The Cultivation of Hope
"Meaninglessness inhibits the fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable - perhaps everything." C.G Jung Memories, Dreams, Reflections
No shame in pain
If you have experienced chronic pain or known someone who has, you will know how obsessing and fixating on pain leaves little room for much else.When you are unwell over any length of time, activities and interests that once grabbed you, slowly retreat and shrink.
Ambivalence about the meaning of your own life and feelings of uselessness intensify alongside your growing dependency on others. Fear raises questions: how much more can I take? when will this pain go away? what will I do if it doesn’t? And fear slides into terror sometimes.
I have fortunately never known depression but I have had my first taste recently, provoked by months of unrelenting pain and a lack of freedom to move as I wish. I have been surprised by the depth of my own hopelessness.
And I am the hopeful and optimistic type.
When the pain first got hold of me, I took over an empty room in the house. With a lot of positivity, I stretched, used ice and heat, meditated, did self-massage and dedicated myself to glute strengthening and core exercises as suggested by my athletic therapist. I only got stronger. No relief.
So I broadened my search for hope and help– acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, osteopathy, manual therapy and the use of vitamin supplements - anything, that will take the pain away.
Needless to say, months and months of exercise and massage, together with manual, osteopathic, chiropractic, and athletic therapies, including, of course, physiotherapy, acupuncture and spinal decompression treatments have been unsuccessful. I have been fortunate to deal with good professionals; unfortunately no relief yet.
Same goes for two nerve blocks – (nerve-numbing injections to block the nerve).
Low tolerance for misery – high need for meaningfulness
When I first started coaching, I offered ‘supportive care coaching’ to help people address the huge impact of chronic illness. In my pre-coaching days, I was a member of a team, involved in a long-term project to develop educational interventions to enhance team-delivered health care, leading to improved patient outcomes for people with chronic illness. The irony. Supportive Care Coach, coach thyself.
I have low tolerance for being miserable and a high need for meaningfulness in my life. If suffering cannot be avoided, then one thing to do is find ways to convert the pain into meaning. This makes life more interesting and reduces the burden of suffering. Here is what do: I elevate my ‘problem’ into an important phenomenon that is worthy of study. I pay attention to how my mind is working in a whole new way. I think about what insights or perspectives I might gain and share. So while I have a low tolerance for being miserable, learning to live with it helps to meet my need for meaningfulness. I guess I can live with the paradox!
A few narratives which can change your relationship to pain
Supporting your family and friends during difficult times
I pride myself on caring for people, both in my work and in my personal life. I have taken care of more than a few family members and friends who have been sick, depressed, had cancer, or were dying. I’m also a mother of three, so caring is part of that job.
Long-term, seemingly intractable problems are tiring for everyone. The problem(s) just don’t go away, so family and friends are stuck with being supportive over the long haul. Many of us are preoccupied, stressed and overwhelmed by our own lives and don’t have the wherewithal to be tuning into where someone else is at and what they need. Asking someone how they feel during a ten-day flu is one thing, but asking the same question over months and months, tends to produce the same answer, which bores everyone. But you can’t stop asking either.
People are often at a loss for what to say. Others, as time goes on wonder, “jeez, what’s wrong, you never seem to get better?" or “you don’t look like you are in pain." Or, nothing is said which hurts even more.
The truth is – in many ways a person’s pain, whether emotional, physical or spiritual, is private and unknowable. Each of us, I’m afraid, must become as self-reliant as possible and learn to cope with our own pain and suffering.
But besides the many practical things we can do for ourselves and each other, suffering can be relieved in part by the heart-warming gestures of presence and open heartedness to the real rawness of someone’s pain, without the need to fix or suggest remedies. Offerings of love, touch, hope, and companionship are particularly important, as suffering is a lonely experience.
I am a work-life coach. I coach people who want to improve their professional and personal lives. I will help you find more zest, hope and energy and more meaning, balance and satisfaction in your work and life.
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My family, relationships, movement, nature, flexibility of mind, exploration of alternative perspectives & openness are central to my life.