Defeating Despair Through Gratitude, Part 2

| December 23, 2015

Defeat despair with hope!Revisiting the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock

In Part 1 of this article I described the desperate situation my Puritan ancestors were in after they arrived in the Mayflower at Cape Cod in the early 1600s. They were in the wrong place, much further north than the Virginia Colony they had planned to settle near. They arrived in early November as winter was coming on, but had no buildings to shelter in.

They had brought very little with them, and had planned to trade with the Virginia Company to get seeds and other things they would need. They built on a site where an epidemic had killed everyone. That winter half of the pilgrims and half of the ship’s crew died from an epidemic (the same one? maybe). At some points during the epidemic only six or seven people were well enough to help care for the others.

And yet, by November of the following year they had a great feast and celebration. Along with the Wampanoag people they had made a peace treaty with in the spring, they celebrated and thanked God for their many blessings. Yes, many blessings, in spite of their hardships and heartbreaks.

Gratitude During the Tribulation

During the tribulation many of us will be tempted to lose hope. We will be tempted to focus on everything that we don’t have, everything that we have lost. That will be a big list, no doubt about it, and the losses will be overwhelming and devastating on many levels — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual — “all of the above.”

And yet, there will be blessings and graces and things to be thankful for. Even in the worst of situations and the worst of times, there will be reasons to cry out to God in gratitude. Heartfelt gratitude. And that will help us to retain access to our full faculties of reason and problem-solving. That will help us to survive.

The mindset of gratitude will give us hope for the future, optimism that we will find a way to overcome our challenges, whatever they might be. We will see solutions where none seemed possible. We will work with what we have. We will be able to laugh in the face of adversity. We will remain in love and service to others, and that will lift us up out of fear and despair. We will get through to “the Backside” that Marshall talks about. And then we will make a difference for the future of our species, a positive difference.

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

So how do we get there? First of all, we need to be aware that one of the purposes of Knowledge Mountain Church is to study enlightened governance and community participation. The requisite first step of enlightened governance is enlightened self-governance.

What we think and tell ourselves (“self-talk”) about a situation, event, hardship, or heartbreak will be what drives our emotional state. If we “fall to pieces” emotionally, and go deep into fear or anxiety, we will not be able to fully access our free will. We will miss opportunities and fail to perceive available solutions. And that is going to be dangerous.

That brings us to our proverb, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” There will be a whole lot of darkness-cursing in the tribulation. It won’t help. There will be a whole lot of focusing on what we don’t have, what is wrong, what isn’t working, what “won’t work,” and what “can’t work.”

But there will be “candles” available to light, even in the darkest days. Is a candle the best and most powerful thing to push back the darkness? Not by itself, no. But many all together, yes, they are most effective. In our communities during the tribulation we need to have everyone lighting candles daily as a habit of thought, and together we will make a bright light.

Gratitude is a Powerful Way to Light Those Candles

We live in a consumer culture, and our media and advertising pushes us to continually think about what we don’t have, to make us believe that we need things we really don’t need, and to always want more, better, faster, newer, etc. This keeps us unaware, at the conscious level, of the many blessings we do have — and they are substantial!

We flip a switch and have light. We sleep on soft beds. We turn on the faucet and water runs. An amazing assortment of foods is readily available a short distance away. We can listen to music any time we want, without having to learn how to read music or play an instrument. We can pick up a phone and talk to someone across the country or on the other side of the world. Emails arrive almost instantaneously to the person we sent them to. We can travel across an ocean by jet in one day.

To develop a habit of gratitude we need to shift our thinking to something more like the pilgrims were doing. They believed in Divine Providence, or God’s taking care of us and providing us with what we need. They always looked for signs of God’s providence and blessings that were given to them, and they thanked God, both in the moment, and formally at their services.

We can train our minds to notice and celebrate everything that is good, what we do have, what can work, what is a blessing. Too often we are unaware of how blessed we really are. We can choose a positive, grateful mindset and focus, and that will often change a probable negative outcome to a positive one.

Negative Emotional States Feed Dark Spirits

Norman Vincent Peale tells in “The Power of Positive Thinking” how he once counseled a man who was in total despair. This man had lost his faith and given up all hope. When Dr. Peale met with him the man told how he had lost everything he had worked his whole life for. “Everything” had been swept away. There was “nothing left.” And at 52 years old, this man believed he was too old to start over.

The man had moved into a state of fear and anxiety, and from there into despair and hopelessness. Being in this emotional state attracts dark spirits, who feed on the energy of this negative emotional state. They like to keep any negative emotional state going, because that energy is their food—anger, fear, despair, hate, rage, terror, even anxiety.

On inner levels these dark spirits encourage us to slide further into any negative state, and as Marshall says, they go, “Slurp, slurp, slurp,” as they feed off of our energy. One ascended master guide that I have followed taught that we should not to listen to “those puny demons” who whisper in our ears. They will come in the tribulation. Don’t feed them! Coming back to an emotional state of positive equilibrium stops the feeding of these dark spirits.

Overcoming Total Despair with Gratitude

Dr. Peale met with the man in despair to help him. First he listened with empathy as the man described his situation and how hopeless it was. Then Dr. Peale suggested that they write down a list of everything the man did have going for him, all of the assets that were for him. The man was in such despair he said there would be nothing to write down, even so, it turned out there were quite a number of things.

First, Dr. Peale asked about the man’s wife. It turns out she loved the man faithfully and was standing by him, and so were his children. He also had friends who wanted to help. His health was still good, and his integrity was still fully intact. He still believed in God, and he believed God wanted to help him. He lived in the U.S., “the land of opportunity” (this was during the post-WWII economic boom).

