Desperation can be simply defined as despair resulting from unfulfilled aspirations. In other words, it is a feeling of hopelessness resulting from a deep desire/longing within the heart which has thus far remained unfulfilled. The feeling of desperation may not always be for big and lofty aspirations. What makes a person desperate depends upon his/her desire.
A fatherless child may be desperate for fatherly love. A person facing repeated failures may be desperate for a success. A couple in love may be desperate to make their relationship see the beautiful bond of marriage. An athlete may be desperate to win at various competitions. A person caught in the traffic may be desperate to reach the airport in time so as not to miss the flight. A poor woman on the street may be desperate to get just enough food so that her children don’t spend another hungry day.
Let’s not confuse desperation with desire. Desperation is one step ahead of desire. Desperation unsettles a person. It creates a sense of covert chaos which is many times reflected in the overt behavioural patterns. Desperation may lead a person to go beyond the set boundaries and end up doing the unwanted.
I am reminded of an incident from the history of Israel.
It was a time when food supplies had run short. The scarcity in the land was great and things that could never be considered to be food (donkey’s head and dove manure) were sold at a premium price. One day while the king of Israel was passing by, a woman called out to him for help. The king expressed his helplessness saying that there was no food available in the kingdom which he could offer her. But the woman had another problem. Unable to bear the pain of hunger, she had agreed with another woman to kill and eat their own children. So, they killed and cooked her son and ate. But, when the turn came for the other woman to give her son, she refused. And so, she wanted justice. Hearing this, the king tore his clothes in despair as the people of his kingdom had to stoop down to such a level.
The desperation for food drove two mothers to think of eating their children. Unimaginable for most of us! As horrific as this may seem, such incidents do happen in various parts of the world even today. Parents offering their children as sacrifices to deities – desperate to come out of financial debt and prosper in business. People drinking water from sewers and cooking with drain water in the absence of potable water – desperate to quench their thirst. Barbaric incidents of rapes and sexual crimes – desperate need to meet sexual urges.
Three chief causes of desperation
Firstly, it is situational. As in case of extreme hunger and poverty, it is the innate desire for survival which leads to a desperate act. The question of surviving with dignity or looking for choices does not even arise here. It is simply about existence. Such a desperation may cause one to do even the menial of tasks or even sell one’s self. Bonded labour and slavery are some such examples. The bonded labourers and slaves never had choices – they never could think of any. Poverty drove them to submit to the high and mighty. Desperation to save a dying friend, may lead one to flout the rules of the hospital. Urgency to reach the workplace in time, may make one to violate traffic rules.
Secondly, inability to accept NO for an answer. A spurned lover desperate to avenge his rejection, attacks the girl he claims to have been in love with. Being refused a toy by the mother, a child may go ahead and grab the toy or roll on the ground or hit his head on the wall.
Thirdly, inability to control one’s desires. A desperate longing to be wealthy makes many to take bribes, carry out illegal financial transactions and go in for unreasonable deals. Desperate sexual desires result in visiting prostitutes, raping minors and the aged, watching pornography, masturbation and other violent crimes.
The unsettling turbulent feeling of desperation ceases only when the object in question has been attained. We heave a sigh of relief in catching a running train that we were so desperate not to miss. A father-to-be beams with smiles as his desperate wait to see his wife through a safe delivery ends and he holds a healthy baby in his arms.
In other words, desperation comes to an end when the object of desperation is achieved. Desperation increases when the object in question seems far out of reach. We need to deal with desperation in a healthy way. Since it is a spontaneous feeling of anxiety, it won’t do much good to stifle it. Dealing with it rightly and helping others to do so, is the answer.
Have you ever felt desperate for something? How did you deal with it? Let’s share so that we have a repository of information as to how to deal with our desperate moments without wrecking our nerves or doing something atrocious.