“It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before dawn” – Paulo Coelho
When we’re going through a tough time in life, we grasp at straws to find ways to ease our distress. Amongst other methods, we try distracting ourselves, numbing our feelings through alcohol and drugs, sleeping our sorrows away, or seeking out advice from close confidants. Several of us even turn to professional therapy. While some of these tactics are healthier than others, they have a common purpose: to help us find the light at the end of the tunnel.
What severely exacerbates such a dark period is irrational fear. We often become (consciously or subconsciously) fearful and insecure that we’ll never escape the tunnel. That we’ll be stuck in this distressing period forevermore. If we could shed this fear, and instead reassure ourselves that brighter days are to come, they would come far sooner. But in such a fragile state, many lack the wherewithal to harness such confidence for themselves. I’ve found that the best way to find reassurance is to engage with people and resources who can acutely relate to our anguish.
I went through an agonizing time at work at the beginning of the year. I was experiencing the full array of symptoms that come hand-in-hand with hardships: anxiety, depression, sleep-less nights and a blow to my confidence. I found myself wallowing in the fear that my misery would be endless. What kept this fear at bay? Phone conversations with my Dad. But it wasn’t his practical advice or encouraging words that kept me afloat, it was how much he could relate to my situation. Hearing him talk about similar career struggles that he faced at my age made me feel less alone. Seeing that he clearly overcame said struggles made me feel more secure that I would overcome mine as well.
Time and time again I’ve seen how powerfully reassuring it is to engage with people who are, or have been, in the same shaky boat that we’re in. And it doesn’t even have to be an actual back and forth conversation for it to be effective. After my long-term girlfriend and I broke up, I found myself comforted by reading articles and blog-posts which deeply related to my grief. The more similarities that an article had to my break-up, the more it comforted me. Reassurance attempts by my friends seemed to pale in comparison. Hearing that “there are plenty more fish in the sea” hardly consoled me.
In distressing times seek out those who have gone through very similar, if not identical, struggles. They’re the best sources of authentic inspiration. As soon as you feel that others can so closely identify with your suffering, you’ll feel less isolated. You’ll feel more composed. And you’ll feel like everything will eventually be alright.