Hope is such a powerful emotion; without it lives despair.
The emotional state of despair is tumultuous and can lead us down unhealthy habitual pathways which contribute to a depressive state, and sometimes thoughts of death.
Symptoms of depression range from depressed mood nearly every day, most of the day, diminished capacity for enjoyment, significant weight loss or gain represented by decreased or increased appetite, inability to sleep or excessive sleeping, psychomotor agitation, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, excessive guilt, lack of focus or indecisiveness, and recurrent thoughts of dying (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Five or more of these symptoms in the same two-week period, and the symptoms can lead to chronicity of Major Depressive Disorder.
However defined, the fact remains: depression is invasive to our entire being.
Finding Light in the Darkness
With the bidirectional dynamic relationship of despair and depression, it is understandable that many find it nearly impossible to see the light through the darkness. Though it is certainly difficult, please don't ever give up searching for the light. Remember Martin Luther King's quote of hope: "Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
As a professional counselor, I have never worked with a client through thoughts of suicide who truly wanted to die. Even in their darkest moments, people truly desire to live, but they need the emotional suffering to end. Emotional suffering begins to loosen it's grip the moment hope is fostered.
A synthesis of literature reveals hope to be a multidimensional construct. Some researchers perceive a goal-oriented approach to hope, while others focus on attachment, survival and spiritual dimensions (Scioli, Ricci, & Nyugen, 2011). For purposes of this article, hope is to be defined as the absence of despair.
Hope and meaning have frequent intersects. Hope and meaning making are considered “gifts" by Shana Hormann (2018), “In times of despair, hope is essential.” She describes hope as the “fuel” that helps people, communities, and organizations rebuild after facing a trauma, and in the days that follow.
As we face COVID and the aftermath of healing, let us continue to carry a torch of hope for others. Hope and meaning can lead us, our families, and our communities to the future.
Counselors as Guardian of Hope
I have witnessed many clients realize that hope is absolutely worth fighting for. Counseling helps people find meaning in living, despite any despair. Even in the worst of times, we can help you find meaning in the pain.
“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed,” (Frankl, 1959). “For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best which is to transform a personal tragedy into triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement.” Frankl continues, “when we are no longer able to change a predicament…we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Life can be a disruptive and painful journey. Counselors are trained with evidence-based skills that can help. We truly hear your wishes, your truths, and your pain. We meet you where you are, non-judgmentally, in a state of despair, fear, pain, or turmoil.
Counselors are guardians of your hope when you believe there is none. We are companions to your despair, change agents to any unhealthy patterns of thinking, and healers to your emotional pain. Sometimes we bear the light of hope for our clients while cultivating their hope within.
As we together face COVID and the aftermath, the unknown before us can feel daunting. If you or someone you love has moments of darkness and despair, please reach out.
There is no shame in the search for meaning and hope. We each deserve to feel worthy of dignity and respect. The beacon of hope will be guarded until you can see the light.
Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor licensed in the state of Ohio working with adults. www.jacobsoncounseling.org, email@example.com (513) 234-9184
American Psychiatric Association: Desk reference to the diagnostic criteria from DSM-5. Arlington, VA.
American Psychiatric Association, 2013.
Frankl, V.E. Man’s search for meaning. Boston, MA. Beacon Press, 1959.
Hormann, S. (2018). Exploring resilience: in the face of trauma. Humanist Manag J. 3:91-104.
Scioli, A., Ricci, M., Nyugen, T., and Scioli, E. (2011). Hope: Its nature and measurement. Psychology of
Religion and Spirituality 3, 2:78-97. DOI:10.1037/a0020903