I have often thought that despair was the opposite of hope. It is something to not sink into. It is something that comes when coping has ceased and faith faded.
But, I have recently read words that offers a more hopeful perspective on something that haunts everyone sometime and tempts some to stop opening themselves to life. David Whyte believes that despair is a place we go when we need to escape the impossible world we inhabit at points in our journey. “Despair is a haven with its own temporary form of beauty; of self compassion, it is the invitation we accept when we want to remove ourselves from hurt.” (33)*
And it is not something that we can simply will our way out of. He suggests that, “We take the first steps out of despair by taking on its full weight and coming fully to ground in our wish not be here. We let our bodies and we let our world breathe again. In that place, strangely, despair cannot do anything but change into something else, into some other season, as it was meant to do, from the beginning. Despair is a difficult, beautiful necessary, a binding understanding between human beings caught in a fierce and difficult world where half our experience is mediated by loss, but it is a season, a waveform passing through the body, not a prison surrounding us. A season left to itself will always move, however slowly, under its own patience and power and volition.” (57)*
This insight helps me. When I am down, I am tempted to become critical of myself. I wonder if my feelings are a reflection of my weakness or my lack faith. But, if despair is a resting place that helps us escape the hurt for a while, maybe it can be something to be embraced. Maybe I can learn from it. Maybe if I can breathe and allow my body and the world to open up in its new future, hope will dawn again. Maybe it will help to see my changing emotions as seasonal. Trusting the seasons may be a good place to live.
Read his full blog at https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Whyte/213407562018588
*Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words”