A sense of hopeless is all too common in depression. It’s a feeling of futility and abandonment. It’s the expectation that nothing you say or do will have the slightest bearing on future outcomes – at least in a positive way. Comfort and success become abandoned concepts. Here is a person on the ropes - gloves hanging by their side - defenceless as life throws whatever combination of punches it chooses at them.
The word ‘hope’ means different things to different people. For some it’s little more than a daydream or desire that the things they really want might happen. We often ‘hope so’ more in wish than expectation. But hope could also be thought of in a much less flimsy sense. If we turn it around so that it becomes a down-to-earth term we can see it as a kind of strategy where our goals and the possible steps and routes we could take to achieve them become aspirational.
Igniting the spark of hope may seem impossible and pointless during depression and there is no point trying to force the issue when depression has you in its grip. There will however come a day when a slight shift occurs. Perhaps you become aware of an interest in things around you and the weight of depression is maybe less heavy.
In a previous post I suggested it was important to handle goals gently. Goals need to be intentions rather than burdens and there’s nothing to say we shouldn’t recalibrate our goals in the light of changing circumstances. Hope is the partner of optimism. It’s the sense that if we set a small goal for ourselves it is achievable rather than being too distant and too problematic. Hope is the sense that while one path appears too difficult another path has fewer obstacles. Hope is the sense of energy and momentum that comes with attempting something. Hope also comes with the knowledge that depression will run its course and will pass. In time, those fleeting moments of positive emotion will start to increase and will start to replace the times of despair.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.