Hopelessness: What to do about it?

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, Written by jackrosenberger

Hopelessness is perhaps one of the most significant but ignored issues that people will present in psychoanalysis.  Sometimes, it is seen as part of depression, and indeed it is.  Sometimes, however, it is seen as a proof as a person’s lack of patience with the analytic process.  And perhaps sometimes it is.  But in my experience as a clinician it appears to signify much more.

First, it IS a sign of depression–perhaps along with finding no pleasure in anything one of the most important symptoms of a depression that can become life threatening.  Secondly, and perhaps as importantly, it is a sign of how an individual feels about his/her life in general, taken as a whole.  All too often in our society we look at the various dimensions of our lives:  professional, financial, family, friends, etc. and assume that if there is no great problem in any of those areas then we must be happy and that any feelings of discontent must be imaginary, like Jacob Marley’s ghost.

But perhaps these feelings of emptiness are trying to tell us something.  Perhaps they are trying to suggest to us that we ARE lacking something in our lives.  Perhaps one of the above mentioned areas of our lives is not going as well as we would want to believe.  Perhaps our work is boring us to tears,  Perhaps our romantic partner no longer seems as invested in the relationship as he/she once was.

But there is a possibility that these feelings of emptiness are trying to get our attention to something deeper, something of what one theologian has called, something of ultimate concern.  In the old song, that most of you would be too young to remember, Peggy Lee asks, “Is that all there is?”  It is possible that even with all of our material and emotional desires more or less met, that we seem to long for something more, something greater than ourselves, something truly transcendent.  Perhaps it is in this quest for the transcendent that we discover our deepest and truest humanity.  It in response to these deeper longings, that we turn our attention to the “great” questions:  questions of the True, the Just, and the Beautiful.  I would suggest that unless we at some point in our lives quest after some “taste” of these transcendent mysteries, we miss the deepest and most important experiences of being human.

If you find yourself wrestling with these questions or being plagued by these doubts, perhaps the solution is not just to “have another drink.”  Perhaps it might be the universe’s way of trying to get your attention.  In ancient texts, when a person was about to be let in on something big, some celestial being would get this person’s attention and say, BEHOLD!  Could it be possible that the universe is trying to get your attention?  If this is true, then perhaps your feelings are not to be ignored.  If anything, it might be time to try to behold what is trying to come to be within your life and maybe even inside yourself.  If this is the case, you have to be careful.  You might get swept off your feet!

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