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Beginning in the Dark Emotions

Hello Minutars….

I’m going to start  a brief weekly series based on the book Healing Through the Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan.  This is part review, part personal musing, and a lot of application.

If you haven’t read the book, I recommend it. As a self-help book, it goes deeper than many, both for your personal growth and as a social comment. Much of the premise involves how we socially conceive of the dark emotions grief, fear, and despair. This is a very important factor in our understanding how we approach our own emotions.

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to pick one emotion at a time, but not in the same order they are written. I may well go backwards (for those of you who may choose to read the book.) None of this will replace reading the book for yourself.


” ‘Can you eat when you’re in the depths of despair?’  ‘I’ve never been in the depths of despair.’  ‘Can’t you imagine you were in the depths of despair?’ ‘No, to despair is to turn your back on God.'” – Anne of Green Gables

So, today, I’m approaching despair. What is despair? Emotional intelligence would probably describe it as a judgment of something as hopelessly negative, that the positive is unattainable, that our goal- or any goal- can ever be met and that we and our lives are somehow useless. This leads to the conclusion that there is no point to anything and the depression and despair that follows.

Truly, despair is a painful emotion. Who wants to feel despairing? We get the idea that if we feel despair that must be the truth. There’s a funny thing about “truth,” though: Truth is subjective. Truth is subject to opinion, to circumstance, to perception, and the amount information we actually have.

If despair becomes truth, does despair color the truth? In short: Absolutely. It alters our perception, and thus, alters truth. What if we altered the truth? Would that alter perception, and thus, despair? If this is the case, what is despair telling us?

Something needs to change.

We’re digging quite a hole, and it’s getting large and frightening- we’ll get to fear later, but fear also suggests that something is not to our advantage. Despair, then, acknowledges a hole. However, in the interest of fitting in with our social schemas, we like to deny despair. Well, that denies that you’re in a hole. You keep digging. The hole gets bigger, until you can’t help but acknowledge the hole. There is despair. So, we fear it. We fear being in the hole. We don’t want despair, because we don’t want to be in the hole. However, we cannot get out of the hole without acknowledging it, and we can’t acknowledge the hole without acknowledging and feeling despair.

Do not fear despair. All emotions have a purpose, and despair is no exception. Instead of running from it, approach it. What does your despair tell you? What change do you need to make? What will happen if you make this change? How can you find the courage to do so?

These are major questions, and can be difficult to determine for yourself. If you struggle, talk to someone. Choose someone who can be present with you in despair. If you don’t have one, don’t be afraid to seek help. We will discuss stigmas of counseling in a later post, but understand that a counselor has the ability to walk with you when someone else either can’t or you do not have someone you would like to walk with you, for whatever reason.

Learn to walk with your despair. Learn from your despair. It will allow it to quiet and then vanish. What replaces it is strength and growth.

Until next time,



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