Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Some things are black and white by Susanne Irving

I recently learned that wise decision-making in the Ignatian tradition involves paying attention to those things that inspire and energize us and direct us outward towards God and others (“consolation”) and those things that ultimately sap our energy and joy and turn us inward (“desolation”).

When I made my lists of consolations and desolations, I noticed that many things can fall into either category. Take food or sleep: Eating can be a way of nourishing my body and renewing my energy or a way of stuffing down difficult feelings, ultimately leaving me empty and undernourished; sleep can restore my energy or be a way of postponing dealing with a difficult situation – and unfinished business can be a major energy robber.

Another item that can be a source of either consolation or desolation for me is the internet.

I appreciate the way it can open the doors for new connections and opportunities. We had a writers’ group recently where those who could not come to Petersfield were joining us online. It meant that one member could join us from Spain.

As a writer and artist, the internet has provided me with a wealth of information and inspiration – and an international audience that I could never reach easily offline.

However, I have also noticed that the internet has a dark side.  When I am surfing online, I often lose all sense of time and end up in bed well after midnight. I have also used the internet as a way of putting off chores or challenging projects.  

So I decided to quit the internet for the duration of my break. I soon discovered that there are other ways of getting my inspiration (a walk in nature, daydreaming, doodling, talking to other people) and information - it’s amazing what you can find out when you talk to others!

When I logged back on, I was hit by an avalanche of e-mails. However, I soon noticed that around 80-90% of the e-mails just added to my mental clutter, but nothing to my life. This made it much easier to unsubscribe from newsletters.

Writing this blog post has made me aware that some bad habits are creeping back in, so I am wondering what you do to make sure that the internet adds to the quality of your life rather than subtracts from it. What other items can either be life-enhancing or life-dimishing for you?

I believe that being honest with ourselves about our motives is an important first step to ensure that a generally life-enhancing activity does not sap our energy and resources. 


About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.


  1. Music is another black and white for players and singers. Too much and too little are both bad. We have to find a balance as with everything in life. Sue

  2. One thing I do, because I am an insomniac, is to switch everything off after 9pm and give myself a mental rest. I'm much more likely to sleep well as my mind will be more relaxed!

  3. Great post. I agree with you about those things being black and white. I can spend too much time on the internet. I don't, as a rule ( unless I'm sick) allow internet based things like a photo into my bedroom. I only sleep and pray/meditate in my bedroom.

    I will do that exercise and see what I find I can cut out! I think a fast from the internet would be a good idea.

  4. Great post. I think exercise, reading and maybe even writing (?!) can have their good and bad side. You really made me think!

  5. Great post. I think exercise, reading and maybe even writing (?!) can have their good and bad side. You really made me think!

  6. I suppose it's that old chestnut 'everything in moderation'. But that's harder to say than to do. I used to be a lot more disciplined with the internet when my computer was a desktop PC, in another room. Now I have a laptop and continual access. I've been thinking of getting a tablet. Perhaps not, then!