Hanging on to Hope
Sometimes the idea of hope can seem so distant. We may find ourselves swimming in despair and wondering how this immensely heavy feeling suddenly took over. Other times, a devastating event takes place and the thought of moving forward seems futile. By definition, hope is "an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large”. Thinking about an “optimistic mindset” or “positive outcomes” may seem impossible right now. And maybe the ability to get yourself to that mindset in this moment may seem daunting. So, how do we move from hopeless despair to hopeful optimist?
Viktor Frankl, a well-known psychiatrist who founded a school of psychotherapy based on meaning-making, stated “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice.” His ideas influenced current meaning-making research and promotes the notion that creating meaning can be the driving force behind hope. Frankl noted, “For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement.” What personal tragedies in your life continue to perpetuate a sense of hopelessness? How can you rewrite the narrative?
There are other elements of hope that may be helpful to look at when feeling stuck, empty, or in despair:
1. One is shifting your focus toward goal-oriented thoughts. If you are stuck in a cycle of dwelling on the past or anxiously imagining a hopeless future, it may be useful to start actively taking control of your thoughts and keep goals at the forefront. Start by writing down a minimum of three goals you want to accomplish by the end of the week. As each day of the week approaches, ask yourself what steps you can take to accomplish these goals. As you increase your motivation, you may start to notice your mind starts to think about bigger, long-term goals and ways you can accomplish them.
2. Another element of hope is implementing strategic ways of thinking. When we start strategizing how we want to achieve our life goals, we start to build mental fortitude. The strength we gain from developing, planning, taking action, and accomplishing our goals helps us nourish hope. We become less likely to expect disappointment when we start seeing the fruits of our labor.
3. Thirdly, be motivated to expend effort to achieve goals. Sometimes we get stuck right after we formulate an idea in our mind, and maybe we even get as far as writing it out on paper. We have all these ideas that sprout hope, yet the follow-through is where the hopelessness comes in. If you feel like you are constantly getting stuck at this stage, try readjusting your goals—making them smaller and easier to obtain. Using SMART goals is another great idea; make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. As you progress in your journey, you can start to create bigger goals.
At 253 Therapy and Consult, we understand that finding hope can be a difficult journey. Finding meaning and purpose, rewriting a painful narrative, and setting goals might feel impossible right now. We are here to help you on your journey towards hope, even if you feel miles away. We have immediate openings and offer a free 15-minute consultation; we hope that you will find one of our therapists to be a good fit.