Discouragement happens to everyone (some of us more than others). Despite the grander scheme of life, despite all the good that can and does happen in our lives, we all fall into these little moments of discouragement. I like to say it’s like walking under a rain cloud, but I recently read a devotional that called this same feeling a “dark place.” The idea of a dark place – someplace cold, perhaps a bit frightening, and difficult to see – made sense to me when thinking about discouragement.
It was very appropriate since the week found me receiving emails with bad news about jobs I had applied for months ago only to be rejected, coupled with text messages from family members who were arguing and using me as a sounding board. Needless to say, I fell into dark places of my own. Don’t get me wrong. My life, overall, is generally good. I am gainfully employed, I love writing my books on the side, I have an adorable family and lovely friends, I have a roof over my head and food on my dining table. I’m usually content. However, just like most, I can sometimes find myself in a dark place emotionally, and completely forget that my life is good.
I’ve had an argument with my spouse over the same subject more than once. Generally, our marriage is good, but this one recurring argument we have makes me feel like we are stuck in a black hole. Both my sons have Autism Spectrum Disorders, and they have good behavioral days and some not-so-good behavioral days. On those days that are not-so-good, I tend to feel like they will never learn to monitor their own actions, but generally speaking they are very affectionate and intelligent young boys. Again, the black hole. I have a career in higher education and in writing that I love and truly enjoy, but every now and then I receive criticism (both face-to-face and online) that cuts at a sore spot on my self-esteem. Soon I find myself spiraling headlong into that black hole. You get the point.
Despite all the good and positive qualities and aspects of our lives, we all can fall into that black hole, or that dark place. Life can be hard. I get that. But life is not just hard. Life is not all darkness, it is also light. So my advice would be to look for the light… and the whole picture. In the devotional I mentioned above (full devotional from 2/9/17 can be found at http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo), there are a few tips on how to keep focus on the light in your life. I’d like to share a few here with you:
- Look at the positive changes that have been made in answer to prayer or in response to communication. With my spouse and the one bone of contention we rehash, I notice that each time is less of a fight. We discuss the issue more now rather than having a shouting match.
- Look at the strength you gain from going through the process or the hurt or the experience in general. Even though the situation may be a struggle, you gain strength and wisdom from it. The old saying by Friedrich Nietzsche is true: That which does not kill you makes you stronger.
- Look at the whole picture, not just the hole. One singular experience in our “black hole” does not mean that things will be a black “whole.” It is, again, one instance or one aspect that is negative. Don’t let a tiny speck of sand turn into the entire beach. Don’t let one argument color your outlook on the entire relationship.
In my book series, The Last Prophet, the main character, Dr. Sophia Randall, often tells her client’s in therapy that we need to remain solution-focused when we find ourselves spiraling into negative self-talk. In essence, Dr. Randall tells us that we need to find what has worked, rather than focusing on what does not – simply put, we need to look for the light, and not dwell in that dark place… get out of the black hole! This advice holds true in real life, and not just in the book series.
Whether you are like me, or know someone like me, we all can do our part in helping ourselves or others when those patches of rain cloud follow us, or when we fall into our black holes. Our lives are not made up of one defining moment, but many moments, relationships, and experiences that are part of the big picture.
Where can you shed some light today? Is there someone who needs help out of a “black hole?” Comment in the space provided.
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