Despair is understandably seen as a “negative” emotion. We all prefer feeling joy, confidence and faith in the future. We don’t seek out despair but, when it strikes us, I think we’re better off embracing it.

In these troubled times, it’s not uncommon for us to feel hopelessness. To wake up and feel tempted to yank the covers over your head. I think this can be therapeutic if we wallow in it sufficiently.

I recommend surrendering to despair and letting it painfully pass through us. For this purpose, I suggest sitting in a dark room, with no external stimuli. We shouldn’t distract ourselves from despair with TV or books, or ease the pain with comfort food. It’s also wise not to medicate the condition. If we anesthetize the ache, we won’t reap the full benefits of despair.

I recently sank into despair over a detective novel I’m writing. A writing coach informed me that it needed to have a plot. I wished I had found this out a hundred pages sooner. Contemplating my plot-less manuscript, combined with other problems, pushed me over the edge.

I retreated to a dark room and concentrated on my breathing. I was in full wallow mode. I can’t say it felt good. But I’ve found that an occasional surrender to self-pity clears the psyche of negative feelings. It keeps me from having two “bad days” in a row.

As a columnist, despair could take the form of facing a blank screen at deadline. But what an opportunity! I literally scour my brain of bad ideas, while searching for a good one. Again, this doesn’t feel good during the process but, afterwards, my mind is debris-free and I can think more clearly.

Despair is a useful emotion but we don’t want to fall down the well too often. That would be tough on family members. But, I have to say, ever since I took my latest emotional plunge, I’ve felt reinvigorated. I have a much rosier outlook and a greater tolerance for daily frustrations.

I thought I was the only person who believed despair could be channeled in a positive way. Author Victor MacGill also sees despair as an opportunity for growth. We don’t wish to feel it but, when despair comes, we shouldn’t push it away. It gives us a chance to examine our lives and make positive changes. We might alter our diet and exercise for a healthier lifestyle. At worst, we could learn to accept the loss of something in our lives. MacGill doesn’t believe in the dark room treatment, though and says we should reach out to others.

A Forest Park psychotherapist also sees the benefits of feeling miserable. She sees despair as a start. As the expression goes, sometimes the only way for us to go is up.