When hope is a problem and pain is a message.
Hope...a problem? That might sound like a strange accusation. Don't get me wrong- hope can be an incredibly powerful tool. When life feels dark, sometimes the belief that things can get better is the only motivation we have to keep moving. Hope can help us endure until we reach a place where things actually do get better.
And lets be honest, hope feels good. Hope shines a light on the dark cloud of despair. It can be a medicine for our psychological pain. Could you imagine leaving the theater after a movie that left you feeling entirely hopeless? My guess is, that it wouldn't be one you would recommend your friends see. Nobody likes feeling hopeless, but here is where we run into trouble. When hope's purpose becomes about avoiding our pain, it often loses its function as an agent for change. Sometimes when we run from pain, we often create more suffering.
You see, I've found that often times a person's pain holds an important message. Instead of investing our time and energy into distracting , suppressing, assuaging that pain- I wonder what would happen if we took the time to listen? Maybe its telling you that the relationship you are in isn't healthy, and your partner probably wont change. Or maybe that chronic exhaustion you're dealing with is letting you know that you're doing too much. Its time to slow down. Or maybe your lack of motivation on the job is a sign that you're in need of more meaningful work. Many times psychological pain is a reflection of what Dr. Russ Harris, author of the Happiness trap and an ACT (Acceptance and Commitment therapy) trainer, calls the "reality gap"- that space between what our life actually is, and how we want it to be. The bigger the gap, the more pain. As scary as it may be, when we take the time to look into the eye of the storm, we begin to understand what we need, where we can make changes, and what we might need to let go of.
I'm not suggesting we let our hopelessness take the drivers seat. Doing so would have its own set of issues. What I am suggesting is giving it a seat at the table. Just as we might hear out a concerned friend, we can give our pain a platform to speak its peace. You may be surprised by what you learn.
What is your pain telling you?