The pit of despair is a place we have all fallen into from time to time. It is a place of darkness and hopelessness where we feel like we are all alone and there is no way out— but there is.
The Pit of Despair
The name “Pit of Despair” was a device created by American psychologist Harry Harlow in the 1970s. His goal was to study the effects of isolation on rhesus macaque monkeys. The device was a vertical chamber made of stainless steel with sloping sides that prevented the monkeys from climbing out.
Harlow placed newborn monkeys in the Pit of Despair for periods of up to 30 days. During this time, the monkeys were completely isolated from any human or animal contact. As anyone might expect, the results were devastating. As days passed, the monkeys became severely depressed. They felt into hopelessness and despair causing them to stop moving. Eventually, they remained hurdled in a corner.
Something similar happens in our pit of emotional despair. This one is an energetic pit, though. We “fall” in there when we feel hopelessness and despair. These feelings are usually triggered y disconnection—as with the monkeys.
Unfortunately, everyone falls into the pit of despair at some point in his or her lives. It is part of the human experience.
What's like in the Pit of Emotional Despair
When we are deep in the pit of emotional despair, everything looks dark and grey. We cannot see much of anything when we are in there. In fact, it feels as if we are in a deep, dark hole looking down and can’t see any color, light, or a way out. Everything in life seems so dull and lifeless from there.
The emotions we feel when we are in the pit of emotional despair are of the most unpleasant kind— depression, grief, despair, shame, guilt, regret, fear, sadness, emptiness, numbness, along with unworthiness, hopelessness, powerlessness, and the like. All of these being emotions from the 0-10 range of the Harmony Scale. See image below.
Things we used to laugh at are no longer funny. Things we used to enjoy are no longer interesting to us. How could we feel any kind of pleasantness when we are too far away from feeling good—which starts in the 60 range of the Harmony Scale.
When we fall into the pit of despair, we also stop moving and remain hurdled on the bed or couch. It is not easy to get out of that state since there is not much life force energy in the body.
Even though the desire to do something to get us out of the pit of despair is there, the energy to get us to climb out is not. Any kind of activity is a chore when we are in the pit of emotional despair, including personal care and parenting.
What Got Us into the Pit of Emotional Despair
The main reason we fall into the emotional pit of despair is isolation—just like happened to the monkeys in Harlow’s study. The evidence is clear that isolation is harmful to our mental health.
However, it is important to note that not all isolation is created equal. Some forms of isolation, such as spending time alone to relax or reflect, can be beneficial. However, prolonged social isolation can be very damaging. The body’s nervous system needs connection and healthy touch to survive.
When we feel lonely, hopeless, and re-traumatized (usually after ruminating on our emotional hurts), we give up on our lives. We want to stop participating in it so we disconnect from everything and everyone, including ourselves.
It is when we feel isolated and lonely at work, in a relationship, at home, or in the world, that we begin to experience the devastating results from Harlow’s experiments.
If you’re in despair, you don’t know how to be part of your own life anymore.” —Naomi Wallace
Although falling into the pit of despair is part of the human experience, getting out of it is completely up to us. I'll explain how in the following blog post. Stay tuned.
Did you like this post? Subscribe here to send you more like it to your inbox. Also, feel free to share this post in your social media or with someone you think might benefit from this information. Thank you!
Four Steps to Deactivate Limiting Beliefs That Hinder Your Progress
Why We Get Depressed and How To Get Out of it
Why Mental Health is Important
Is Your Inner Child Hurting?