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There’s no doubt the recession has had a devastating effect on the finances of some Forest Parkers. But what about the spiritual and emotional damage?

Rose Mattax, a Forest Park psychotherapist, said keeping our faith is more difficult in times like these. Donors to the food pantry have become recipients. Former breadwinners can no longer provide for their families.

Many are filled with shame and a sense of failure that opens deep primal wounds. People can lose their connection with God and neighbors. (Adversity draws us closer together or causes us to isolate). Mattax is a Christian who believes God is more interested in our growth than our comfort. Tough times can make us stronger, if we can remain confident, exercise hope and adapt to shifting circumstances.

Besides talking with Rose, I listened to a book about the Buddhist concept of “shenpas.” These are deep feelings – like fear of abandonment – that can trigger ingrained responses. It could be a casual remark that reopens a childhood wound and we have trouble controlling our reaction.

We have a choice of responses to these hurts. The easiest is to lash out at the person who wounded us. Or we can turn anger against ourselves. Some medicate the pain. The shenpa book suggested we identify these hurts and ask them to be removed.

Mattax knows what it’s like to have pain taken away. She was 17, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and dabbling in other destructive behavior. She attended a Christian rock concert and asked one of the volunteers if she needed to accept Jesus Christ to be happy. He said she could be happy without Christianity but wouldn’t experience the fullness of life.

When she returned to the apartment, her pack of Marlboros was on the table. She didn’t light one.

She felt suddenly freed from the fight. It was a huge gift.

I’ve also had hurts that miraculously healed. I thought my newsreel of painful memories would always make it hard to fall asleep. I’m happy to say that this long-running film is no longer playing.

I have to admit, though, that these uncertain times have been a challenge to serenity. Mattax believes that flexibility and resilience are spiritual qualities that can save us.

The interesting thing about getting Mattax’s take and listening to a Buddhist book was the compatibility between Jesus’ teaching and Eastern philosophy. I’m not saying Jesus was a Buddhist, but he advocated many practices and attitudes that a Zen Buddhist could embrace. Sorry, but it’s going to take me another week to explain this.