5 Expert Tips For Finding Hope When Life Hurts

Love, Heartbreak

Here are some clinical case studies of how people found hope during the worst times fo their lives.

JOHN LENNON ONCE SAID; “LIFE IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE OUT MAKING OTHER PLANS”.

It’s a great anecdote for when the unexpected “life events” feel good, but not so much for when they don’t. Sometimes these unexpected life events such as a sudden break up, or betrayal trauma such as discovering an affair can shatter your heart and leave you feeling hopeless about ever finding happiness again. Though not true, it feels that way. And feeling that way can be a tough rut to get out of.

So how can people authentically find hope when life hurts?

While not easy, it is both possible and necessary to find hope when life hurts. How to find it, however, is the million dollar question! Here are a few examples of how some people, who were close to being in dire circumstances, were able to do just that.

“Patrick” came to therapy after having undergone a contentious divorce. His ex had difficulty tolerating the loss and talked badly about Patrick in both explicit and implicit ways to their children. They subsequently began to alienate themselves from him. 

The frequency of their visits lessened, and the push back, attitude, and fighting that took place when they did spend time with Patrick became just as contentious as his divorce. Desperately trying to fight for a relationship with his children and not gaining any ground no matter how hard he tried, Patrick suffered.

“Mary Ann” married the love of her life or so she thought. Her husband’s gregarious social style that involved a few too many drinks seemed socially acceptable when they met in college, but no so much when it turned into a full blown alcohol addiction at mid-life. It resulted in countless expensive rehabilitation programs, legal programs and too many broken promises of sobriety. 

This twenty year rollercoaster relationship left her emotionally exhausted, financially insecure and feeling hopeless about ever having an emotionally connected partner to spend the rest of her life with. She too suffered.

Sam decided to marry his long time girlfriend who he loved, but had reservations about tying the knot with. Ignoring his inner voice that expressed doubt, he got married and found himself eight years into his marriage with two small children at home and falling in love with a woman he met at work. 

Not wanting to break up his family but also not wanting to give up this heart- felt connection that he longed for and finally found in someone else, he began having an affair. Tormented over what he was doing and feeling lost that he would ever find his way, suffering seemed to be the only choice available for him.

These three clients came to therapy when they felt utterly hopeless. Yet in spite of how irreparable their external circumstances seemed and with little evidence of relenting, Patrick, Mary Ann and Sam were able to find hope for themselves. Over time, they turned their lives around for the better. 

Here’s what they did and what you can do too, to find hope when life hurts.

They discovered that the needed to rethink what hope is and what it isn’t. Like Most people, Patrick, Mary Ann and Sam, believed that “hope” was like making a wish for something they desperately want to happen and that somehow it would magically happen. There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing at all, except that when it didn’t happen they began to feel more hopeless. 

They learned that “hope” was actually an energetic state such as relaxation or the yogic concept of prana (life force energy). It’s also the same as the Christian notion of “Christ mind”, that is always available to help soothe an inner state of despair. Most importantly, they learned how to access these feelings because truly, no one can “think” their way into it.

They discovered that they needed to make accessing hope a daily practice. Patrick, Mary Ann, and Sam, took time each day to access their inner hope through mind-body practices, mediation and creative self-help exercises. This helped them access their right “intuitive” rather than left “analytical” brains. By doing this consistently, it helped them to recalibrate their internal state of chronic stress to a more relaxed and curious way of being. As a result, they each began finding quiet moments of inner peace and joy, in spite of what was happening in their external worlds.

By consistently practicing accessing their internal hope, they were able to do internal work on themselves. Finding inner hope gave them the courage to get curious about their internal dialogue and the different voices that made up that dialogue. They then began to listen with compassion to all the different voices (even the ones they didn’t like) that had different ideas on what to do, without acting impulsively or trying to figure out which voice was the “right one”.

They began to pay attention to the signals their bodies were giving them and honored that wisdom. Patrick, Mary Ann and Sam had very strong “analytical left-brain” processes that were working overtime and leaving them exhausted. It was also inadvertently contributing to their pain. They kept trying to figure things out, and felt despair when they couldn’t. When they were able to access their inner hope consistently, then they then began to trust their “intuitive right brain” process. This in turn allowed them to listen with compassion to their pain, wants and yearnings. It also allowed them to discover the best choice for them to make which integrated both their right and left brain processes.

They began to relate to others around them the same way they were now relating to themselves. As their internal dialogue shifted, so did their external dialogue. Patrick, Mary Ann and Sam learned how to stay anchored in their inner sense of hope; e.g. their calm, curious and courageous sense of self and not react to their partner’s or children’s inner states of chaos. Of course they had moments when they did react, but they quickly learned how to pivot back into their inner hope.

AFTER THEY DISCOVERED HOW TO FIND THEIR INNER RESOURCE OF HOPE, HERE ARE SOME OF THE RESULTS THEY EXPERIENCED. 

When Patrick pick up his kids for visitation and they started acting out, he took a deep breath, and found ways to have playful rather than reactive responses with his kids (which totally caught them off guard in a good way!) Instead of trying to win the argument and push back which always made things worse, he started to say things such as, “I love how you have the courage to speak your mind and I want to hear everything that’s going on inside of you- but I miss alot of it when you yell at me. Can we slow down and just talk?”

He came to understand that just as he needed to learn how to recalibrate his inner state of chaos, his children desperately needed that too. He had to model that for them. This, in time, improved their connection. He slowly found inroads to less reactive and more quality conversations with his children in creative and intuitive ways. Life got better for all of them.

As Mary Ann recalibrated her inner system, her exhaustion, anger and fear dissipated and transformed into a newfound courage that allowed her to stop rescuing her husband from his alcoholism. This took time. Eventually choosing to leave her marriage.

As for Sam, he had a longer process. He was genuinely polarized over what to do. With a consistent practice of finding his inner hope, he was able to do his inner work to recalibrate his inner emotional state. Then, he was able to do the work on his marriage, which meant giving up his lover. 

He spent a couple of years in therapy which helped him find the courage to be authentic with his wife. He and his wife entered couples counseling where he was able to share the doubts and concerns he had long carried about their partnership, even before they married. 

Through the therapeutic process, they both came to discover that they had different wants, needs and ideas about how relationships and marriages should work. They mutually decided to uncouple in an amicable way - which is something he never thought was possible.

THE TRUTH IS, WHEN PEOPLE DISCOVER HOW THEY CAN FIND HOPE WHEN LIFE HURTS, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! 

While the end result may not be what most initially wished for, e.g Mary Ann’s husband never got sober, most discover the outcomes to be satisfying and aligned with what they believe is serving the greater good.

ALBERT EINSTEIN WHO WAS A PHYSICIST AND CREATIVE THINKER ONCE SAID, “YOU CAN’T SOLVE A PROBLEM WITH THE SAME CONSCIOUSNESS THAT CREATED IT”. 
And that’s exactly what finding hope when life hurts is all about. 

Maura Matarese, M.A., LMHC, R.Y.T. is a psychotherapist and author of the book: Finding Hope in the Crisis: A Therapist’s Perspective on Love, Loss and Courage. Her new online course; Finding Hope After Heartbreak: Learn the Secret How to Start Feeling Better Now, will be available soon, In the meantime, enjoy this free healing from heartbreak workbook. 

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!


 

This article was originally published at Maura Matarese, M.A. LMHC, R.Y.T.. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Author
Expert