I usually start my day with reading the newspaper. It’s easy to let that lead into hopelessness, or at least discouragement. There are so many terrible things going on in the world. I start to feel hopeless about the sustainability of our planet, the senseless violence in my community and around the world, the racial inequality in our country after hundreds of years, the social inequality between economic classes, the shameful state of our education system. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, angry and hopeless.
But then I remember that I am a hopeful person. I believe that people are basically good and that, for the most part, everyone is doing their best. I believe that given the opportunity, support, and conditions, people trying their best can bring positive change to their own lives and society. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. But I try to shift my focus to all the times it does happen. I know police officers, firefighters, and teachers who work for some of the lowest pay around because they want to help people and make positive changes. I read about everyday heroes all the time, too. In all the recent, tragic stories of the wildfires in California, there are wonderful stories of neighbors supporting each other, saving each other’s animals, providing for each other. That is hope to me.
In a hopeless moment, I start to worry about people’s lack of connection, their forgetting how to interact with each other. So much of our culture is experienced virtually, on our phones and computers. People try and fool themselves into believing that this is connection, but it is not. It is easier than genuine connection. It is less risky than having a face-to-face interaction with another human being. But it does not fill you up the way being with other people can. Humans are built for connection; it is in our DNA to live in groups and be together with other people. Living isolated lives leads to depression, anxiety, loneliness and despair. Living in real, authentic relationships with other people is required for us to live full, healthy lives. So I worry about people not doing that. Yet when I see people engaging, being courageous and vulnerable with others, being authentic, it reminds me that it happens and that it is a beautiful thing. I feel hopeful again.
I see people in pain every day in my therapy practice. It would be easy to become hopeless when faced with so much trauma, grief, loss, depression, anxiety, disappointment, loneliness, and unfulfilling relationships. Yet I also get to experience people trying unbelievably hard to make their lives better. I am honored and inspired by their efforts and growth and change. I see so many brave, determined clients…how can I not be hopeful?
In the end, it is a glass half full or half empty kind of question. There are moments when hopelessness gnaws at the edges of my mind, and moments that it really gets in there for a while, those moments when the glass definitely looks half empty. Luckily, there are many moments when I see that glimmer of the goodness of human nature, the potential in people, the beauty of caring relationships. I feel those experiences deeper in my bones because they feel more true to me. That is my glass half-full perspective. That is why hope usually wins out, because it feels more true to me.