Making Room for Despair

Just as I get back in a groove creatively, my therapist suggests that I look at the other side of generativity–DESPAIR.

I vaguely remember something about this developmental paradigm from my early psych classes. Erickson, wasn’t it?

Although I’m rapidly closing in on 50, I’m struck that I’m in the stage he referred to as “Middle Adulthood,” especially since I was only 18 when I first heard about it.  I also see from Wikipedia that “despair” doesn’t come until the period called “Late Adulthood,” but I entertain it anyway; I was always an early achiever.

At first I am frightened to hear that on the other side of my generativity may be despair.  Does that mean that everything I create is out of fear? Am I simply crowding it out?

Do I dare make room for it?

It’s easier to ask this question from the other side of the pain. Which is where I’m standing now. But am I standing here because I’ve moved through it or because I’ve chased it away?

This question brings to mind an excerpt from The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer (see her comment on an earlier post here.)

Scribbled out on a piece of paper and copied from woman to woman, Oriah’s words circled the globe. It’s been over a decade since I first read them, but this chunk of wisdom still ripples inside~

…It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living… I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it…

I decide to make room for despair, as a bold demonstration of my own friendship–AND creativity.

Kelly Salasin, February 2011

To read the previous post in this series: Disappointment

Or the follow up post: Trickster

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