This School of Life post On Despair and the Imagination is a fantastic read with so many wonderful little tidbits to chew on.
They discuss the fact that we often fall into despair just because we can't imagine another outcome or option for ourselves. We lose a job and can't see a world in which we get a new one or retrain for a different field or start a business. We lose a relationship and all we can see ahead of us is the misery we currently feel:
"We are not merely ‘sad’; we cannot picture any better life than the agonised one we currently have."
Instead, we could envision an endless array of possibilities for ourselves:
"We are grown-ups, that is, people with choices... We would be able to build ourselves a small hut on the edge of the desert. We could work as a postman or retrain as a psychotherapist, find employment as a bus conductor or as a carer in a hospice... We can change our names. If we’re feeling shy and defeated, we don’t have to go out and see anyone ever again. We can live by ourselves, mind our own business, read the classics and go to the movies all day. We can go mad for a while and then recover; a lot of people do. We could throw ourselves into learning a new language or take a university degree in Sanskrit by correspondence course... We could make a new circle of friends among recently released convicts (they tend to be very bright and very free of social snobbery). We could go to a monastery or a nunnery. We could become a gardener."
This reminds me of a practice I discovered for myself a while back, which is simply imagining a variety of different ways something could work out. I find that it really helps me regain a little perspective at the moment and remember that everything in my life doesn't rely on one particular path working out.
Another, similar, practice that I found really incredible for regaining some of this imagination and perspective is at the turn of 2020 when I reviewed where I was at ten years ago in my life compared to now, and then thought a bit about some of the major changes that had happened as I journeyed through that decade. That was FOR REAL. What a salient reminder of how much changes, even though, in each moment, I could barely see past what I was experiencing at the time.
To prompt this kind of thinking, The School of Life piece also suggests a creative writing exercise, to simply start with the prompt: "If I lost everything and had to start again, I might..."
Finally, buried in the middle of a very long paragraph is this incredible sentence:
"The oceans are so large and beautifully unconcerned with us."
Is that comforting to anyone else? I love it.
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