I’m a big believer in the power of hope. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that hope is my religion. However, there are phrases that I hate to hear people say. One such phrase is:
“God wouldn’t give you anything he knew you couldn’t handle.”
I know this is said with the greatest of intentions, but it is just fundamentally untrue. There are plights handed to people in this world that do make an indelible negative mark on the psyche forever. Tragedies like the tsunamis in Asia or Sandy Hook are bigger than a human’s capacity to comprehend and handle. It is during those moments of great personal tragedy that are too big to handle when we have to call on hope to aid us in recovering to a new, and definitely forever altered, way of life. Sometimes this new life will never be great in the same way it was before, but that’s okay. You just need to leave yourself room for the wonders of the life that awaits. This brings me to another quote that I do believe we can use during the most terrible of moments.
“This too shall pass.”
What to Remind Yourself When Things Get Tough
To give us some perspective we have to remember that just as good times do not last forever bad times do not last forever either. It is not possible for any state to last forever because change is the only constant. In order to move yourself past the pains of personal tragedy you need to afford yourself the gift of future. Here I am going to outline for you the process that I followed to give myself hope during the long haul of homelessness during childhood into my becoming a young adult. It is a series that I teach to teens living in group homes today with success.
Creativity: It may be surprising to you that I find creativity to be the ultimate in all survival skills. Creativity is that ability to build something where nothing existed before, and that is the very magic that hope is made from. We cannot find hope if we cannot imagine a better future. In my case, I benefited from the fact that while my family had very little money my childhood was rich in exercises of creativity. When times were really rough at home my mind would use these lessons to escape before bedtime into a fantasy world where I imagined my life in better circumstances. Being able to imagine myself in a better place was a critical first step in getting to that better place. During my teen years this transformed into a habit of journaling my hopes and dreams, which also served as a means for enriching my mental health during terrible times. With kids in group homes, I will teach them a hybrid approach through both photography and journaling that has worked well. Photography allows us to take in and access the beauty of the external world that we did not know existed before while journaling allows us to explore those possibilities from within. In the end, creativity’s job is to help you imagine yourself in a better place. Now we will use other skills to get us there.
Curiosity: Once we imagine a future for ourselves it is an inherent sense of curiosity that helps us make that first bold step forward. In my opinion, no where is curiosity better celebrated than in the realm of education. When I was young I realized that if I wanted the future I imagined for myself then I was going to need to rely heavily on education because public school was free and provided hope in great abundance. There are many ways to become educated, and there are many subjects to become fluent in. However, at the core of all education is the curiosity needed to create an action plan that gets you from where you are now to the future you wish for yourself.
Determination: There is no easy street back from rock bottom, unfortunately. To rise up from a bad place you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get to work. It does seem inherently unfair that those of us that have already handled extreme pain have to work even harder than the average person in order to achieve the same end. It’s like playing the same video game but being forced to wage your battle on the most difficult setting while everyone around you plays that game on easy street. Unfortunately, you won’t realize the benefit this gives you until later on. Once you have made it to your new future you will suddenly realize how much easier it is for you to succeed when compared to those that have been living on the easy level their entire life. You will also find yourself happier, in general, because you have a fuller sense for how fortunate you are.
Healing: In the interest of full disclosure, that whole bit about “what does not kill us makes us stronger” kind of irritates me too. That which does not kill us does leave us damaged in one way or another. We can only use that damage to become stronger if we work to heal our wounds. No where is this healing more crucial than in the realm of mental health. If you have dealt with a sudden or prolonged great loss, which is almost always the reason why someone would become acquainted with rock bottom in the first place, then you deserve to be able to heal from it. A trained professional can be of big benefit to you here. If you had to deal with a great loss that did not kill you, then it is your right to help use that to make you stronger.
Tomorrow is a New Day
If you currently find yourself in a situation that is seemingly hopeless, then please know that there are many of us that have been there before and have testimonies as proof that you can get beyond your miseries. Yes, tomorrow is a new day. In fact, in our case, a new year is just right around the bend. Let’s make it the best year yet.