The Salvation Fantasy· 1 min read
I returned from my vacation full of energy. Inspired to change my life, I begin to plan: I need a daily meditation, and I should establish a regular workout routine. Tomorrow I will wake up at 6 am to start my perfect day early. This thinking is very soothing, comforting, and filled with hope. Satisfied with this fantasy and having set my alarm clock I'm falling asleep...
An acquaintance is telling me how her last months have been dark and filled with depression. She believes that her struggles are meant to teach her something. She smiles with sad eyes and repeats a popular cliché: "Experiencing Pain Is the Only Way to Achieve Happiness". She does not want the pain. You see, once she's done with the darkness, she can finally rest in the light.
What the two stories have in common is known as a "Salvation fantasy", a belief that there's something nice, bright, and happy waiting for you. You just need to do a little better or suffer a little longer for it to come true. I first discovered this concept in "Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving" by Pete Walker. In the book, he acknowledges that overcoming the "salvation fantasy" can be challenging. He discusses how individuals with C-PTSD often develop this fantasy as a coping mechanism to deal with pain and emptiness. The idea of being rescued or saved can provide a temporary sense of relief and hope.
As I previously wrote in You don't deserve to be happy: "The desire to be happy is the very definition of unhappiness."
An alternative worldview is described in my favorite quote by Chögyam Trungpa:
The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang on to, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.