The awareness that there were still good things in his life, despite the loss of his business, lifted his spirits. Gratitude began to bubble up in his heart for these good things. His outlook became positive. His energy returned, along with full access to his initiative and ingenuity. He did start over, and he did just fine.

But what would have happened if he had not turned around his thinking? What if he had continued in despair? That reminds me of a story Paramahansa Yogananda once told, about two frogs who fell into a pail of milk. This version is a little different than Yogananda’s: As both frogs swam around and tried to get out of the pail one frog began to say things like, “There is no way to get out,” “we are going to die here,” “we might as well give up.” His strength waned. Eventually he gave up, sank down, and drowned.

The other frog kept swimming. He kept up his expectation and hope that somehow he would escape this situation. He told himself positive things, “I can keep going,” “I will find a way out,” “I can’t see how right now, but something will change and I will escape this.” He kept on swimming, and eventually his efforts churned the rich milk into a lump of butter, and he stepped out of the pail to safety.

The pilgrims were taking this kind of mental approach. What might their list of positive assets have looked like?

  • Half of us are still alive after the sickness. Those of us left recovered our strength.
  • The ship’s captain stayed the winter and helped us get through.
  • We were able to build shelters, and we will improve them over time.
  • We found seeds buried in the old village, and we can plant them to grow food.
  • The Wampanoag people made peace, and they are helping us learn to survive here.
  • We are free! We can read the Bible in English! We can worship God as we choose!
  • We have found a good, fertile land where we can build a self-sufficient community.
  • Our children and grandchildren will grow up in the positive culture that we are creating here.
  • We have had a plentiful harvest! We are going to make it!

And they did make it. The Massachusetts Colony was a great success over time. It had been prosperous and self-governing for 150 years by the time the American Revolution took place. Like the second frog, they kept swimming and never gave up hope.

And yet, there was one pilgrim who may have been like the first frog in the story. Shortly after they arrived at Cape Cod a young woman fell overboard from the Mayflower and drowned. Some have speculated that she committed suicide. If that is true, what negative things might she have been telling herself in her own mind that drove her to total despair and hopelessness? If she had chosen different and more positive thoughts, to focus on what assets she did have going for her, would things have turned out differently in her life?

Journaling and Mentally Listing Positive Assets

I encourage everyone to practice journaling, both now and during the tribulation. List the positive assets that you have going for you at a ratio 10:1 over anything negative or lacking. Make your list just like Norman Vincent Peale described how to do in the first chapter of “The Power of Positive Thinking.” If you have no paper or pen, you can still do this mentally at the end of each day. I guarantee you will sleep better, and good sleep will yield more positive outcomes, both for you and for the community you are in.

Some days you may need to “dig deep” or even go through some “mental olympics” to find some positive things to write down and be grateful for. Sometimes these positives and assets may take the form of, “it could have been worse,” but these are also things to be grateful for.

In addition to physical assets, be aware of “soft assets,” love of a spouse and children, a supportive community, good friends, others who work hard to stay positive in your group, an act of loving-kindness from someone toward you, or an act of loving-kindness you were able to do for someone else. And don’t overlook freedom, and the opportunity to build a new, more positive and more spiritual culture for our species on the “clean slate” after the tribulation.

How to Make a Positive Out of, “It Could Have Been Worse.”

“It could have been worse” is always true. We are often not aware of blessings, protection, and sponsorship we receive from Creator where a bad situation really could have been much worse without that intercession. Using our imaginations to show how even a bad situation could have been worse helps us to stay positive during adversity.

A Unity minister told a story of how she used this technique. She had recently moved to a new city and was driving home from visiting a friend in a rural area. It was night time, and raining hard. Suddenly she got a flat tire. She pulled over to the side of the interstate as semi trucks whizzing by pulled at her car.

She described how she was immediately afraid, and felt like she would cry. She knew this would not help her to solve the situation. Instead she consciously took control of her thoughts, knowing that thoughts drive emotions. Changing what we are thinking or telling ourselves, mentally, will change our emotional state. Changing our emotional state to one of positive equilibrium will give us the best chance to overcome any difficulties we are facing.

She took a deep breath and forced her mind to focus on what was positive. What did she have going for her? She had been able to pull over safely, no one was hurt, and there was no property damage. “It could have been worse.” Then she remembered she had just signed up for AAA, and she had her cell phone. Yes, there was a cell signal here. She would be able to call for help. She breathed a sigh of gratitude, and felt at peace as she waited for help to arrive. The problem was solved. Had she instead yielded to fear and crying, she would have stayed stuck at the side of the road through the night.

Persistent Gratitude Defeats Despair

Persist in your journaling, or mentally list all of the positives silently to yourself at the end of each day, and you will permanently change your thought habits. And then express your gratitude and thanks to God, however it is you understand God through your own personal spiritual path, and in whatever way feels most natural to you. This is an important skills that will help you get through the tribulation more successfully, because it will help you stay in a calm, focused state of positive equilibrium.

Being consciously mindful of positive assets that you have going for you creates a positive self-fulfilling prophecy. Things will feel better. Things will look better. Solutions will materialize out of nowhere. Your faith in the goodness of God will become solid. Peace and contentment will settle in your heart.

And in the tribulation, seeing that the glass is half full rather than half empty will help you get through it, even when it’s very hard. Even when it seems impossible. Remain aware of what you do have going for you. Every day list all the things that are good, helpful, and blessings, even the things that “could have been worse,” but weren’t.

Gratitude is an important precursor to despair-defeating hope. Please work to create thought patterns of gratitude as you prepare for what is coming. It can make all the difference in your daily outcomes.


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Category: Defeating Despair

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