Possible Triggers for Our Dark Place

Clarence ShulerBy Clarence Shuler11 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Finding Hope in a Dark Place: Facing Loneliness, Depression, and Anxiety with the Power of Grace by Clarence Shuler

Chapter 1
Possible Triggers for Our Dark Place

I was seven years old when I first attended YMCA day camp for seven through eighteen-year-old boys. I was a momma’s boy, and this was one of my first times away from her. Mom told me she had arranged for the camp director to have me be his assistant on the opening day. I think she arranged this to make sure that none of the bigger boys bothered me because I was small. It would make me special.

However, the camp director forgot to call me out in front of all the other campers to recognize me as his assistant. I felt so embarrassed and rejected. As soon as Mom picked me up from camp, I told her what didn’t happen. She called the director, and he apologized to her. But it didn’t make sense to do it after the first day.

Nobody ever seriously bothered me at camp, but the feeling of rejection put a chip on my shoulder that drove me as an athlete to be the best. I was constantly seeking the approval of others for all the wrong reasons. This desire for approval was difficult to satisfy and often led me to a dark place. I learned so many bad lessons that I’m unlearning as an adult.

The feeling of being rejected has been a trigger for me throughout my life. The next chapter will reveal where this and other triggers took me. When thinking about possible triggers that may lead you to a dark place, loneliness (regardless of age), feelings of inadequacy, rejection, or issues related to aging are common for people.

Since many situations can lead us to have feelings of inadequacy and rejection, we’ll discuss these issues throughout this book. But I want to give some special attention to loneliness and aging issues as we begin our journey together.

We can find ourselves feeling lonely as a single person, or even if you’re in a relationship or marriage, or as we age. All of these concerns can lead us to depression. No matter what the situation, our perspective of ourselves and our situation really can make all the difference as we enter a dark place, affecting whether we stay in a dark place or if we are able to find the light to guide us out of our dark place.

Let’s take a brief look at loneliness.

Our society is filled with lonely people. I conduct singles conferences around the country, and “Healing a Broken Heart” is a popular session at these conferences. But “How to Be Single and Content” and “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” are easily the two most popular sessions among singles at my conferences.

A few summers ago, a counselor led a workshop for parents of teenagers. He shared that his research and counseling experience revealed that many young people, millennials, and those who are aging are often lonely. What really shocked me is that he mentioned an app that would increase the number of “friends” an individual had on social media. These friends are not real people, only numbers.

Ask yourself: Would it be worse to be popular for a moment and lose it or to never be popular?

What is sad about adding these numbers in order to be popular is that you still don’t really have more friends. The people who contact you because of your new popularity will seldom be your friend. They are only associating with you because they believe that association will make them popular. These kinds of people are what my mom called “acquaintances.” They won’t be there when you want them or need them.

As quickly and frequently as technology changes, there is no telling how social media will be communicating in the future, so all the various social media outlets may cease to be. But what will not cease to be is the human need to be wanted and to be loved!

If you feel that you are not popular and that you are alone, here are a couple of thoughts to consider:

  • Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man [or woman] who has friends must himself [or herself] be friendly” (NKJV). A practical application of this verse could be that we need to initiate trying to make a friend by being friendly first to someone else. Maybe you have tried this, and it didn’t work for you. Be careful as you try to make a new acquaintance that you aren’t trying to please that person at all costs. Don’t lose who you are in this process. A friend will like you for who you are, including your imperfections. A friend will tell you about your flaws and will try to help you to work on them but will be your friend regardless.
  • You need to like yourself. Don’t worship yourself, but like yourself. If you don’t like you, people can sense this, and it is unattractive—except to those who want to take advantage of you.
  • Give away your time to help those who can’t repay the favor. This will take your mind off of yourself. And you may receive more than you give.
  • Try to reconnect with old friends.
  • Spend more time with God.
  • Ask and answer the question, “Why, do I hate being alone?”
  • Being alone can be a good time to get to know yourself better.
  • If you’re not content being alone, you won’t be content with hundreds of friends.

These tips and more can be found in my singles book, Single and Free to Be Me.

Maybe your issue isn’t loneliness, but aging. Having played basketball in college and overseas against Olympic and National teams, I find it strange that, sometimes, my body lets me down. I’m over sixty-eight years old, and the sad reality is that I can’t do some things that I used to do quite easily.

Several years ago, I tore my meniscus. I couldn’t run. I had to be pushed in a wheelchair in order to make my international flight connection in time to conduct a marriage conference with my wife, Brenda, for our military. I felt so bad and useless in that wheelchair. I felt even worse for Brenda. I didn’t and don’t want her to have to become my caregiver. My situation also played with my idea of manhood. I wrestled with such questions as “Am I really a man anymore?” and “Will Brenda grow to despise me if I’m no longer able to take care of her?”

How did I manage this situation? First, I thanked God for the incredible parents he gave me. They both had great genes! How many guys at 5’7” can dunk? Or could dunk? I reviewed my athletic career and had no complaints. I had to embrace my present state. I said to God, “If my body never gets better, I’ve had a tremendous ride!”

That change in my attitude changed how I felt about myself. Eventually, I had surgery. I’m back to playing tennis, but my body continues to age. I must learn to accept that.

Do I have aging concerns? Sure, I do. I definitely don’t want to be put in a nursing home. But I may not have a choice. What I can control is deciding not to worry about it now and to face that situation when and if it comes. This kind of mindset gives me peace and keeps my stress low.

We’re just getting started here. We’re going to address panic attacks and anxiety and so much more. We’re also going to show you how God sees you. This may very well blow your mind—in a very good way!

Order your copy of Finding Hope in a Dark Place: Facing Loneliness, Depression, and Anxiety with the Power of Grace by Clarence Shuler