‘Staring into the abyss: The approach I’ve taken to handle the challenges of life’

Jun 07, 2020
Louis uses a defining moment in his childhood to define how he approaches dealing with the challenges of life. Source: Getty Images

The dictionary describes an abyss as ‘the primal chaos, bowels of the earth, lower world, bottomless or deep chasm’ and of course linked to that is ‘abysmal’ meaning ‘bottomless’. At some or other point or other all of us have either stared down one, stood on the edge or even worse ended up at the bottom of one.

Whatever experience you’ve had, it’s frightening, scary, emotionally disturbing and if you’ve ended up at the bottom, it can feel like the point of no return … or is it?

Prepared? When you visit a real abyss, such as the Grand Canyon in the United States or my own country’s Fish River Canyon, you go prepared with things like sunscreen, water, hiking boots, maps etc. However when faced with a hypothetical abyss, a couple of scenarios come to mind:

  • It may catch you completely unaware so, although preparation may be a challenge, it is not impossible
  • Never despair — some form of preparation is always possible
  • Always have a full glass approach/turn any threat into an opportunity.

Staring down an abyss can be — to put it mildly — unnerving! It reminds me of standing at the top of what is now known as the Hillbrow Tower in Johannesburg as a youngster (I’m going all the way back to 1962). The windows were slanted outward so that from this massive height I was looking directly down at the sidewalk! Not being a lover of heights I immediately took a step back.

However, that metaphysical moment was to my mind similar to what many of us are confronted with from time to time. Faced with the depths of despair it is tempting to ‘let go’, take the final flight to death and destruction at the bottom of the abyss.

I do think one can always have a degree of preparation and this I believe is analogous to the scenario planning business and sports people do. They think through possible events, some of them really far-fetched based on outrageous financial issues or shots/movements that the sportsperson’s opposition may come up with. The purpose and outcome of this approach is that when you end up in such a situation, your mind (and in the case of sports, the muscle) does not despair, it responds with ‘Hey I’ve been here before’, a positive mental/physical impulses takes over and ‘Hey presto, problem solved’!

When you have all the down time commuting, by car or public transport, or watching TV, start doing some scenario planning, arrange the icons and click on them as and when required!

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What strategies do you have for dealing with difficult situations?

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