Author Topic: Deep sadness and hopelessness  (Read 781 times)

BeHereNow

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Deep sadness and hopelessness
« on: August 30, 2017, 03:10:53 PM »
Hi everyone,

Once again, as I settle into my "ok" job with the commitment that I won't make any changes for at least 1 year, I am plagued with deep sadness and hopelessness.  In my meditation, there are memories of being unseen and unheard as a child, feeling unloved.  In my life, I want to escape my job and find something more meaningful to do, change careers or something... something to make the hopelessness of my life go away.

I know that somewhere beneath the hopeless feeling there is emptiness, and profound compassion.  I hold the sadness in that.  Is there anything more to do?  Do I just embrace the sadness that is here, also notice all the wonder that is around me, focus on one task at a time with love, and trust that it will pass?

I just don't know what to do with the pain... it feels so strange to just do nothing...

I'd appreciate any thoughts on how to work with this deep pain.

Much metta,
Paula
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

Middleway

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2017, 02:39:25 AM »
Hi Paula,

Work or job is only 8 hours in a day and 5 days week. I remember you have kids so you must be very busy when you are not at work.  I suggest you make time for yourself and go volunteer at shepherds of good hope or some other organization. If you really feel strongly about it, I am sure you can find time. Just volunteer and see how it goes. Doors will open for you. You have to take that step if you want to break out of the status quo.

If you don't change direction, you will end up where you going.

Good luck!

Middleway
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Alex

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2017, 09:47:36 AM »
Hi Paula

The way you describe it, suggests that longing to escape your job may actually be a way of escaping the sense that you are not good enough, leading back to growing up in an environment where basic attachment needs were not met.

If you’re unfamiliar with attachment theory, here are some basics:
Unfulfilled attachment/connection needs create powerful emotions, whether as a child or an adult. Basically it is about being (un)safe in this world where we can’t survive without other people: Do you see/hear/understand me? Do you care about my feelings/thoughts/pain? Are you there for me? Do you respect me? Am I good enough? If I ask you to be there for me, will you? And do you understand that asking in itself is very difficult for me?
It is within the early attachment relationships with parents/educators that our sense of self, of others and the world first takes shape. So, lacking the secure connection to accessible and responsive parents may lead to a lack of basic trust in oneself, others or the world, which can take many shapes and forms.
It may have lead you to a survival strategy “I can/will do things on my own. I don’t need help. I value freedom, autonomy, etc.” Or quite the opposite strategies, where you feel you are dependent on others and require their presence or confirmation.



Alex

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2017, 09:48:01 AM »
I was in a very similar place ± 10 years ago. I did change something, as Middleway suggests. I went back to school and changed career to one where I can be of service and work from my heart. This definitely helped to find a stronger sense of being at peace with my life, but not as much as working through the attachment issues: learning how to hold/love myself and allowing to be held/loved by others.
Today still, my career may be the stage of these emotional issues. A sense of not being good enough can creep in.  There is always something I could have done better, some training that I think I need to be better in the future. There is nothing wrong with improving or reflecting on my functioning, but I still notice that sometime it is driven by this unsatisfiable sense of not being good enough.

So, making a change is important, in due time, but probably not as important as working through the attachment history.

It seems you know how to deal with the pain. Maybe bring even more mindfulness to the process: when you notice yourself struggling with the pain, ask yourself “What is the quality of my attention right now? How am I engaging with the pain? Can I soften, even a little? Could this moment be good enough just as it is?”
And then ask yourself: “What is it I really need at this very moment? Whether related to to the attachment issues or not, how could I meet those needs today?”

...
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 10:31:33 AM by Alex »

Alex

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2017, 09:49:56 AM »
it feels so strange to just do nothing...

In my experience, "doing nothing" as a rule, is a misconception. I mean, it is valid approach to seeing things as they are, but not a prescription as if all the rest is forbidden. In my experience, it makes sense, in retreat conditions, to refrain from anything else and to try to ‘just notice’, so that you can experience what the approach has to offer. For me, in daily life ‘just noticing’ is not the only skilful approach.

And when do we ever do nothing? Even on the cushion? We engage with our experience… Even the simple act of observing requires a constant monitoring of what’s happening, adjusting the quality of attention, and balancing our effort and other faculties.

So, keep the vipassana skills at hand (seeing clearly, not becoming entangled, seeing when you’re running away or chasing a future self), but allow yourself to explore other ways of engaging or working with pain:
-   asking yourself what your real needs are and working towards their fulfilment
-   finding suitable modalities to express your pain (creative, dance, talking,…) and maybe trying to understand it cognitively
-   working with the thoughts that fuel this pain (see for example Vitakkasanthana Sutta)

--

In any case…
All in life is temporary.
I get a sense you’re already setting the stage for things to unfold in due time.

Kindly
Alex

BeHereNow

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2017, 04:10:04 PM »
Alex and Middleway,

Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful responses.

You are both bang-on... I think there is a change in direction that needs to take place work-wise, and there is a deeper issue of never feeling good enough that comes from early childhood.

My plan for now is to continue my commitment for a year of no major external changes.  While my job title is far removed from what I actually want to do, I also have a lot of space at work to offer wellness and mental health supports and mindfulness teaching / coaching, which is my true passion.  I've even made it part of my performance plan for this year.  By August of next year, I will be much clearer on any changes that need to take place.

I think I will see myself as my first client... what would I tell the little girl who feels so afraid and unloved?  How can I continue to offer her the support she needs to see that she doesn't need to be so scared?

There is so much pain in my heart, but ending the running away from it by continually chasing new goals is allowing it to flow and transform in some way.

