Six Ways To Move Past Hopelessness

Hopelessness, worthlessness and overwhelm… emotions that nobody loves, yet everyone experiences from time to time. How can you manage these emotions so they don’t paralyze your life?

When you feel hopeless it’s not because there is no hope at all in your life. It’s because you feel there’s none. Same with worthlessness. No one is worthless. Our lives are all worth something. Same with overwhelm: It is not a fact of life; it is your emotional response to life.

Have you had times when you just felt like giving up? Do you feel backed into the wall with nowhere to run and no reason to move? If you find yourself saying, “Why bother?” or “It’s useless” you may be experiencing hopelessness.

Negative self-talk feeds hopelessness, worthlessness and overwhelm. Some of the thoughts running through your mind may include:

  • Why bother? Nothing works.
  • I’ll never be happy.
  • I’ll never get what I want. What’s the use in trying?
  • There aren’t any good people left.
  • I’m too old (or fat, ugly, poor, boring…)

When feeling hopeless, you may stop seeing friends; you may isolate yourself, stop exercising and indulge in unhealthy behaviors such as overeating or overdrinking. You may avoid anything new. And that just adds a sense of worthlessness and overwhelm until you spiral down into a quagmire of hopelessness and depression.

When you find yourself spiraling down this way, the single most important issue to address is your feeling of hopelessness. You see, when you are convinced that life is hopeless, you won’t do anything to help yourself. No matter how hopeless it seems, there are always things you can do to find a way out. Here are six things you can do to break free from the downward spiral of hopelessness:

Challenge Your Hopelessness

If you’re feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, you’re bound to have thoughts like: “It’s useless, so why even try.” Because of this thought process, you won’t do anything, and you’ll remain stuck in hopelessness. This circular thinking then turns your feeling of hopelessness into a self-fulfilling prophecy!

Why not try something different? First, make the decision to doubt your hopelessness. Simply entertain the notion that you could be wrong. You’ve been wrong before about life; maybe you’re wrong now.

And then, with that inkling of doubt, decide to act against your hopelessness and as a champion for yourself. Act as if things aren’t hopeless by taking initiative, experimenting with optimism (‘I might as well try to make the best of this’); do things the hopeless part of you doesn’t feel like doing but research shows can make things better—exercise, see friends, get out of your shell. Prove your hopelessness wrong by acting as if things are already better! This type of self-discipline is not easy, but it can make a world of difference to your emotional state.

A big part of depression or anxiety consists of thoughts in our heads that tell us things are bad, we are hopeless and things won’t get better. The simple exercise of challenging those thoughts can do wonders for our state of mind. If the thought in your mind says that things are never going to get better, then dig deep and remember a time when things were bad but did improve! That is the truth you need to hang onto until your emotions shift.

Consider The Path Not Taken – Yet

Hopelessness will tell you that you’ve already tried everything to make things better, but nothing has worked. Let’s be serious, in a multiverse with limitless options, no one has tried everything yet! Maybe you’ve tried five or ten things things—changing some behavior, therapy, medication, resting, prayer, etc. When none of these things turned out to be the magic bullet that dramatically changed your life, you concluded that it’s all hopeless. Now would be a good time to keep looking, because there is an answer or (even many) for every challenge you may face.

You can try different kinds of therapy, different techniques and combinations of different approaches. You can choose to reframe the way you are looking at the challenge and instead of concluding that your situation is hopeless, you can ask instead, ‘How could this be helpful?’ or ‘What can I learn from this?’

You could consider giving up on ways of thinking and acting that haven’t worked: worrying, complaining, avoiding, isolating and taking things personally. Every time you catch yourself doing one of these things, remind yourself that there’s a better way, and then choose instead to do other things that may work: accepting, tolerating discomfort, practicing patience, or doing what you don’t want to do but what could actually be good for you.

