The problem with this practice is that you don't just put away the despair. You end up cutting yourself off or numbing all of your feelings. As Joanna Macy says, "Your pain is evidence that you care."
So it's really for the better to stay aware even if that means facing the despair.
Hope in the Face of Despair
That said, the best way to deal with despair is to accept it. Maybe you can devise a daily, weekly ritual that is personal and satisfying to you. The main concern I hear when a conversation turns despairing, is that people worry about admitting the despair will lead to some kind of paralysis or disfunction. I think this is a reasonable concern; but not feeling the despair is to some degree not being present to your feelings.
I would like to offer some hope in the face of despair. I'm not saying hope to counteract the despair. The despair is real and for good reasons. So feel your despair and then consider the following ideas.
I have discovered two forms of hope in recent years. One is easy to explain and the other is not. Both are available to anyone so let me start with the easy one, and hopefully I will be able to distill the harder one into a short coherent explanation by next month.
Community Work as an Antidote
Think of a time when you did something for someone else. That felt good I would guess. Now imagine all of the possible things you could do for the community. It doesn't matter what you actually might choose. In fact choose something that appeals to you. Have some fun doing this kind of work. There are all kinds of community level projects you could engage in. At the community level, sometimes it's hard to see the positive results. Doing something for an individual is clearly positive, and you can see those results.
The benefit of doing community level work despite the results being less obvious is that you get to work with others. Sometimes many others. Working with others on an important goal that serves people, is rewarding and, as Joanna Macy also says, creates a feeling of "active hope."
I've been doing community work for many years now, and whether I call it active hope or just hope, I feel hopeful because of the work I do with others. I recommend community work as an antidote for despair. It helps me to feel happy and hopeful. I get to do good work that benefits many others.
Stay tuned for Despair (Part Two).
— David Cutter
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This post is the first in a loose series of entries on the topic of inner transition.