the agony I feel in connection with the suffering of animals in the world? I am so utterly moved by every sign of an animal’s suffering, that I don’t feel even glimpses of peace anymore. The latest news was how in some Asian country they use dogs’ fur, and to get it without having the cavaderic rigidity ruining the fur’s quality, the furs are pulled across the ears of the dog with alive body and unimaginable torments. And this is, of course, just one example of many. But I suffer even when I witness how an animal in my neighborhood is not treated with love and kindness.
Could you please share with me how you explain the suffering in the world and what you would recommend to someone like me?
Thank you so much for reading this!
There are indeed many terrible things happening in this world, and animal suffering, especially at the hands of humans, is certainly one of them.
So firstly, who says you shouldn’t feel upset when you see animals suffer? Who says you shouldn’t feel pain, sorrow and anger? What’s wrong with feeling so-called negative emotions? Perhaps these thoughts are natural and appropriate, perhaps it is natural for the human organism to feel angry or upset when it perceives injustice and cruelty, perhaps emotions are there to guide us and inform the quality and energy of our response to situations life throws at us – perhaps – who am I or anyone else to tell you otherwise? And more importantly, how will you find out for yourself what is true?
If you accept my or someone else’s answer, that’s second hand knowledge, that’s a belief, a theory to be stored away in your mind along with other theories it has collected. And beliefs and theories can always be doubted. If you are like me, there’s always a corner of your mind that can (and will) doubt the belief. What’s important is that you find out for yourself. So how will you do this?
I recommend you watch yourself, look at yourself, your reactions, how you respond. Write down and/or talk about how it makes you feel when you see animals suffer. Writing things down can be particularly powerful. Notice the thoughts that appear. Notice the words that appear in your head, the narrative. Are there angry thoughts? How do you feel about those who perpetrate these horrific acts? Be honest now, be honest with yourself. Do you judge them? Do you hate them? Do you understand them? Do you forgive them? Find out your genuine thoughts and feelings, allow your mind to speak its truth, find out for yourself. Feel how it feels in your body too. Discover the truth of your reactions on the mental, emotional, and feeling levels. Now you are learning about yourself, your psychology, who you are, discovering, uncovering. This is firsthand factual information, not based on beliefs.
Now, you say that you no longer even feel ‘glimpses of peace’ anymore. A level of emotion that regularly overwhelms you or prevents you functioning in daily life indicates to me that perhaps there are some unresolved issues in you (I say ‘perhaps’ because I do not know for sure – only you can know for sure, only you can find out if my words are true for you – maybe they are not true, maybe they do not apply to you).
Sometimes when we have unresolved issues with ourselves, for examples perhaps we have been mistreated in the past, we project our sadness and pain onto other beings, such as animals. When we see animals suffer, we not only respond to their suffering but we also project our past hurts and suffering onto them, thus adding to the pain felt. This distorts and clouds our emotional response. Again, see if this is true for you. Have you been mistreated in the past? Does the way you feel when you see animals suffering remind you of how you felt when you were younger? Is there still unresolved pain at play? If there is, then gently and lovingly healing this pain will go a long way to re-balancing your emotional response to animal suffering, or any other suffering for that matter, and allow your emotions to more effectively and accurately guide you through life.
In my own experience, when emotions are explored, felt, understood and allowed to flow, the unresolved hurts and pains often underlie them can be brought to the surface and lovingly healed. Distorted concepts and thinking can also be exposed and seen through. Our thoughts and feelings become aligned to reality. Then thoughts, feelings and emotions can become our friends, our guides. They can tell us when someone has crossed the line, when our boundaries have been trespassed, or when we perhaps have gone too far. They can also tell us when something is right, when something is good, when something is working well. This is all part of our intuitive sense, our natural intelligence.
For me personally, every now and then emotions pour through. For example when I see humans, animals or children suffer. Or when I watch a film or hear lyrics that touch something in me. The emotion pours in, and at the same time that’s ok. And because it’s ok on a deeply felt level, not just conceptually, there’s no suffering. Emotion, yes, but no suffering. Sometimes I chose to turn away from watching something cruel on TV to avoid that emotional response, and that’s ok too. I can see why I do it. It’s ok. I accept myself. Sometimes I can see how a past hurt or current attachment may be playing its role in distorting my emotions. And that’s ok. That’s naturally lovingly allowed. And sometimes healing, a deep healing comes from all of this loving acceptance, this Presence that naturally and effortlessly is. Or perhaps it doesn’t. Either way is fine.
It’s a wonderful mystery to me how this all works. Even though I could probably make sense of it psychologically and scientifically, at the heart of it, it’s all a wonderful mystery.
And why all this terrible suffering? I don’t know. I won’t give you some philosophical platitude or logical statement – because the truth is I don’t know. And it can be terrible. But we find ourselves on this world nonetheless, and we find ourselves living this life, having these feelings, dealing with what comes our way…
There is more I could say, but I’ll leave you with the above for now. Let me know how it all goes and please feel free to ask further questions.
With love and gratitude