Instead of focusing on what you can’t change, look instead at the wide range of things you can change. Let’s say your relationship really is a lot cause: You’ve broken up and there is no going back. That relationship really is hopeless now. OK, but how about all the other things in your life you can change—things you can do? Stop banging your head against a wall that won’t move, and walk through the door that is wide open for you.

Realize Your Happiness Does Not Depend on Just One Thing

Nobody says, “Life is hopeless because there’s a cloud in the sky.” Of course not! If we don’t treat the cloud as an essential part of life, we are not going to sweat it. When you feel hopeless, it is because you are telling yourself that the thing that won’t change is essential: “I can’t live without it.” Why not? You lived before you had it. Even if the relationship or job really turned out to be hopeless, weren’t you living a life before it? Start living again…like you did before!

Appreciate this Present Moment

Stop and think about what is happening right now. Is this moment hopeless? Sit quietly, noticing your breath, letting it in and out, watching it come and go. Feel your feet against the floor. Hear the sounds around you. Peel an orange and smell the tangy skin. Listen to music and feel the notes run through you. The present is here, every moment, every day. When the future and the past are pushed aside so you are fully alive here and now, you put an end to hopelessness. Appreciating this present moment and making it a sweet one, will help you forget the hopelessness.

Take Good Care of Yourself

It sounds so simple, but little things like getting enough sleep and eating as healthy as possible can make a huge difference on how we feel emotionally. Lack of sleep alone can cause depression and anxiety. Exercise has been proven to significantly reduce symptoms of depression, and by this I don’t mean slogging it out in the gym for two hours a day. Be kind to yourself! If you’re feeling down, stuck or overwhelmed, take a walk in nature, do some gentle yoga, or go for a bike ride to help lift your spirits.

Practice Moderation

When we feel hopeless, it is easy to self-medicate in unhealthy ways: overeating, oversleeping, overdrinking or indulging in recreational drugs. We all know that doing these things actually make us feel worse in the long run! Moderation is important in all aspects of our lives. When feeling hopeless or overwhelmed, wisdom urges us to say “no” to certain activities because we know that our boundaries are weaker than normal. Overindulging as a form of self-medication comes with a price that is just not worth paying.

About the Author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Are You Playing Enough? The Importance Of Play

Recently, I was at a conference where the speaker started out by asking participants: “Are you fun to live with?” Her question was met with shock, then self-conscious laughter as she explained that if you do not value the importance of play and having fun in your life, you will most likely not be fun to live with. That sure got my attention!

Modern society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, a waste of time or a guilty indulgence. As adults, we’re supposed to be serious. And with responsibilities that pile on year by year, many of us may feel as if there’s simply no time to play.

Yet, play is just as pivotal for adults as it is for kids.

In English, the word “play” represents the opposite of “work.” But this definition is misleading. As psychiatrist Stuart Brown puts it: “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” Dr. Brown began studying the role of play in brain development, after discovering the impact of no play on the brain development of homicidal young men. He has found that play of any kind is essential to brain development.

Play is not just essential for kids; it is an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your partner, friends, co-workers, pets, and children fuels your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.

Simply put, play brings joy.

Adult play is a time to forget about responsibilities and get social in an unstructured, creative way. When you play, you focus on an actual experience, not on accomplishing a goal. There doesn’t need to be any point to the activity beyond having fun and enjoying yourself. Play could be simply goofing off with friends, sharing jokes with a coworker, throwing a Frisbee with your kids, playing fetch with a dog or going for a bike ride.

The benefits of play

By giving yourself permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, you can reap oodles of health benefits throughout life. Here are just a few:

Play refreshes you. When you take a break from mentally challenging tasks to play for a few minutes, you release built-up tension and allow your brain circuitry to find balance. These brief diversions refresh your mind and body, renew your focus and prevent burnout. It can also help you to view problems in new ways, so you can find optimal solutions.

Relieve stress. Play is fun and triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Improve brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can improve brain function and help prevent memory problems. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.

Keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease.

