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On the Pedagogy of Suffering

Hermeneutic and Buddhist Meditations

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Edited By David W. Jardine, Christopher Gilham and Graham McCaffrey

This text articulates how and why suffering can be pedagogical in character and how it is often key to authentic and meaningful acts of teaching and learning. This is an ancient idea from the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus (c. 525 BCE) – pathei mathos or «learning through suffering». In our understandable rush to ameliorate suffering at every turn and to consider every instance of it as an error to be avoided at all costs, we explore how the pedagogy that can come from suffering becomes obscured and something vital to a rich and vibrant pedagogy can be lost. This collection threads through education, nursing, psychiatry, ecology, and medicine, through scholarship and intimate breaths, and blends together affinities between hermeneutic conceptions of the cultivation of character and Buddhist meditations on suffering and its locale in our lives. This book will be useful for graduate courses on hermeneutic research in education, educational psychology, counseling, and nursing/medicine.
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Chapter Twelve: The Elision of Suffering in Mental Health Nursing

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CHAPTER TWELVE

The Elision OF Suffering IN Mental Health Nursing

GRAHAM MCCAFFREY

No, this is unease. It is a preeminent reality. (Wallis, 2007, p. 36)

On the surface, it seems unexceptionable to suggest that patients on mental health units are likely to be suffering somehow and that there are nursing activities that can help to relieve that suffering. Buddhist thought begins with the First Noble Truth that human existence is marked by suffering, and it unfolds from there in elaborations of this insight and of how best to respond. These two statements about suffering immediately suggest an affinity between nursing and Buddhism, and yet there are differences. Mental health nursing lives within taxonomies of mental disorders in which suffering is only a result of categorized symptoms, whereas Buddhism proposes that suffering is an inevitable consequence of the natural human inclination towards grasping. The space between these two horizons is the hermeneutic invitation to a critical questioning of the assumptions permeating practice on mental health units. In this chapter, I elaborate on these differences and use material from interviews with nurses to suggest that suffering is elided in mental health nursing, and that the Buddhist perspective offers a way of retrieving it for humane practice. ← 89 | 90 →

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