Sometimes we can find ourselves stuck in a dark hole and feel like we are going down, but there is hope when we open ourselves to the connection and support from others.
One of the properties I work on as a gardener is a small farm and I get to use a tractor for some of the jobs I do.
I was driving the tractor one day when all of a sudden I couldn’t move forward. I could see my wheels going round but there was little movement.
All had been going well. I was having a great day.
Driving the tractor, shifting dirt, and making the paddock I was in look tidier and neater. That was until my large wheels broke through the crust of soil and I discovered the mud and muck underneath.
I tried to back out but that didn’t help. The tractor was now up to its axle in mud. The heavy back wheels were a rim of mud and any movement I tried made the situation worse.
I got a spade and started to dig tracks out for the tractor, but it stuck like glue.
I was also stuck and felt shame. That sense of embarrassment and self-loathing.
All the old familiar critical self-talk started to flow around me.
- I’m so stupid
- I’m a failure
- I should have …
I read once that the word shame can be an acronym S.H.A.M.E – Should Have Already Mastered Everything.
In my emotional life, I was sinking fast.
I have been at times stuck in the mud of my own life. Dark black holes have seemed to want to swallow me up.
Telling yourself to ‘Pull yourself together’ doesn’t have any effect on the glue of a dark hole.
When you’re stuck
I remember getting that tractor stuck and I also remember what I did next. I phoned a guy I know with a truck to come and help pull me out.
He turned up and we attached a rope between the tractor and the truck. With his truck pulling and my tractor wheels turning we slowly and quietly got free of the hold.
That was easy.
Getting out of a personal dark hole is not as simple but we can learn some lessons from this very exciting and riveting story. (I’m open for movie deals)
Friends, Neighbors, and a Birds Nest
I was raised on a farm and when you live in isolated rural communities you understand the need to have a connection with your neighbors.
You never quite know when you might need the help of a neighbor to pull your tractor out of the mud, fight a fire, or to be rescued from a flood.
Survival relies on being in community.
In good communities, you look out for each other. You notice when someone is acting differently. A change has occurred and you are gently curious.
Years ago a counselor suggested that I might like to become part of a bird’s nest for one of their clients. Puzzled, I asked for more explanation.
He explained that this particular person had several people in their life that offered some sort of gift, skill, or role in their recovery. Each person was like strands of fiber in a bird’s nest.
There was a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist, support worker, dietician, friend, family, and many other people. I was invited to be the pastor and our small church – The Living Room could add other layers of support.
We all have a birds nest of relationships that support us. People we can call on when we get stuck. People who might also notice when were heading for the mud pit.
My friend with the truck brought a rope with him. There had to be some sort of connection to the power and resources he had and the power and resources I had.
In that bird’s nest of relationships, people will have different gifts and skills they can bring. But there must be a connection for the transfer of power and resources to take place.
In the darkest of holes, there has to be some sort of reaching out for help.
I’m not a huge fan of rescuing.
Doing something for someone that they could do for themselves. It can create both dependency and repetition of behaviors that got you in the dark hole in the first place.
Instead, we need truth and insights to help ourselves change. Much like you build into your life in a thinking compass.
‘You can do this’
‘I am with you’
‘Together we will get through this’
When you’re in a dark hole, stuck in the mud, you need people on the sideline who will cheer you on. They have a compelling vision of seeing you out of there.
They believe in change often because they have been in those very same dark holes themselves.
When we encourage we breathe courage into the heart of another.
The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart”. So does the word courage. To have courage means to have heart. To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart. “Encouraging the Heart – A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others” by Kouzes/Posner
Are you stuck in a dark hole?
Has something I have written connected to where you are at the moment?
Perhaps a total stranger might be the one that can reach down into your ditch and offer you a hand to help you out.
In that famous story that Jesus told of a man robbed, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch it wasn’t the professional and trained that first came to his aid. It was someone unexpected. A stranger.
I have noticed that people at times open up to strangers in ways that they wouldn’t with family or friends. There’s no history or social conventions or pretense that gets in the way. They let their guard down and it all pours out.
If you want to talk to a total stranger and let it all come tumbling out without judgment then here is my email address firstname.lastname@example.org or you can use the contact form in the sidebar.
You can also find out more about me here.
I may just have a few ropes that we can use to pull yourself out of that dark hole.
Quotes to consider
- When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
- Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
- The main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. The danger is that of coming to love the prison. C.S. Lewis
Questions to answer
- In the past, when you have been stuck in a dark hole, what has helped you?
- What are the qualities of a good friend?
- Why do we at times open up to complete strangers in ways that we wouldn’t with friends or family?
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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