We have all felt it. By “it”, I mean that terrible feeling that we get when we sense that all is lost. When life seems to have lost its value. Thankfully, the feeling usually fades with a cup of strong coffee in the morning. Or perhaps a walk in the park. Or when our loved ones smile at us.
But why do we get that feeling? Where does it come from? Clearly not from an objective assessment of where things stand. Why not? Because we get over it. If all really were lost, we would not. No, my friend, the feeling is subjective. It arises from the swamp of our subconscious. And that makes it difficult to understand.
We can, however, get a peek into its dynamic. The effect of this feeling is to rob us of our conviction..It is momentary but powerful. One minute we are in synch. The next moment, we are staring out the window.
So what can we say about “conviction”? We use the word conviction to describe our highest level of motivation to act. Breaking this down, conviction arises from a powerful belief in something. Belief, as Dan Kahneman teaches us, being the prerequisite for action in the first place. So rob us of our conviction, and we are paralyzed. All seems lost. That is the dynamic.
BTW, that may be why horror movies are so compelling. They offer us the most powerful sort of story framework in which conviction — an urgent need to save oneself from something horrible — is easy to conjure up. It is powerful medicine.
And what rips the fabric of our belief framework? What makes us cry out in agony from the worst sort of tear? Worst of all is when we lose belief in ourselves. When suddenly we doubt whether we deserve self love. Yes, self-love must be justified. And when it is not, all seems lost. Fortunately, the mind is usually rather clever in devising new possible justifications for self-love. The smile from a loved one rescues us. Or the walk in the park enables us to see something new. or the coffee stimulates new thinking.
The bottom line — To act, we need to be sure of something. We need a belief framework. And when we are sure of ourselves, we act with the greatest conviction.
Which brings me to the zillion dollar question — what are you sure about when you think of yourself? Are you seeking that sense of self-confidence or do you feel it? Do you often lose it? Where do you find it? Interesting questions, me thinks!
A quick follow – If life has any meaning — something that absurdists might challenge — that meaning comes from our ongoing process of constructing identity. Of building more nuanced connections between the self (our view of who we are) and reality (our view of external stuff). When we are not building, we are stagnating. That stagnation is in itself a cause for concern.