Solace means consolation and comfort in a time of sorrow or need. To desire solace implies that you have suffered a considerable hurt or loss and are under duress, knowing your current state is untenable. Your resources to cope are about to give out and you realize healing and recuperation is needed. You may feel besieged and experience the rate of new challenges confronting you exceeding the rate at which you can resolve or come to terms with them.
Although you may be depleted, when you seek solace it means that you are an active participant in your destiny; you maintain agency for thought and action. You are not vanquished. You have not given up. You are not helpless and hopeless, although you sense the lurking danger. If you were to reach a state of being overwhelmed and in despair, that would close the possibility of taking the requisite steps of seeking, finding, and benefiting from solace.
When you find yourself in need of solace, several strategies will come into view, often naturally, without the need for deeper thought or deliberation. For one, solace seeks mental spaciousness, a sense that your observing self lives within a vast mental space, one large enough to allow all aspects of your life experiences, including the hurt you’ve sustained, to float freely within. Sometimes the hurt, with all its myriad associations in memory and feeling, comes to the front and center of consciousness, and sometimes it drifts away into hazy forgetfulness.
Achieving solace from the hurt is an extended process with often multiple cycles of remembering and forgetting; at times there is a craving to distract oneself from the hurt with unrelated thoughts and activities, and at times a drive to ruminate on all its aspects. And often, there is a need for simply letting go, for achieving a quiet mental space devoid of any focused thinking to allow the self-healing to proceed unimpeded by conscious deliberations. After all, why should we believe that healing from an emotional injury or loss primarily requires conscious thought? Healing just as well may occur through all the non-conscious processes taking place in our brains and bodies.
Even when the hurt is not at the forefront of mind, its hazy presence remains in your mental space. You, as the solace-seeker, are aware of this presence and glad for its constancy, but this acceptance occurs in the context of the hurt continuing to float around your mental space, coming into and receding from view. At this point of the healing process you are not yet ready to let it go. It’s a ghost you’re not yet ready to say good-bye to.
Mirroring the mental space, solace also seeks a space out in the world, an actual place you are bound to through your life history. When the world’s too big, too scary, or hurts too much, you wish to retreat to a time and place of comfort. Solace does not wish to explore and secure unknown places. A new place to retreat to would not provide the requisite sense of security, certainty, and familiarity. Rather, solace seeks a place you’ve sought out before, perhaps hundreds of times, that lets you heal. It must be a place that slows down the onslaught of new impressions and activities to a pace reflecting your reduced ability to process, accept, and incorporate.
During a time when solace is needed, your mind and body need rest, a break from the never-ending stream of new stimuli, experiences and impressions. Your organism seeks self-healing. A seeking out of the known and for comforting is in order. A sense of slowness and quietude is welcome. This quietude need not mean aloneness – although often it does – and it does not mean silence – although often it does.
When seeking solace, you will feel most at ease among those you know and do not need to impress, instruct, entertain, or care for. You will be most at ease among the places, sights and sounds that you know so well they connect you to your past, a past that stretches – in some cases – to a time prior to language, to a time of most distant childhood. Everyone needs their solace tree.
Until next time,
“Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life and every endeavour; when longing does not come to fruition in a form we can recognize, when people we know and love disappear, when hope must take a different form than the one we have shaped for it.”
– David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
“It’s calm under the waves in the blue of my oblivion.”
– Fiona Apple, lyrics from song Sullen Girl