Reflections + Resources to Honor the Tension of Hope and Despair in Your Life

Hope and Despair blog post| Potentia Therapy Inc.

In honor of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept 10th, 2019 and Suicide Awareness + Prevention Week that took place from Sept 6th until Sept 10th, 2019, and Suicide Awareness + Prevention month all of September, we have been rumbling with the concepts of hope and despair and how they impact our well-being, our relationships, our work, and our outlook.

The tension between hope and despair is a part of the human experience. It is not something we are taught to expect nor how to deal with or address.

Hope keeps us grounded. It is our oxygen, our life-raft, our ‘why’ when despair starts to hover and take root. Despair can feel disorienting and debilitating. It does its best to stifle hope.

Because loving, caring and committing is brave and daring work – we need to see the spectrum of hope and despair as a normal experience.

We also are committed to helping people know when it is time to reach out for help so they are not suffering in silence.

Mental health struggles, betrayal, loneliness, family of origin ‘rules’ and experiences, trauma, impatience, perfectionism, and struggles with meaningful work or purpose can feel bleak.

You matter. Your story matters. Your life matters.

We believe this in our bones and will hold that truth until you can own this belief yourself. It is a fight in a culture of never enough, shame, and blame. But we are up for the fight to help people reclaim the worthiness that was never meant to be put on the table for negotiation.

The following are some quotes and resources by our team of therapists on the topic of inevitable hope and despair.

Resources for Hope and Despair

Reflections on Hope and Despair

I find myself consistently encouraging people to cultivate compassion for themselves, and get curious about how they have been responding to the despair they are experiencing. – Chris Cessna, LMFT

Hope can feel elusive and sometimes just out of reach of our cognitive processing or intellectual learning. There might be another medium of expression calling to you right now to help organize your experience. This could look like a song, a piece of art, a film, a crisp walk in the morning by the water, a wise word from a kind stranger. What experiences have moved you in your lifetime? Can they be invited into your life in a bigger way right now? – Kimberly Ayres, AMFT

Nights can be cold and lonely, and can also be our catalyst into finding community around the fire. We don’t have to carry some burdens on our own. – Kimberly Ayres, AMFT

This book (Lost Connections by Johan Hari) is full of honest thoughts and real experiences around grief. Joan’s thoughts and experiences can be felt all around the pages. This book is for those who have felt loss and grief in their lives and to let them know they are not alone. – Lauren Bryan, M.A, ASW

Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts is such an important book in normalizing what so many moms experience in the Postpartum season. This book illustrates with true-to-life thoughts and experiences, the depth of despair and hope available for parents experiencing the overwhelm and sometimes frightening thoughts common during those first weeks and months with a new child. – Holly Kelley, LMFT

Maybe Tomorrow is a touching book about the weight of grief and the gift of the presence of a friend in moments that feel hopeless. With it’s colorful illustrations and simple story it’s appropriate for all ages. – Holly Kelley, LMFT

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please do not white knuckle it. If you are in San Diego, please contact the San Deigo Crisis Hotline at 1-800-479-3339 or call 911.

National Resources for Hope and Despair

@800273TALK via Twitter

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).

www.twloha.com

Also, be sure to click here to access some journal prompts for you to use as a guide as you honor the hope and despair in your life.

To learn more about how Potentia could help you through your own personal rumbles with hope and despair, please click here.

Our Potentia team is here to help. Learn more about our clinical team and what we have to offer here.

With gratitude –
Rebecca Ching, LMFT, Founder + CEO – Potentia Therapy, Inc.

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15 Reasons to (re) Define Hope and Despair

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Hope and Despair

hope verb \ˈhōp\:

to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.

There is no room for cynicism where there is hope. Hope is a brave stance that requires faith in the unseen.

At Potentia, I witness this kind of hope in action daily. I see people discover their agency to heal their relationship with God, their story, their body, their relationships with others.

I see despair, struggle, defeat and deep disappointment, too. In these times, hope is subversive and supports resilience to life’s pain.

My understanding of the relationship between hope and despair shifted after a workshop Potentia hosted last summer for all of the Southern California members of The Daring Way.

Robert Hilliker, LCSW, LCDC, CDWF-C led a rich presentation and discussion loaded with powerful insights on hope and despair.

Inspired by this week’s advent focus on hope along with Robert’s workshop, the following are 15 reasons to (re) define how you think about hope and despair:

1. Get clear on these hope myths:
  • Hope cannot exist with despair. (See #11)
  • Hope is wishful thinking. (See #4)
  • Hope is just a cognitive construct. (See #5)
  • You can do hope alone. (See #10)
2. Hope is sharing our story with those who have earned the right to hear it. Hope empowers us to own all of our story and not just the parts we deem worthy.
3. Hope is a key element in creating change. Without hope, change is unlikely.
4. Hope is not the same as wishing, which is a fantasy and an ideal. Hope is dealing with the practical aspects of living.
5. Optimism is purely a cognitive construct. Hope is a cognitive construct and a relational function. Hope is a mind and heart approach.
6. Hope is active, not passive.
7. Robert challenged us to think about offering people we work with reasonable hope. He defined reasonable hope:
  • as relational
  • as a life-long practice
  • as a way to maintain the future is open, uncertain and can be influenced
  • as having the ability to accommodate doubt and despair
  • as a means to seek goals and pathways to those goals
Additional considerations for practicing reasonable hope: believe that making small advances in service of a greater goal are not trivial.
 8. Robert reminded us we need to be brokers of hope. We lend hope with the hope that our clients will eventually internalize it on their own. I think anyone on the fronts lines with someone struggling can be a broker of hope.
 When we dare to show up with anyone hurting, we do not just talk about hope but we do hope. Hope becomes a verb instead of a noun.
9. Robert challenged us to not miss the here and now when we are with people who are struggling. Sometimes in our attempts to “make sense” of a client’s story we miss the hope in the now.
Anxiety has a way of trumping our ability to stay present with those hurting in our presence. Often our blind spots from our own untreated wounds impact our ability to stay in the moment, too. The super power of hope can simply be sharing space with the hurt – in the moment.
10. I love this one: When you are with someone who says they have lost hope, ask them, “Where did hope go?” Often a powerful and meaningful story will unfold. When you share story, the loneliness of despair is transformed by the collective power of the fact that we are in this life together.
11. Hope and despair can share the same space. In fact, it is important to recognize the importance of and respect both. Often, we just want to focus only on the possibilities hope offers but we do a disservice to the story of struggle if we do not honor despair, too.
12. Challenge the flawed narrative that in order to do great things we have to be perfect. To quote Glennon Melton, life is brutifal (a fusion of brutal and beautiful). This is not about letting go of healthy striving but choosing flexibility instead of rigidity. Finding good enough is indeed great and realizing the ordinary is indeed extraordinary.
13. The opposite of scarcity is not abundance but enough. We live in a scarcity culture that challenges our worthiness and relentlessly fuels shame. Part of a sustained shame resilience practice also incorporates a hope practice.
14. In order to grasp the concept of hope we have to trust that pain and despair hold the key to growth. Resilience is not about never feeling the pain of despair but responding in ways that do not harm self or others we do experience struggle. All stories have themes of resilience and hope. Sometimes, you may need some help cleaning the lens on your life to see this perspective.
15. Never underestimate the power of agape love – soul connection – and respecting your profoundly human story. Deep-soul work that addresses the distressing life events knocks down the barriers to leaning into agape love.

Along with the Potentia team, I am honored to be a broker of hope when life is brutifal.

I am curious how you desire to be a broker of hope this Christmas season?

What do you think about pain and despair being the key to growth?

Cheering you on –

Rebecca