Play is good for your heart. Physical play is a great way to trick yourself into becoming more active—a habit your heart will thank you for. Just walking the dog burns 230 calories per hour, and a leisurely bike ride burns over 420.

Stimulate your mind and boost creativity. You learn a new task better when it’s fun and you are in a relaxed and playful mood. Play also stimulates your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve.

Heal emotional wounds. If an emotionally upset individual plays with a partner who feel more stable, it can help replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive assumptions and actions.

Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun fosters empathy, compassion, trust and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.

Develop and improve social skills. During childhood play, kids learn about verbal communication, body language, boundaries, cooperation, and teamwork. As adults, you continue to refine these skills through play and playful communication.

Improve cooperation with others. Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. Through play, people learn how to work together, follow mutually agreed upon rules, and socialize in groups. Adults can use play to break down barriers and improve relationships with others.

Still thinking you are too busy to play? Given all these benefits, perhaps it is time to rephrase that old excuse and say that you are too busy NOT to play!

You don’t just deserve to play; your body, mind and emotions need the benefits of play.

To make sure that you find time to play more, just schedule it. Perhaps now would be a good time to schedule that much needed vacation. You will be better for doing it!

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Shadow Dancing: Integrating The Shadow In Our Personal And Collective Psyche

Deep beneath the social masks and happy faces we present to the outer world, lurks a hidden shadow: an angry, wounded, fragmented or isolated part of us that we tend to bury or ignore. Integrating the shadow is essential for a balanced life.

The shadow compounds all the dark impulses—hatred, aggression, sadism, selfishness, jealousy, resentment, sexual transgression—that are not socially acceptable and thus hidden out of sight. The name originated with Carl Jung, but its basic origin came from Freud’s insight that our psyches are dualistic, sharply divided between the conscious and unconscious. Socially accepted norms require that we suppress our unconscious side, but what hides in the shadows will attempt to come out.

Whatever qualities we dare not face within ourselves, we tend to project out onto others. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is integrated in a person’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. The work of becoming spiritually conscious requires us to face and integrate the shadow, or else it will sabotage our best intentions.

Put another way, one does not become enlightened by imagining light, but by making the darkness conscious so it can be integrated. Rampant shadow projection is a hallmark behavior of the spiritually unconscious.

The shadow always wants to be heard – when ignored, it turns ever more mean and nasty. Resisting the shadow simply solidifies it, causing suffering. This arrogant behavior causes pain and suffering in anybody who has suffered because of the shadow’s cruelty, either in themselves or others.

And herein lies a great gift. Whenever the shadow projections out there trigger an emotional response in us, it means that there is a need for forgiveness, healing and acceptance. This emotional charge is a dead giveaway that we need to do some healing within ourselves so we can become neutral to the shadow projections out there.

In other words, we’re able to recognize the shadow projections out there because the same potential exists within each of us, whether we act on them or not. Most of us are uncomfortable with this truth, which causes us to further suppress and project our own shadow. In truth, the enemy is not out there but in each of us.

The enemy is in the White House, but the enemy is also Muslim; the enemy is a Jew, the enemy is a terrorist or a non-documented immigrant; the enemy is the person we choose to blame for our own situation, and the refugee from whose needs we recoil… the enemy is in all of them, and also in you and me. In truth, the enemy is really not an enemy at all. It is but a dark reflection of the shadow that resides in each of us and gets projected out there onto whomever we choose to judge and condemn. This enemy is an orphan, cast out of our consciousness and wandering the dark alleys of our collective unconscious as the shadow.

We cannot fight the shadow with more shadow, for that simply escalates issues and increases suffering on all sides. Instead, we need to heal the shadow by bringing the light of consciousness to it. The wounds in consciousness can only be healed through consciousness.

Bringing shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power comes from having accepted our shadow parts and integrated them as components of ourselves.

The shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality; and integrating these orphaned aspects of our being can lead to restoring personal wholeness and leading more authentic life. We start this process by recognizing the shadow existing in us, forgiving ourselves for our fear and aversion of it, acknowledging it for what it is, and learning to use its powerful energies in productive ways.

In their book, Romancing the Shadow, authors Connie Zwieg, Ph.D. and Steve Wolf, Ph.D. share effective ways of decoding the messages of the shadow in daily life to deepen one’s consciousness, imagination, and soul.

Integrating the shadow takes honesty and courage, but the rewards are immense. First, the suffering stops. This is the surest sign that we have chosen the right path again: the unnecessary suffering stops.

More importantly, new possibilities emerge everywhere in life. Author David Richo calls this work “shadow dancing” in his book, Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side. Changing our relationship with the shadow allows us to discover a critical shift in our viewpoint: Where everything seemed sterile and barren and there seemed no possible answers before, now everything seems possible.

How to manage the shadow currently rampaging through society? A few things come to mind.

  1. Become part of the solution. Instead of cursing the darkness, align with the light by consciously changing your tribal attitudes, words, and actions. Refuse to dehumanize others based on their race, religion or background. Recognize that the world’s wrongs have their seeds in you and me as well. The potential for good or evil exists in each one of us. Once we begin to acknowledge that in ourselves, the shadow immediately begins to diminish.
  2. Recognize opportunities for healing, change and growth. See the rampaging shadow out there for what it is: an opportunity for each of us to heal. Now is the time for true shadow work to begin. The spiritually unconscious cannot do this work; it needs to start with you and me. When we take responsibility for the work of forgiveness and healing in our own lives, we will find the courage to start doing so on a larger scale. That is how we heal the world; not with bigger weapon systems, more name-calling or hatred.
  3. Strengthen your commitment to higher goals, vision and values. Nurture your core values, your soul and your spirituality. Meditate, spend time in nature, do energy work to set your soul free, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
  4. Learn how to practice detachment. Do your very best to continuously release thoughts of resistance and attachment, for they are simply sides of the same coin. The Sedona Method has a wonderful phrase to summarize this process: “Embrace that which you resist, and surrender that to which you cling.” Detachment frees you from anxiety so your inner space can be peace.
  5. Remain in the Now. The past is over and no amount of worry can change it; the future is not here yet; so stay in the present moment. This moment is a golden opportunity to grow in consciousness. Choose to see every event of your life as a gift from heaven, sent your way with the sole purpose of enlightening you.
  6. Stay open to the possibilities. During turbulent times, the ego works overtime to find some security. In the process, we often settle for the safe rather than the good. When you have faith in a Higher Power and stay open to all the possibilities in the Field (even those you have not yet conceived of), you are making space for optimal outcomes to show up.
  7. Keep learning. Perhaps you cannot change all the things out there that trouble you. But you can learn something new each day that will help you outgrow the limitations of tribal thinking and become the highest expression of yourself. What will you learn today? Tomorrow? Next month? It is the accumulation of small changes over time, that feed the evolution of your consciousness.
  8. Stay involved. When faced with the shadow and all the cognitive dissonance it creates, it can be tempting to hide your light. You may want to play it safe, go into denial and avoid conflict. I’m here to tell you that you were created for bigger things! You are on this planet at this time because at some level, you recognized the potential for growth, change and fulfillment offered by the very things you call challenging in your life right now. This is not the time to find excuses for remaining passive, or to wait for heaven to come and rescue us. We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for! So muster your courage, stand tall, breathe in faith and let your light shine, for you are meant to be here now! Become an instrument of change and healing, and your own fulfillment will follow.

Finally, remember that shadow is aligned with the ego and never wins in the end!

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

The Four Phases of Emotional Healing

Emotional healing is an organized process which goes through four distinct, orderly phases similar to physical wound healing where missing cellular structures and layers of tissue are replaced.

