So many of us experience the darkest of times. Perhaps we have a wreckage of broken dreams behind us, times when all our hopes seemed to shatter, times we had no other choice but to hold our deepest feelings, fears, pains and insecurities inside of us, only imagining the darkest of futures or no future at all that seemed to contain even a seed of hope coming out of the pain of such a traumatic past. Maybe some of us were born into families where feelings and needs were not recognised or we learned to turn against ourselves in judgement, kicking ourselves for our incapacity to ‘measure up’ to standards we never chose or set. Maybe we suffered from being so caught up in it all we could not see a way out and wished to die.
We can feel this kind of intense pain in all kinds of ways. A deep depression, a loss of a will to live, a feeling no one understands or cares, that we are alone in ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ is). From my experience the first step out of this prison lies in acknowledging the unvarnished inner truth, (even if it is not the objective reality), owning and opening up from that place and perhaps in the best outcome being heard, received or validated in some way. The trick then becomes how to move through to a recognition of how what happened or was done to us impacted our thinking, feelings, thoughts and dreams to the point where we can understand the effects in order to take responsbilty for how we keep the sense of pain and suffering and powerlessness going. Not always easy to do, admittedly.
I shared in a post a while back about some of what Stan Grant explores in his book on multigenerational trauma to do with blame and resentment which recycles due to genuine hurts or injuries effected on a person or peoples. In the book Australia Day he is concerned with the impact of white colonialism on the indigenous people of my country but in the course of writing he touches on philosopher’s various takes on the subject as well as on other collective instances of grievance and trauma, including the Holocaust. In one chapter he explores the philosopher Nietsche’s concept of ‘resentment man’ the one who holds onto the pain of deep deep injury and is unable to find forgiveness or let go of the pain and ends up killing himself.
Having suffered with my own resentments over years (fuelled by a sense of hurt, grief, loss and powerless in being a bystander to as well as a sufferer of multiple traumas) Grant’s words relate for me. I know the times I wished to die were those times I felt I had been so deeply hurt by life and the hurt had recycled due to the poor choices I made in love partners and my own tendency to lash out due to my longings and wounds that could not be validated until I got into therapy.
Recognition of where many of my suicidal feelings came most especially after reading Jonice Webb’s excellent book on emotional neglect last year. In Running on Empty she says that suicidal feelings can even visit those of us from what appear to be outwardly ‘loving’ families if recognition of and knowledge of how to deal with emotions as guides is not present in those families and it may only be the most sensitive or emotional one that suffers. That said emotions can also drive us in negative ways towards suicidal feelings when they run out of control or cover over deep ones that need to be felt, liberated and expressed. Along with this in order to find the will to imagine a brighter future we need to at least have a sense that we can find a way to joy again, to a sense of hope or promise which may so often be missing if we fail to find the right kind of supports.
Its interesting as even at lunch yesterday my sister and I were sharing how sometimes in our darkest times we wish not to be here any more. But even as I write this now I know how much I love life too. In the past two years suicidal feelings and desires have been far less present than they were after the last painful relationship I endured in between 2007 and 2011 ended. It took me about 5 years of therapy with different therapists coming out of that for the suicidal feelings to end and for some of the negative voices he planted in my head to pass. That said these days I take more responsibility for the dark places my own inner fear voices take me too. And I know that thinking negatively and hopelessly and not taking positive action can lead me in a dark place if I don’t keep my wits about me fully.
I was prompted to write this post after a lovely long conversation with my sister today to find she is doing well on her first day out and because as I sat eating my lunch I was listening to a programme on how art is being used to help those who feel suicidal as the result of loss, grief and trauma. Art can provide for many of us in its different forms a way both to express and release as well as find a way through darker experiences and feelings. It can help us to pick up the shards of our broken dreams and make use of them. It can help us to reassemble them into a mosaic. It can help us to find a birth place of meaning and benediction for soul wounds or loss. And in the final analysis it also connects us to the world and to others. In the show today they interviewers were talking to an Afghanistan man who uses music to help those with trauma in his country. He spoke of its healing power.
When the world turns dark for us, it can be so hard to feel we are not alone, and to remember we are not the only ones going through this. When we reach out, when we express, when we stop internalising all the killing voices left in us due to abuse, anxiety, trauma and depression when we acknowledged them, then we are taking a step out of our prison and expanding our vision to the possibility and hope that just maybe there might be a brighter future for us out there.