Discernment: Consolations and Desolations
People come to therapists for discernment at the very least. They want to understand and to be understood. They want wisdom or insight and perhaps a plan for change. Some therapists will talk to them about “consolations and desolations,” a skill that Carole is familiar with. Most evenings before going to bed, she asks me my consolations and desolations of the day.
I find it easy to find the desolations, the things that have gone wrong or where I have failed. I can isolate my criticisms without much effort and I can deeply feel the criticisms of others.
But consolations? What do you mean? Something went right?
Consolations and desolations are about our orientation to our lives and the direction our life is going — upward and outward toward God [consolation] or downward and inward away from all things divine [desolation].
Here are some of the main symptoms of desolation and the most commonly experienced blessings of consolation. (See https://tinyurl.com/yat779wt).
Desolations are downward and inward slopes
- turns us in on ourselves
- drives us down the spiral ever deeper into our own negative feelings
- cuts us off from community
- makes us want to give up on things that used to be important to us
- takes over our whole consciousness and crowds out our distant vision
- covers up all our landmarks
- drains us of energy
Consolations are upward and outward slopes.
- directs our focus outside and beyond ourselves
- lifts our hearts so that we can see the joys and sorrows of other people
- bonds us more closely to our human community
- generates new inspiration and ideas
- restores balance and refreshes our inner vision
- shows us where God is active in our lives and where he is leading us
- releases new energy in us
What to do…
- Tell God how you feel and ask for help.
- Seek out companionship.
- Don’t go back on decisions you made in consolation.
- Stand still and remember your inner map.
- Recall a time of consolation and go back to it imagination.
- Look for someone who needs your help and turn your attention toward them.
- Go back to 1.
- Tell God how you feel and offer thanks.
- Store this moment in your memory to return to when things get tough.
- Add this experience to the narrative of your life.
- Use the energy you feel to further your deepest desires.
- Let the surplus energy fuel the things you don’t like doing and do them.
- Go back to 1.
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