The four, often overlapping, phases of physical and emotional wound healing are Shock/Hemostasis, Inflammation, Proliferation/Rebuilding and Remodeling. There are tools that work best for each phase, as well as gifts to be gleaned from each phase of the process.

  1. Shock/Hemostasis

In the hemostasis phase of physical wound healing the flow of blood stops and vessels constrict and seal themselves off, forming a clot to stop bleeding. Emotional wounds elicit a similar response from us: we may go into shock or denial of what has happened; or shut down because of the trauma. Healthy responses during the initial phase of emotional healing include:

        Face and acknowledge the pain. Recognize the impact the event had on you so you can deal with it and heal. Be sure to not avoid the issue or suppress it, because emotional healing requires brutal self-honesty.

        Grieve for your loss. You may have lost someone, or your trust was betrayed. You may feel falsely judged or accused, or even abandoned. By grieving that loss, you are creating space for emotional healing to follow.

  1. Inflammation

Just as the second phase of physical would healing is marked by inflammation, the second phase of emotional healing is marked by a period of inflamed emotion. You may experience waves of anger, sadness, rage, blame, shame or indignation as you review the hurtful event. During this time, you may have a strong need to express your feelings and emotions to sympathetic others. You may look for validation of your feelings. Heck, you may even want to lash out in revenge!

This is a critical phase for emotional healing: too much inflamed emotion and rehashing of the situation can hold you back from the healing process; too little emotional response can indicate prolonged denial and confine you to the victim role.

        Accountability: Take time to review the event from a non-judgmental perspective.  What went wrong and why? Were there any red flags you ignored? How did you contribute to the outcome? What could you have done differently? What did you learn from the experience?

        Forgiveness: Forgiving is not surrendering to the wrongdoing of another; it is a letting go of the bitterness you feel toward them. Anger and bitterness poison you and need to be released so you can fully heal. Perhaps you need to forgive yourself for things you did or said. If so, recognize that you can only do the best with what you know at any given time, and forgive yourself for not having known or done better. The choice to forgive is always difficult, but only this decision will bring genuine emotional healing.

  1. Rebuilding

In this important phase of physical healing also known as proliferation, the wound gets rebuilt with healthy tissue. Likewise, this is the phase in emotional healing where you get to choose new, healthy responses and coping mechanisms to the challenges life may send your way.

It is an exciting time of exploring new resources, finding new tools and integrating them into behaviors and strategies that can propel your emotional resilience to a new level. During this phase, choosing healthy responses to challenges will build elasticity into your life; fear-based or angry responses will delay your progress.

        Responsibility: Accept responsibility for your life, and recognize that your life is ultimately the only life you are responsible for. Know that nothing another says or does to you, can change in any way the truth of your inner being as you know yourself to be. Recognize that winners stand back up when they get knocked down; losers don’t… and choose which you want to be.

        Dare to dream again: Who would you be without this emotional setback?  What would you do? Then start taking steps toward these goals to move you out of the stagnation of woundedness, propelling you towards emotional healing and a vibrant life.

  1. Remodeling 

In this final phase, physical wounds are closing and may appear healed on the surface, although it will take some time for tissue at all levels to become strong and less sensitive.

In emotional healing, this phase can be challenging because people may see you as fine, not realizing that you still feel very sensitive or tentative. This is the phase where you get to put your new goals, strategies and boundaries into action. It is important to remain vigilant and avoid falling into the same pitfalls as before. Protect your emotional boundaries until you feel stronger and more resilient.

It is up to you to train people where your new emotional boundaries are, and how to treat you. Each time you respond to a challenge in a different, more empowering way, you will find yourself strengthened by the experience. Know that your new boundaries will be tested and you have the authority to enhance your coping strategies, reinforcing your emotional boundaries for long-term thriving.

        Maturation: By progressing though each of the three previous phases and integrating the wisdom of the experience into your life, you reach a new level of emotional resilience and maturity. By appropriately tending to your emotional wounds, you will renew yourself to live an empowered life.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

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