As a psychologist in training, I remember a deeply nourishing exchange with a supervisor that kindled my understanding of hope and healing. “Healing calls for hope. As a therapist, you’ve got to feel it for the patient. If you don’t, it would be best to refer them to someone you feel might be better for them. Maybe they simply would benefit from medication or need a neurological workup. Not everyone is ready for or needs therapy. But, if they come your way, check in with your feeling of hope. Is it there? Do you feel it for them? If so, then there’s potential for healing. Move forward and do your best, and they’re likely to find healing.”
William James, father of American depth psychology, wrote in The Varieties of Religious Experience “let . . . hope be the atmosphere which man breathes in . . . and his days pass by with zest.” There are those who shield themselves from hope. It takes exertion of self to hope. You put yourself into it, the vital emotion of it requiring energy, an investment of self. People are afraid. I understand, but I also get it that to retreat into negativism, cynicism, and despair ends up at the end of a very dark and go-no-where back alley. It helps nothing and no one.
But when hope is the real deal, you feel it from your core. It’s not concocted. It’s not a fly-by feeling—a wisp of sentiment or superficial thought. No, genuine hope comes from the gut, it grabs hold and digs in then looks to you to give it expression. When we take the step to feel the hope, then it blooms. It provides energy, gray and black clouds lift. We can do things and move ahead.
A patient walked into my office, their countenance dark, and their attitude dismal. They were in the grip of despair. They reported this dream: “I was at the edge of a cliff, a black abyss down below. Instead of stepping back, which I should have done, I stepped off and went down. When I woke up I felt depressed.” We explored the power of the symbolism. They were at the edge and the dream said they had a choice—to step off or not. Off they went. “It’s always been easier to go down the tube for me. I just let go and don’t try. I step off the cliff instead of taking the energy to move back and away.”
What a compelling psychic scenario this dream painted. The patient was more empowered than they had admitted to themselves. They became conscious of their ability to exercise greater control over attitude and self-empowerment. Generative feeling states can be nurtured. Again, they’re not whipped up, they’re not inflated self-talk that comes from baseless notions. No, they spring from genuine inspiration. The soul whispers, You can deal with this. Move on it!
I noticed when that patient stepped into the consultation office, my hope did not waver. I knew and felt to my core that despite how bad they looked, hope and the potential for healing was present. I felt it deep inside. By the session’s end, the clouds had lifted, their mood lighter. They left feeling self-empowered and that they could fix what they had messed up. So, word for the day is—keep the hope, nourish the hope, and the hope will heal and transform your life and your soul.