Ask Deepak: How to Keep Positive Energy During Tough Times
By Deepak Chopra
February 03, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: This past year, 2009, proved to be very challenging and heartbreaking. Within a matter of months, my husband and I separated, we declared bankruptcy, we lost our business (a winery and distillery) and our house (in which I am currently living) is in foreclosure. I have been catapulted into being a single mom of two without a savings, career or potential residence to move with my children, dog, cat and fish. I turn 50 this April and often feel completely lost. I try to be optimistic and believe that this new journey will be greatly satisfying. An opportunity to find my life's true purpose and provide a secure and happy future for my children. Some days, particularly those when I receive responses back from my job inquiries that the potential employer has received well over 100 résumés from very well-qualified candidates and I did not make the short list, I slump into pessimism...I'm too old, I've been self-employed too long, I'm not qualified, not good enough and on and on. Throughout my life, there have been times that I feel a door has opened within myself and that I can achieve whatever I want. I like the person that I am. I am confident and glowing with inner belief. People like me and respond to my positive energy. This part of me comes and goes. My question is: How do I keep that door open?
— Susan T., Gabriola Island, Canada
I can assure you that your letter has sent a shudder through many hearts. In the current recession, older workers who thought that they were nearing the fulfillment of their working years find instead that the bottom has dropped out. They are poorly prepared for the loss of job or home or savings—all the safety nets we provide for ourselves as our careers mature.
To open a new door, I think we must fall back on the adage about nature abhorring a vacuum. Right now you have a space inside that contains the following: regret, disappointment, nostalgia for better times, hope for the future, anxiety over the future, self-esteem and self-doubts. In other words, there's a disorganized tangle of conflicts. Shadow energies are coming up to make you feel afraid. The instability of your outer life is mirrored by inner instability as well.
You need to create space for clarity, inspiration and new beginnings. You already possess the life skills for all of that. The problem is that so much is swirling around inside that no clarity is possible, or it only comes by fits and starts. Realize that you are in crisis mode. You cannot ask everything of yourself. Where are outside helpers, support and, most of all, where is your husband? I know he has his own anxieties, but he was part of the collapse that led to this crisis. He should be part of the path that leads out of it. Asking you to bear the burden alone is inexcusable.
I'm afraid you need to be tough-minded right now. Go to those you helped in the past and make it known, in no uncertain terms, that you need support during this crisis. Don't be brave; don't be a martyr; don't fall into victimization and the wishful thinking that comes packed with it. Look at yourself as if you were another person—someone you know well who needs sound, rational advice. What would you tell her? Being objective helps to clear out the confused swirl of emotions that tug one way and another day after day.
You have a good sense of your core self; that comes through clearly when you write. It's the core self that gets people through crises. Externals come second. Yes, the recession and the blows it has delivered to the lives of good, well-deserving people are real. But inner resilience and the ability to bounce back are personal qualities, and they prove decisive in cases like yours. Align yourself with someone who has this kind of resilience so that your own can be strengthened. Find another oak to weather the storm with you. Anyone who is in touch with his or her core self will always respond.
Before you worry about staying positive, take steps, however small, to get out of crisis mode. Once you orient yourself realistically in that direction, the doors that need to open will begin to.