“When things are going down, DIVE!” ~ Michael Meade
There is no shame in being weak and vulnerable to the storm of social conditions in which we live. It is natural and normal to feel despair in these times. There is a great deal of bad news. The good news is discounted and not often reported. “What can we do?” is often asked as if there is no answer. This question is the litmus test of our despair. It has become the standard response to every countless social crisis we are facing that seem to be so far beyond our individual power to control.
This is exactly the pressure we need to let go of problem-solving methods and attitudes that no longer work. Despair is like a filter or tunnel through which we see the world in a very narrow and specific way, and it is this way of seeing that makes it nearly impossible to discover solutions. Our most immediate need now is to self-manage our bias, our filters, our subjectivity through which we perceive ourselves in relation to the world around us.
“We are not victims of the world we see; we are victims of the way we see the world.” ~ Dennis Kucinich
Despair is a repeating cycle of obsessive thinking, a form of hypnosis, a form of vanity about how exceptionally awful is our life, a form of escape from fully experiencing the grief, sadness and trauma that precipitated the despair. Diving fully into those feelings, we give up, we surrender. We admit we don’t know what we thought we knew. We are not who we thought we were. We’re not going where we thought we were going. We despair about our despair. We see it as baggage that we carry. We look for ways to set it down, let it go, let it be, accept it just as it is.
“It’s the awareness, the full experience . . . of how you are stuck, that makes you recover.” ~ Frederick S. Perls
It is absolutely necessary for humanity to fully experience its being stuck in its mortality, its self-destructive mindset, in order for it to recover. Hitting bottom like an alcoholic is simply one step in a long process of waking up to the trauma that has built the emotional armor holding the true human genius like a prisoner in a fortress mentality. If you don’t believe in this genius, spend some time with small children who have not yet been traumatized.
Realizing that we have the freedom and power to explore other states of thinking and being, we can make a choice to be free from it, not believing that such a choice will miraculously and instantaneously dissolve all our despair, but resting in the simple possibility of understanding ourselves better, making friends with our despair as a tool, a lever, for something beyond despair. We take one step out of it, through the doorway of not knowing, into patience and care for our own well-being. We will slip back into despair again and again, yet having had one small experience of freedom from it we become drawn back to that question: is this despair serving me or serving my community?
We are a mixture of shadow and light. I’m arguing for more light and less shadow. It seems to me that we all, myself included, carry a measure of despair and disempowerment that is so painful to acknowledge that we redirect our focus outwards. We act as if the solutions are going to be delivered by someone else, “out there,” who is some kind of expert genius at solving problems — big science, big corporations, big politics. All that big stuff is being driven by little people who are also struggling with their own despair and panic. If we are to break the cycle of projection we would benefit from making distinctions between what is narrowly true (the failures of other people) and what is broadly true (we are all responsible — able to respond — to the culture that precipitated the failure).
Our greatest enemy now is not other people, it is our despair. When we focus on what THEY do or say, we completely miss out on all the activity now in progress to unite in common purpose for the common good, all the movements all around the world for justice and peace that are multiplying — a very humbling thought.
Pay attention to the winds of change, and you will see which way the wind is blowing. All the cultural structures that we thought were rigid and stable are about to be blown away, and where you focus your attention determines whether you are contributing to despair or to hope, the rocket fuel of social change.
“Learning how to better regulate emotion is the next frontier of human evolution.”
~ Howard Martin, co-author with Doc Childre of “The HeartMath Solution