How To Overcome Feelings of Despair

It’s easy to fall into feelings of despair.  It happens to us all at some point in our life.  Something that hits us and makes us feel as if we are powerless to change these circumstances.  In fact there’s elements of our biology that predispose us to get sucked into that kind of thinking and it can be very difficult to get out of.

But not impossible.

So I would like to explain why I think this happens and how we can overcome feelings of despair.

The Difference Between Happiness And Unconditional Happiness

Happiness is easy.  Most people’s definition of it is anyway.  Because for most people, happy, is the natural outcome when everything goes the way we planned and wanted it to go.  That kind of happiness is easy.  It’s also down to luck.

What value is there to being happy when everything is going smoothly?

Isn’t that just a natural outcome?

Isn’t the skill of living about the ability to stay sane, calm and even happy in the worst of circumstances?

Doesn’t this ability put you in control of your emotions and so the way that you interact with the world?

To be unconditionally happy is to be like the Marines (or perhaps Navy Seals – my military knowledge is sketchy), who can be dropped into any terrain in the world and will be ready to fight – only without the fighting.  Of course the idea isn’t to be masochistic and put yourself into situations that make it difficult to be comfortable.  Equally, you don’t have to be like the Princess in the story of The Princess and The Pea, whose sleep was ruined by a pea under her 23 mattresses.  You just have to accept whatever the reality is of your situation and find the light at the end of the tunnel to move towards.

You see, our emotional state of mind is less dependent on the situation we are in… then on the direction we feel we are headed in.  Al alluded to this point in his comment, saying ‘if I had a release date…’.  If we  are in a crap situation, but know we are on the way to something better we feel relief from the situation and excitement at what is to come.  If things are great now, but we know they are going to get worse, we despair.

The Two Levels In Every Situation

What you really have in this situation are many different problems that have become entwined into one great overwhelming mess.  This kind of mess has two elements to it.

What the actual problem is

How we then feel about that problem.

So there are lots of separate small problems tied together from the core problem of not having a job.  As you naturally start to dwell on this, you then go a stage deeper in thinking about the situation.  Then this individual problem of not having a job gets tied up in the way you think about it with the cause – the poor economy.

Now it’s under your control to find ways to turn your extra time into productive and fulfilling uses.  It’s under your control to make cuts in your spending, to find creative ways to do many of the things you enjoy for less cost.  It’s even under your control to find ways to work on getting a new job or retraining or finding other opportunities to increase your income.

But it’s out of any of our hands to fix the economy.  Even our Politicians with their big promises and armies of Advisors and deep resources still can’t tame the economy – not that it stops them thinking they can.

And when the media keep shoving scary and depressing news down everyone’s throat and everywhere people are complaining about the effects of the economic downturn, it’s easy to feel that there is no hope.

It’s the ultimate recipe for despair.  A problem that effects everything… is unsolveable… and isn’t getting any better.

Technically what happens in your mind when you think about this, is that you quickly go from the provoking issue… to not having a job… to the linked cause – the economic recession.  After a bit of practice what will happen is that most of the time you’ll jump straight from a minor annoyance to the ‘crumbling economy’.  Our habits of thinking become hard-wired into our neural circuitry.  So next time we think along those lines, our biology takes us to the same conclusion we had before.  Which in this kind of scenario leaves us feeling trapped, overwhelmed and despairing.  Over and over again.

The Cause Of Destructive Thinking

The fact that we are alive means that we are flowing with an energy and a desire to take the next logical step.  So when our mind reaches a dead end in the sense that there is nothing positive that we can do to improve our circumstances it finds mischief to occupy it.

And so you start to think like a cornered animal would.  You lash out mentally and/or verbally and become bitter at Bankers, at the Government for causing this mess.  Resentful at others and at yourself.  As the saying goes, the Devil makes use of idle hands.  A mind blocked from productive use is damaging.  It can only create destructive thoughts, philosophies and strategies.

That’s why you need to be vigilant about how you feel.  Because feeling bad is an indication that something like this is going on.  And the quicker you notice and deal with it, the easier it is to change course and think more productively.

To find the cause when you feel bad, you have to look at the way that you are thinking.  Typically our thinking is in real time mode.  We are thinking about situations on the same level that they happen.  Whereas when we have reached a dead end in our thinking we need to put some distance between ourselves and the situation we are faced with.

Where We Find The Solutions To Our Problems

The reason why I write about the stuff that I do and why people find it useful is because I’m a bit odd in the way I think.  I naturally tend to look at things from a zoomed out mode.  From this perspective problems are a thousand times easier to solve, because NOW is just part of the bigger picture and when you have enough distance you lose the urgency of time and you get to see more possibilities.

When we hit emotional blocks, it’s like hitting obstacles in a car.  You can’t just keep accelerating, you have to step out of the car and assess the situation and plan your next steps until the path is clear.  Likewise when you hit an emotional block you need to step back from the situation until you can see the way to get back on track.

If you are able to look at this situation with space to breathe and detached from time you can see that our culture regularly has economic recessions and depressions.  And they do affect a lot of people, some more deeply, but they only last a few years.  And even though most people are worse off, some people do very well out of changing circumstances.  James Goldsmith and Joe Kennedy made their greatest fortunes by seeing ahead and selling all they owned.

You see, a recession comes about when our errors are corrected.  Sometimes that’s because we over-valued Tulips, property or technology stocks.  Sometimes it’s because of our arrogance at believing that we can control the forces of life.

Whatever the cause we have a few years of hardship and we lick our wounds and bounce back.  And there are lots of people who have been affected by this recession.  Many of those people will find dead ends in the careers they were in and will have to become more creative and find new ways to make an income.  At least now we have the internet and other modern technology that makes it much easier for us to research ideas and opens up more opportunities.

Maybe It’s Not As Bleak As We Thought

And even if things are bad for another year or so, the good times will return.  Even in a relatively harsh economic climate, we still have access to shelter, food, water, books and internet.  Many people in the world live without ever having continuous access to these.  Most of the people who live and have lived in the world have done so without any financial security.  And many of them have found an emotional security.  And when you find that security, you’ll start to see that there are really a lot of opportunities all around you.

Once you make peace with where you are, you can then accept the reality of the situation AND from that acceptance, plan your next response.  Given the circumstances that you are in, what action can you take to move forward?

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