- Leonard Cohen (Anthem)
Despair. Hopelessness. The bottom of the barrel. That moment when we can't see a way out. We're trapped in a situation that's only getting worse and the world is crashing down, crushing us.
The problem with despair is the same problem there is with hope. They both focus on the future. It's just with one the glass is half full and the other the glass is half empty.
Not to belittle despair. It's the most debilitating of emotional states. And when you're in it, the easiest thing to do is give up. But what you really need to do is take a step back.
Stop focusing on the future. It may or may not happen. Either way, it's not real yet. Just a projection of your mind and your worries and your fears. Focus on the only thing that is real: this very moment. And trust in it.
Many times, we sink into despair when our world shifts and the things we thought we needed are "taken" from us – a job, a relationship, health, a financial status. But instead of thinking of these moments as life-enders, think of them as game-changers. The universe is self-correcting. Shifting us toward a better direction. One that we will only realize if we stay open to it. And one we can only see if we stand far enough back from our situation (Taoists and Buddhists call this "detachment").
Take stock in the fact that life will work itself out. Don't fixate on "how." It will present itself. Just be open to it. As the saying goes, "like attracts like." If you're focused on the hopelessness of the situation, you may not see the solution at your feet.
You could say that despair comes from a loss of control. We can no longer control our situation to get the outcome we want. But when that happens, don't give up hope. Give up control. Trust in the nature of life. It will work itself out if we only let it. Remind yourself of moments of despair in the past and how it passed - many times in surprising and wonderful ways.
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. (v. 27)