When we are in darkness, or the world is in darkness, the grip of the abyss can seem overwhelming. If we look only at the negative, we only see the negative. We must look for positives too.
I know from talking with some of you that this is how you feel. And you feel it deep in your heart, in your core. And on top of the individual pain you feel for your own trials and tribulations and fears, coping with a world that hurt you already so much, this current climate can feel even harder to bear.
The thing is, what is happening right now on the macro world level, has also been happening to us as individuals on the personal micro level. When we are hurt, when we fall into depression and fear, it is really easy to feel disempowered, insignificant, irrelevant, without any agency to change what is happening. When we focus on the negative, we cannot see any positive. I know that I was always very adept at spiralling myself down into the abyss merely from focusing on all the things that were bad in my life. And I know you are too.
In order to pull ourselves out of the abyss we need a different strategy.
And this is not something anyone else can do for us, no counsellor, no therapist, no coach – this is something we have to choose to do for ourselves. We have to choose to look for the positives.
And so, when I look at the #muslimban and the attacks on women’s reproductive rights, when I look at the ban on environmental agency information and the denial of climate change, when I look at the erosion of rights of minorities and the hatred of ‘different’ that seems to be emanating today from the White House, I also look at the fact that one in 100 people in America marched for Women’s rights. I also look at the fact that the Canadian Prime Minister is saying ‘refugees welcome here.’ I also look at the mayor of New York, and it’s happening in other cities, saying they are a sanctuary city. I also look at the spontaneous demonstrations that happened at airports all over America to protest the ban on Muslims entering. I also look at so many of us, all over the world, pointing at what is happening, and saying, this is wrong. There is much to be grateful for, there is negativity in the world, but there is positivity too.
If we only look at the negatives, we are devoid of hope.
If we only look at the negatives, we get pulled into hopelessness, and the abyss. But we have the power inside us all to not get pulled into the abyss; we have the power to choose hope, and when we consciously look for positivity, then we gift ourselves hope. And hope is the most powerful drug. (I personally believe we must look at the negatives, ignoring & hiding from them doesn’t make them go away. But, as with all things, there must be balance and we must look for the positives too).
And so, if you are feeling overwhelmed and disempowered by either what is happening in the world, or what is happening to you, I invite you to keep a gratitude journal. Look for positives. Write them down. When your brain wants to take you down the path that leads to the abyss, look instead for something, however small, to be positive about or grateful for. You will find this written record of positivity extremely comforting when darkness looms. And if you’re so inclined, I invite you to start that journal now. Right now (yes, right now, read the rest of this later!), take out a notepad and pen and spend 5 minutes writing at least 20 things that you are grateful for in your life). It can be that the sun rises every day. It can be that you made it through another day. It can be that you’ve got a stash of chocolate hidden. It can be anything, big or small. But start practicing gratitude and look for positives. It’s the best medicine in an uncertain world.
The other really helpful way to protect your soul against the darkness is to learn how to notice it, without getting drawn into it. And of course, this is the skill we learn in meditation. To notice our feelings, or our thoughts, and just label them feelings or thoughts, nothing else. Not to get drawn into them, just to notice them. I would recommend, in these times, we all learn how to notice, and not let it take a grip on our soul. Because when we’re in the grip of the abyss we cannot be the compassionate humankind that the world needs us to be.
(If you’re struggling with any of this, take a look at the Taste of Recovery; it’s packed full with tips, techniques and tools that will help you stay empowered and develop deeper resilience).
So, this is my prescription for coping in a world that feels dark:
- Look for the positives, and the things to be grateful for. Exercise this part of the brain. Keep a record.
- Learn how to notice the negative without being drawn into the abyss. Practicing meditation can help with this.
- Demonstrate compassion to other humans whenever possible; the world will be tipped into kindness through the micro-actions of the many
- And above all, practice self-care. Rest & replenish. Build your resilience through rituals which nourish your body, your mind, your soul.
In solidarity and love, xx