Refusal to Despair

Anaïs Nin is a Hispanic-French-American literary figure who gained recognition by publishing her intimate journals. In the book “A Woman Speaks” E.J. Hinz synthesizes various conversations of the author. In Chapter 2, the topic revolves around rejecting despair.


Refusal to Despair

This passage from Anaïs Nin’s journal is the result of her “persistent pursuit of intimate connections, friendships, and all forms of relationships with men, women, children, inhabitants of our country, and those from foreign countries.”

I am sharing her writings, which I read in French and then translated them. I hope they resonate within your heart, your mind, and your body.


“It’s not just artists who talk about creation. One can begin to create in an absolutely empty life, one can start to create with those living beside us, and one can start to create as children do – spontaneously writing poems and painting as soon as they can hold a pen or a brush. This creation is a constant link between our professional lives and the battle we wage against superior forces like history, of which we can become victims. We have learned to live on the margins of history. It’s not an escape; it’s about reserving a place where one can seek refuge to gather strength, rediscover our values, and avoid being shaken by events.


It’s a bit like a person diving to the bottom of the ocean, carrying oxygen bottles to balance the pressure. I speak of balancing the pressure between challenging and destructive external events and this haven where we rebuild ourselves, where we eventually achieve what Jung called the second birth. We are solely responsible for this second birth; it’s our own creation.


This second birth is one you are capable of achieving. This realization was a great relief for me. As long as we expect changes to come from external action or different political systems, we can only feel helpless and overwhelmed by reality, feeling as if it overpowers and crushes us. But if one day we realize that we have the capability to transform ourselves, we will simultaneously transform those around us. It was while writing that I had the sudden revelation of the immense influence I could have on others.


Thus, any internal change transforms the external world. However, society has separated these two actions: one can either dedicate themselves to others or indulge in selfish introspection. Yet, both attitudes depend closely on each other: the more open you are to life, the more strength you will find within yourself to nurture the external. Why this dichotomy was created? I don’t know. Indeed, everything an individual does for themselves and by themselves always eventually flows back like a river into the collective unconscious. And if today we are disappointed by what the world has become, it’s because too few of us have endeavored to raise the value of the individual – to make them more conscious, more capable of judging others, of judging their leaders.


We must start by healing ourselves. As Loren Eiseley said, every time we succeed in silencing the battle within us, we are on the path to one day eliminating war. I place the responsibility for what happens to the community on the individual. If everyone deeply understood that all their actions, words, and aggressiveness are merely a reflection of what will then be reproduced on a larger scale – if we could finally see things in this way, then each of us, like a cell, would work to create a human being, a being who wouldn’t tolerate ghettos, a being who wouldn’t go to war. And only then could we begin to create a cell capable of influencing hundreds of other cells around it. I don’t think we have an accurate idea of the degree of influence a single person can have on their surroundings, or even on the affairs of the nation.


We’ve never linked these two things; we’ve always believed that we must tackle overall problems directly; we’ve never thought that by transforming ourselves, we could transform the whole. If, at first, humanity had focused on deciphering its personality, on deeply studying psychological problems, and on delving ever deeper into oneself, it would have learned to better judge the actions of others and to choose better leaders. It could have significantly improved in its profession if it had possessed that extra lucidity, that clarity brought by awareness of the complexity of others.”

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