I find that if I take my mind off the here and now, venture mentally too far into the future I’m more susceptible to feelings of despair. When dealing with problems we can all create a scenario that seems bleak if we think ahead instead of focusing on living one day at a time.
Our emotions can spin us in all directions while our mind is creating all kinds of crazy illusions. Since we have no way of knowing what our future holds it is fear of that unknown that causes us to anticipate the worst. Instead of opening ourselves to the limitless possibilities that surround us NOW we waste a colossal amount of time worrying about what might happen down the road.
In other words what we focus our attention on is what takes center stage in our head.
Shortly after my divorce a friend suggested I read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. The book had a strong influence and shaped the way I think when feeling despair. In his book Frankl recalls his years in a concentration camp where he witnessed many Jews dying in gas chambers, from starvation, forced labor and executions. Everywhere he looked he was surrounded by death and despair.
In spite of his circumstances Frankl was able to find meaning in the midst of tragedy and despair. To lift his own spirits he willed himself to imagine his release, to imagine that he would one day be giving lectures about having survived the concentration camp to thousands of people. He imagined it so well that he actually practiced his lectures to blank walls during his imprisonment.
Frankl later wrote that no matter how difficult one’s physical realities are, one can find a way to access their mental life and find refuge, hope and meaning in the spiritual domain. It was from this belief that he developed Logotherapy, the school of therapy that believes that finding meaning in one’s life is the most powerful driving force for living.
Some would say it is silly to compare Frankl’s experience with the despair one can feel when working through marital problems or divorce but pain is relative, despair is despair and regardless of what is causing it we can all learn from Frankl’s experience.
When you feel yourself caught up in the fear of what is too come and what seems like impossible realities remember, there is a redeeming space within you. Your mind, your imagination, and your spirit, they are available to you.
It is up to you whether or not to use it, to visualize and to fill it with uplifting thoughts, hopes and visions of peace and a fulfilling future.
Don’t beat yourself up for feelings of despair, it is only natural. The key is to not dwell. It will not serve you well. Use your mind to shift from despair to repair and focus on the hope that is ever present in all of us.