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Hopelessness is
Emotional Cyanide

Despair, like a millstone, can drag people into immobility.  They can't work.  They can't take care of themselves.  They can't take care of others.  Once productive pursuit is eliminated, inactivity lets the mind chew on itself, viewing and reviewing an expanding repertory of lousy feelings.  As people who have been seriously depressed know, this spiraling descent into hopelessness is powerfully destructive.  It can be fatal.  It's the worst and most terrifying enemy most of us ever have to encounter.  And because the enemy is invisible, yet entirely encompassing, it is difficult to resist or combat.

Labeling hopelessness as the enemy is the first counteroffensive.  This can give people distance from depression, because "it" then has an identity.  They can come to distinguish the sentiments of despair as they occur.  Once it is recognizable, hopelessness is not so pervasive; it has its own boundaries like a separate country.

Then, patients must engage hopelessness in a battle as if it were Satan himself.  It's a war, not a skirmish.  They can, either on their own or with professional help, develop a combat strategy and start implementing its tactics.  The short-term tactic is distraction, to force thoughts away from succumbing to the lethal hopelessness.  Effective distractions are different for everyone.  One person must get outside.  Another should read.  Exercise.  Meditate.  There are many options, but activity is essential.  Get out that calendar and jam it with pursuits.

The force of hopelessness will attempt to bleed enthusiasm from these distractions and there is a tendency to trivialize their worth.  But distractions, by their very nature, have the ability to focus the mind elsewhere, even demand that it go elsewhere.  And these short-term approaches may naturally suggest another more challenging involvement that will, if cultivated, grow into passion.  Passion is the all-encompassing opposite of hopelessness.

Think Like a Shrink, by Emanuel H. Rosen, M.D.


Jung said, "A depression is a blessing of God.  I mean, in the individual it's the greatest blessing somebody can have."  Jung always talked about the blessing of a neurosis because it's the only way you are tempted to look within.

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