Hopelessness is a terrible place to be. It is one of the hardest things I face in my practice. Perhaps because my own is so prominent. Hopelessness cannot be coached or advised away. When you feel hopeless all anyone can do is be with it. And man does it ask a lot of someone to be with it. I think of a friend who told me, “I’m not afraid of that darkness. I will be with you through it.” What a friend.
Hopelessness by definition has no end. You can’t wrap your arms around the feeling for the most part. To be truly hopeless is for hopelessness to be pervasive.
We rarely show our hopelessness. It may bleed through but to really show it to another person asks a lot of that other. There is little that is so difficult to bear as listening to someone who sees no way out. No reason to go on. No hope.
Here is what I have learned about hopelessness. Hopelessness has nothing to do with circumstance. When we are hopeless we attach our hopelessness to “things”. Events, losses, truths. We justify our hopelessness by attaching it to ideas.
But I have learned in a hard-won, psyche-through-the meat-grinder kind of way that hopelessness is counteracted with living. Not with “things” getting better.
To live is to make an interpretation. It is to interpret that there is hope.
And living is always happening (until it isn’t).
Much resistance to therapeutic work is a resistance to feeling hopelessness. What use is that? And how terrifying. I think much of what appears truly insane in this world - mania, over-accentuated positivity, the truly strange - much of it is a sprint away from hopelessness.
But once we feel it. And live in it. And bear it (and this is a horrible thing to do). We have a chance. We have a chance to have two experiences at the same time. To enter into hopelessness and our living of the hopelessness.
This takes time. A lot of it. And a lot of hard work and intuitive searching and opening to others and all kinds of other hard things. But it can most definitely be done.
To lie on the floor in hopelessness is to have the opportunity to feel the ground against our head and shoulder blades and our back and our thighs and our arms and feet.
And if we can just do that, we are having two experiences. Of living and of no hope.
This is not work that can be rushed. It could take years. When we come into contact with our hopelessness it is a terrible and deep-rooted thing. It doesn’t just move through like the weather. And it is unlikely that it ever goes away entirely.
Hopelessness is sticky. There is so much out there to confirm it. We will all die, after all. Isn’t that the ultimate confirmation of hopelessness?
I am going to go out on a limb and say it is not. And what I am saying here I do not say even a bit lightly. I am describing something that I have experienced after years of fighting and working and trying to surrender.
It is this: Death is not a confirmation of hopelessness. Life is as much here as death. And our importance lies outside of time.