We all have been advised at one time or another by a well-meaning person to “never give up hope!” or have heard something along the lines of “when you’ve lost hope, you’ve lost everything.” What if it is the hoping that keeps us from finding peace and happiness?
Think about that one for a minute. What is hope? It is a kind of wanting, wishing, and dissatisfaction with the present. It is a desire for our life to be different or better somehow. It is wanting to be there instead of here. It is the old “grass is greener on the other side” in action.
This resistance of the present causes pain and struggle. To find fault with and highlight what you consider to be less than ideal – maybe even far, far less and justifiably so- only causes more misery.
What will alleviate the suffering and pain and crack the door for peace and happiness to enter is acceptance. Not hope, but acceptance. The idea is to accept every single, ugly detail of the current situation while intending and working to create a better one.
Acceptance is not the same as resignation. Acceptance is recognizing what is present, consciously choosing your thoughts about it, and having a willingness to work with it, as it is, to move forward. One study found chronically ill people to be happier when they actually gave up hope that things will improve. (See Chronically Ill May Be Happier If They Give Up Hope)
Some of the best tools I have found to work with the present situation and any accompanying, challenging emotions are visualization (see blog: Picture This), affirmations, meditation, (see blog: What Meditation Is To Me), thought reframing, and Byron Katie’s The Work (see blog: Turn It Around).
I learned this hard truth in the years I spent recovering from a serious brain injury which was the result of a suicide attempt. Immediately after, my sons went to live in a different state with their father, and, without a significant other, I was left alone. Life was very bleak and painful, at first. Over the years that followed, I learned to reframe my thoughts and to see my situation differently. By not dwelling on the negative thoughts while hoping for something different, I was able to drastically relieve the suffering and pain.
I learned to take conscious, definite action towards creating more desirable circumstances for myself instead of hoping for them. My focus and energy became invested in doing, not in hoping. Instead of spending my energy trying to force one outcome to happen just because it was the one that I preferred, over time, I saw that staying open to and accepting of what materialized, even if was not what I wanted – especially then – and finding the wisdom in it, proved to be a much more successful strategy. Whatever unfolded became the tools with which to create a better reality for myself.
Amazingly, there was always some good to be found, somewhere, even if the circumstances seemed terrible and made absolutely no sense upon presenting themselves. I learned to ask myself “How can I make this work for me?” and to place my thoughts and energy in that direction instead of bemoaning the circumstances. (see blog : One Little Question) Every situation always presents this choice. Your choice can make the outcome more positive and make the experience more pleasant as you move through it.
Right smack dab in the middle of the muck and mire of life, even at its very worst, it is possible to find happiness and peace because these qualities are in your mind. They exist in your thoughts ABOUT what happens, not in the actual happenings. Happiness is not in hope. It is in your thoughts and actions. It really is as simple – not easy – as that.