Archive | Hope RSS feed for this section

Why Hope is Helpful in Hurtful Situations.

20 Jul
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

I don’t think I’m alone in noticing that hostility and adversity are creeping into our collective culture more and more. 

When other humans dump either of those on our doorstep, it’s such an unwelcome package. Being the recipient of threatening, thoughtless, hurtful or selfish behaviour wrapped up with string is a good time to think about Marcus Aurelius, Philosopher and Roman Emperor (121—180 C.E.) and what he wrote in Meditations about the pitfalls of human behaviour; “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.”

To be fair, in the practice of positive psychology, where both the good and bad parts of life are equally genuine, it’s also good to remind ourselves that although people can be horrible and the news media hardly ever reports on goodness and social media might not leave us feeling content, in our real life there’s usually an abundance of good deeds, good behaviour and lovely people who display and offer honesty, justice, loyalty, decency, trustworthiness, kindness, charity, reliability, appropriateness and warmth. Let’s all take a moment to be grateful for them.

How though, can we best move through any suffering that others have caused us? Put less emphasis on why they did it, and like Marcus Aurelius, accept they do it because they can, because it’s in their nature, it’s their way of getting what they want. Working out whether they’re acting out of envy, exclusion, competitiveness or powerlessness, isn’t going to change our disappointment.

The goal is to balance out the darkness with as much light as we can, and hope helps with that. Hope moves us out of difficulty and despair. It gives us a glimmer of a better future, and begins to give us the courage and confidence to implement coping strategies that will help us find creative solutions to rise above and out of dark or difficult places.

No matter how painful our thoughts are or how distressing our emotions feel, it is imperative that we don’t react or respond, impulsively.

  • This is a good time to use the STOP skill from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. STOP stands for Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully.
  • It’s possible to find better ways to manage stress and discomfort. 
  • It’s about finding ways to cope that aren’t harmful or ineffective.
  • Breathe.
  • Feel the feelings.
  • Talk it over with someone safe.

We mustn’t allow the intensity of our feelings to stop us from doing what we can to move through the situation and over the obstacle. Getting into “wise mind” is much more helpful. Knowing what doesn’t and isn’t going to work actually allows us think of alternatives that might work. 

It can take a bit of practise to reorganize our perspective and reframe our experience.

Remember the key is being able to choose how we respond to difficult situations.

  • Rather than “this should never happen to me,” stay realistic about what others are capable of doing, and be prepared for possible consequences.
  • Meet “it” exactly as it is, with curiosity.
  • Practise paced breathing to decrease emotional arousal.
  • Focus on what we can control.
  • Draw upon resilience.
  • Get the right kind of expert advice.
  • Reach out for social support.
  • And even in the midst of processing it all, we need to do pleasurable things to make ourselves feel better, calmer and relaxed.

Hope reduces feelings of helplessness, reduces stress and improves our wellbeing. The good news is that building hope into our perspective uplifts us enough to move us out of any shock, helps us search for a helpful instruction manual and motivates us to calmly find the right path forward. Rest assured, resolution can also include a return to sender, or an instant or eventual retreat from those who tamper with your boundaries and nervous system once too often!