In order to be released from the weightiness of despair we have to first understand it.
The following are off-the-page comments of my friend and myself during the study covered in yesterday’s post.
Why are grief, inertia and despair the “spirit” of the physical body? These things make the person subservient to a “giving up” attitude towards life, that is diametrically opposed to subservience and closeness to God. The soul wants to move towards inertness and languish. It makes the person neutralized. This is the opposite of being energized to do the things that put him or her in touch with the other and leads to bonding in relationships.
I notice that the book (Alei Shur) did not present two different attitudes. It could have said be happy with your portion, or your “lot” in life and also know that whatever God does is good. It says: You will be happy with your portion when you are aware that whatever God does is good. It’s saying to us: “Be happy with your portion because the portion that God gave you is good.” Then you will be actively receiving what God is giving you.
The experience of despair is: “I am not accepting that this is my portion! Send it back. You sent me the wrong portion. I was supposed to get a different one!”
I have a question: If I believe everything I have is my portion does that mean I won’t every pray for things and hope and dream my dreams?
No! I will still make demands. When I pray I am asking God to be more actively involved in my life.
Frankl said that despair is suffering minus meaning. He made an equation: Despair = Suffering – Meaning. This is because when you suffer you feel your life is meaningless.
What can the meaning of suffering possibly be?! Can we always say there is something good there? Can we be happy when we’ve suffered a loss?
No. The meaning is our ability to turn it around, to make it serve us. We can’t do that as long as we’re still fighting it. We can only find the meaning when we can come to a place of acceptance.
We need to grieve for the loss. When we have contributed to our own loss, part of the process of grief is feeling deeply remorseful for what we did and the pain we caused our self. We pay a penalty but we can make the loss or pain serve us in terms of greater sensitivity to others, deeper understanding of self and the aspects of character that need refining, and meanings we are strongly aware of about which we can now say “I know this…” In this process we restore our relationship with God.
One of the logotasks in our logotherapy training course asks the students to answer the following questions:
Think of a situation I experienced as painful tragic, or meaningless…
• What have I leaned from this?
• Has it given me new tasks and challenges?
• Has it made me a stronger, more perceptive person?
• Can I use this experience to help others in similar situations?
• Can the way I endure my situation serve as an example to others?
• Does this experience make me appreciate things I have taken for granted?
• What choices do I still have?