If I could find a way to package and dispense hope, I would have a pill more powerful than any antidepressant on the market. Hope, is often the only thing between man and the abyss. As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from anything and everything.
However, if they lose hope, unless you can help them get it back, all is lost. One thing I can tell you is that hope is an emotion that springs from the heart, not the brain. Hope lays dormant until its amazing strength is beckoned, supplying a sheer belief that you will overcome, you will persevere and you will endure anything and everything that comes your way.
Hope is the belief that circumstances will get better. It's not a wish for things to get better—it's the actual belief, the knowledge that things will get better, no matter how big or small. It's the belief that at age 55, after a disaster where you've lost your home, car, and possessions—everything material, that you still have your health and family, and that you can and you will start over.
It is the steadfast determination of the cancer patient who fights, believing that eventually a cure will come. It’s the man who has lost his job, has a family to support, and knows that new employment is just around the corner as long as he keeps looking. Sometimes hope looks so bleak in a given situation as to appear non-existent, yet is so vital for survival, that virtually everyone who survives a life-threatening ordeal—that on the surface seems impossible—will point to hope as the one thing that got them through. It is this very hope which champions the survivor, even in the bleakest of times.
When I had the privilege of working with the victims of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I quickly found that there were two types of physical survivors: psychological victims and psychological survivors. I realized that the mindset had nothing to do with money, education, how much was lost, or how many loved ones died. Now I’m working with a different type of victim—those who have endured the great recession, an event for many every bit as stressful as a hurricane. Here are the two types of people that I see:
- Psychological victims: these individuals are passive, pessimistic, and look to the past. They ask, "Who will help me?" They despair and are all consumed by their loss, refusing to help themselves.
- Psychological survivors: these folks are active, optimistic, and look to the future. They ask, "How can I help myself?" They grieve, which is healthy, but they continue to persevere and fight.
It did not take long to realize that my primary responsibility was to turn the victim mindset into a survivor mindset, and that meant restoring or instilling hope. To have hope is to empower yourself in order to face the toughest of times and emerge a survivor. Here are the things that are most important:
- Faith. The belief that there is something bigger and more important than you. Whether it's God, a higher power, a child, a loved one, a mission, or a cause. It is a reason to go on, and it has nothing to do with just you.
- Gratitude. Focus on what you have to be thankful for, not on what you don't have or what you have lost or what you want. Remind yourself of this every day.
- Love. Think about the people in your life that you love and those that love you—family and friends. Make it a point to connect often with each and every one. This is best accomplished in person, but as we know that is not always possible. A phone call, text, or a quick email will do.
When you go through times of stress and pain, yet know without a doubt that this, too, shall pass, then you have Hope. And often, that alone is enough to make all the difference.