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  • Valerie Keating

Climbing out of the Pit of Despair

Do you recall how Pooh Bear used to go downstairs - bumping his head on each one of the stairs behind Christopher Robin? Bump, bump, bump? Well, sometimes I feel like Pooh - except instead of Christopher Robin dragging me down, it is the world that is transporting me (poorly) to a bad space. Yes, even therapists fall into those spaces. I do, quite often.


What do I do when I find myself there? First I name the space. Sometimes I call it “the pit of despair” and other times “the hole of loneliness or disappointment”. No matter what I call it, it’s a pretty painful place to be. There is no covering up feelings like this with swaths of sunshiny optimism or pretend rainbows.

Which brings me to the second thing I do; I acknowledge all the crummy feelings I have. In acknowledging them, I accept them. I do not tell myself I should not feel that way or make any kind of excuses. I just accept them.


My feelings are messengers - visiting me and relaying bits of information about my experience. I try to find out what caused the feelings. Sometimes I can figure this out and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes it’s simple, while other times it is beyond complex.


The next thing I do is decide whether I want to continue to feel those feelings or if I want to let them go. If I want to continue to feel them, I do. I claim my right to stay stuck in the pit for as long as I want. However, if I want to release the emotions and feel something else, I look for my ladder.


My ladder which can lead me out of the pit of despair has many rungs (usually because my pit is so darn deep). Sometimes the rungs are the same, sometimes they change. My first rung usually is sharing my feelings with an extremely supportive, nonjudgmental person. The next rung might be to reconnect with nature (e.g., watch the squirrels and birds or go for a walk). Another rung might be reaching out to spirit (e.g., via prayer or reading) or helping someone else in need. In easier times, I have worked hard to identify what things, actions, or people might help me transition from one feeling (like despair) to a more comfortable one (like hope). The rungs help me to climb up, up, up and out of whatever pit I might find myself in.

I hope this helps you to find a way up and out too.

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