Tom was a wonderful human being. He was kind, caring and helpful to all those who sought his assistance. The only problem was that most of us did not like to be around Tom. Much as he tried to be a “good” person, there was always an aura of doom and gloom around him. It didn’t matter whether he was speaking with you on the phone or sitting across the table from you, you just would get the feeling that the world was coming to an end or that your life would be in a terrible mess. Were you to spend an hour with Tom, you’d feel that all your energy was drained out of you.
Now, mind you, as I said earlier, Tom was a caring person. The problem was, however that Tom carried around with him a “cloud of negativity” born of desperation. His was definitely a desperate matter. It didn’t just stop when he got off the phone. The emptiness in your stomach, the low energy would persist for quite a while until you eventually forgot about him. That is how powerful the feeling of desperation is. It has the power to turn off the brightest light in our lives.
Desperation broadcasts a very strong message to all within our sphere of influence. It even goes beyond that to people who are meeting you for the first time. Business associates tend to shun you, partners want to avoid you, everyone — even little children — feel uncomfortable around you.
So what do you do if situations and circumstances seem hopeless and your fears force you into desperation? Simple, but not easy. First, try to slow your thoughts down. You are desperate because of the incessant, negative self-talk, which has taken over your entire being. Slow the internal conversation down. Take a break from whatever you’re doing — even if it’s for a few minutes.
Next, breathe deeply a few times, not any special count like breathe in for a count of seven, hold for a count of five and then breathe out for a count of seven. Do that if you want, but it’s not necessary. Just slow breathing, in and out, will lower the tension in the body, mind and spirit to a more manageable pace. Realize that things are as they are, but can be changed. You can change them by becoming quiet within yourself and then listening to the feelings you have. Ask yourself if there is anything you can do about the problem at this moment.
You will get one of two answers. Either “yes” or “no.” If the answer is “yes,” go ahead and do what you can. If the answer is “no,” then go do something else or maybe even nothing. This simple exercise is a practice in patience and will tune-up the mind and make it possible for you to find creative ways for your problem to be resolved. And it will be resolved in ways that sometimes may seem magical.
Now, I realize it is not easy to conquer desperation with the flip of a switch or the snap of the fingers. Having been in the middle of it many times, I discovered that it generally takes courage and practice to overcome. Of course, most of us can’t stop worrying by telling ourselves not to worry.
But we can put a time limit on it. A simple trick I use is this: I acknowledge that the situation is bad and I say to myself, “John, this seems to be really terrible — really, really bad. But it may only appear that way because you’re desperate and scared right now. It’s OK to be scared for a little while. However, don’t spend all day being frightened or desperate. Take 30 minutes, an hour, even a few hours if you like. Be as desperate as you want for that period of time. Then drop it and go on with other things.” Just practice this whenever you feel scared and desperate.
And Tom, what about Tom? Well, He continues to call. He’s exhausted all the time. Desperation, you see, consumes all his energy. I tried to show him that there is always hope, that his problems would let go of him when he got quiet enough to loosen his grip and let go of them. I tried to teach him to breathe slowly and to get quiet inside. He listened, became quiet for ten seconds and went right back to worrying.
Other friends tried to help him, but he would not let go of his problems. I came to believe that Tom thought he would have no purpose here on Earth if he did not have things to worry about. I tried to tell him that it was fine to be happy and that we did not need anything to make us happy. But he would not let go and give himself permission to be happy.