One thing that helped from just writing it out here is accepting that this is how I feel.  I kept trying to tell myself that I love my job, but I see now that it's ok to not love it right now.  I don't need to know where it's going or how it will all turn out.  I will just stay open and compassionate to my present moment experience.

Much metta,
Paula
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

Alistair

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2017, 08:11:15 PM »
Hi Paula

Went through kind of the same thing last year after I'd been meditating for 5 years.
 I just felt an overall sadness inside of me not knowing why and where it came from, sometimes I would feel it hard in my chest without being able to cry. So i went to a Vippassana 10 day retreat and it went well during the 10 days I was there but when I came home and was going to bed  I just started weeping like a baby for no apparent reason, I just layed there for 1-2 hours crying and it was not like one of those shallow cries you can have when something happens too you, this felt like my whole being just flushed away lifetimes of sadness.
   After that the sadness was gone and I still don't know why the sadness was there in the first place.


Kind regards
Alistair
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 08:25:11 PM by Alistair »

dharma bum

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2017, 11:39:44 PM »
is your job stressful? do you actively dislike your job, or it's just something you do not love?
Mostly ignorant

BeHereNow

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2017, 07:46:02 PM »
Alistair - Thank you for sharing your story.  It's so interesting how we hold so much emotion from the past within us, so miraculous to be able to let it go.

Dharma bum - My job is at times stressful, but mostly I can manage quite well since I've been doing it on and off since 2008.  It is in intergovernmental relations, and while intellectually I can rationalize why it's impactful to make good policy and ensure we work well with other provinces and territories and the federal government (I live in Canada), I just find I'm not that interested.  It is quite political and feels like we run around like chickens with our heads cut off (me less so lately) trying to fix policies at a superficial level, while ignoring the real depth of human behaviour and the need to transform at a deep energetic and foundational level to make lasting change.

More and more I would say I actively dislike it.  Today I tried to read through all of the clippings to make an attempt to be present with the job as it is (we get curated news clippings on all our files), and as hard as I tried I only made it half way and felt so much anger arise as I was trying to really care.

On the other hand, in my meditation it is not dislike for my job that arises, but a deep rage and anger for my family of origin.  My family talked politics all the time, I should say yelled, and ignored any discussion of how we really felt, what we desired or needed, or any other attempts at real communication.

I guess I feel in a way that I'm back in my old family, everyone talking about politics and ignoring the deep, dark despair that lies beneath.  Interestingly the mindfulness programs I've instituted in the Ontario Public Service (where I work) are quite popular in other ministries, but my own colleagues are completely uninterested.  I don't push it, but it is another way that I feel a bit disconnected.

It will be interesting to see how I feel after my year of observing and just trying to stay present with it all.  Right now I feel like escaping, but if once the reactivity is gone I still see that it's just not a right fit for me, I will have to make a change.

This is also scary for me because my husband is not supportive of me pursuing a counselling or coaching degree, which is what I would do.  He thinks I should stay in the civil service, maybe be a Director, and that I won't necessarily be happier if I make the change.  He may be right, I don't know.

As I see it, although I'm trying not to think about it yet (obviously I'm failing at this), at the end of the year of not taking action there will be a few possibilities:
1)  Stay at this job and continue teaching mindfulness on the side, expand my writing through my website and maybe even write a book
2)  Change jobs within the civil service to something that I feel more connected to, that is closer to service to the public than corporate policy
3)  Pursue a career change and get training in counselling, psychotherapy, coaching or something of the sort

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds...
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2017, 02:28:47 AM »
Hi Paula,

Thanks for sharing and sorry to hear of your situation.

There may not necessarily be a right or wrong answer here, sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, and sometimes you're carrying shit around on your shoe. The perfect you in a perfect world would be able to take everything in your stride from a position of equanimity, but this may not be realistic for you at this time. Perhaps where and what you're doing now is simply too much for you to bare, and a change of pace or environ may provide you with a better grounding. Things sound a bit more complicated too with your husband's lack of support, and family ghosts. It is hard, but I think it's important to address each element separately rather than lumping everything in together.

From my position, you've got one foot out the door at work, commit yourself to the year, ride it out, but with a view to move on. I would potentially put aside desires to get into psychotherapy or other fields of counselling at this time, as to me it sounds like there's too much of your own healing tied into that. If I were you I'd be aiming for a low stress role that has you adding value by bringing thoughtfulness and kindness to it, but without too high an expectation.

All the best

dharma bum

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2017, 04:26:39 AM »
Thanks for sharing your situation Paula. I thought I might have some suggestions, but I don't really have anything helpful to say.

I have been in jobs I hated because of bad bosses and have quit without any backup. I've been in boring but stress-free jobs which I didn't mind because they left me with enough energy outside of work. Sometimes I have been happy just to be employed. Other times, I have been picky about jobs. There is no single thing that works every time. I hope things work out for you.
Mostly ignorant

BeHereNow

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Re: Deep sadness and hopelessness
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2017, 04:02:25 PM »
Thank you so much, Dharmic Tui and Dharma Bum!

Writing it all out and continued sitting practice has been helping me sort through this very convoluted ball of feelings / emotions.  The moments I'm able to observe without so much attachment it is quite fascinating, how we somehow recreate painful moments of our past in our current lives and the need to heal those in order to move on.

Today is a good day, and I'm grateful to have a job that is not too demanding, do my best, share kindness and be present to the best of my ability.  It feels like enough.

I also recognize that I may still want to move on after the year, and that is ok.  I'll trust that I'll be able to figure that out then.

A key insight for me, that I'll have to remind myself of often, is that I can live my purpose regardless of the job I'm in.  If my purpose is to help others and offer ways to reduce suffering, there won't be any shortage of opportunities to do that. 

Much metta,
Paula
"You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the weather." - Pema Chodron