Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Every day, thousands of people will turn to alcohol and drugs, soap operas, gambling and shopping as a means to escape from the everyday problems they face in life.
It would seem that we are not well adapted to cope with the emotional pain inherent in life’s problems.
But it is interesting to note that the only way a dentist resolves the pain of a toothache is by exploring the tooth to find the source of the pain. Covering our pain or trying to escape from it with drugs, alcohol, soap operas, shopping or overeating is no release from the pain. It is in fact letting the problem and its accompanying emotional pain run our lives.
It is increasingly clear that what is taught in our culture is a desire to avoid any kind of pain at all costs. As a result we see depression, or the ‘valleys of life’ we experience from time to time, as something essentially that we ought to explore because of its significance for our personal life.
Emotional pain can be the greatest isolation that we can experience – a prison that we build for ourselves. Just as we build it, however, it is also possible for us to find ways to unlock the door and let ourselves out and find new directions to go in life.
How depression can be a useful time
Eminent psychologist Dorothy Rowe suggests depression is a meaningful response on our part to the point at which our life has arrived. It can be a useful time to explore the kinds of personal contradictions that at crisis point are experienced as depression.
Facing the darkness, admitting the pain, allowing the pain to be pain, is never easy. This is why courage ─ big-heartedness ─ is the most essential virtue on the spiritual journey. Adrienne Rich, the poet, encourages us, “If we could learn to learn from the pain even as it grasps us”. To run from it is to run from our own aliveness and connectedness with all that is life.
We are encouraged to embrace our pain and explore it, remembering that the gospel story doesn’t end with the cross. The pain of the cross was a prelude to an even greater birth, just as willingness to embrace the inevitable pain that is part of being alive is followed by a greater understanding of ourselves and emotional and spiritual growth.
What to do if you are feeling blue
1. Don’t fight It – befriend It
This could be an opportunity to learn and grow.
2. Talk to someone
Talking to someone is important in processing your pain. It could be your minister, a friend, a parent, a counsellor. It is a sign of strength to be willing to confront how you are feeling and reach out for help and get the support you need.
Keep a daily journal and keep track of your thoughts and feelings. It can be a helpful way to express your emotions and gain insight into what’s happening in your life.
4. Be gentle with yourself
A common tendency is for us to be self-critical when we’re under stress. Watch your own internal self talk. Use affirmations, such as, “In spite of everything, God loves and accepts me just as I am”.
5. Fellowship with believers
Go to church if you can, or a small group; find a way to reconnect yourself with the strength and support of God. Hear the positive message that there are resources given – within or without – that will help us to cope and to love life more abundantly.