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.
Click CONTACT to set up your first coaching session.
18/10/2017 05:30:13 pm
thank you for modeling openness and vulnerability - "shame lurks in dark corners" so let's talk about it. much much food for thought here. thank you
18/10/2017 06:00:25 pm
Thank you Michelle. Feel free to share.
19/10/2017 12:33:09 pm
It is a rare blog that deals wisely with things known , not only thought about however capably .
20/10/2017 01:18:16 pm
Thank you Minda. This is a moving post, so authentic and elevating. In addition to wishes of full recovery, I stand by you while you are in pain in loving companionship.
Patrice, what a nice surprise to hear from you. Thank you very much. I hope this post does elevate people and provide a framework for thinking about and navigating through difficult times. One of my clients who is also a physician said to me: the walking wounded are everywhere. Which is why I keep asking people especially in the workplace, to be much kinder to one another.
20/10/2017 01:44:20 pm
Minda, I'm so sorry to hear you've been struggling. Sending you warm and healing wishes. Thanks for these important insights!
22/10/2017 05:19:41 pm
Hello Minda, I was so pleased to get your email and the link to your blog and also very sorry to hear of the difficult time you are going through! Being hopeful and optimistic are surly part of the solution to this challenge. Thinking of you and sending you light and love!
23/10/2017 02:31:39 pm
I love a lot about this blog on suffering and meaning. It is so easy to forget how people, perhaps close to us, are experiencing intense pain. How can we help them, when we can't really relieve their pain? And, how can they help themselves when, like in your case, your systematic efforts to get relief, have had zero or little results? These are weighty thoughts to ponder. I am thankful that you have put them on the table to ponder. Paradoxically, it is highly likely to assist your coaching! How to deal with pain and how to find authentic meaning. Though you'd probably exchange that for some pain reduction. Yet, seemingly strangely, it is not infrequent that people who are suffering terribly say that they would not trade away the experience because through the suffering they discovered a deeper realm of being...Body, mind and heart. Three connected and separate realms..
23/10/2017 11:29:37 pm
Minda, your blog captures the dance of head and heart, sharing both what one can experience within one's body, heart and mind. Our mind is sometimes the cornerstone of wisdom, helping to navigate the challenges life poses. It takes courage to be vulnerable and share. This is probably what resonates with many of us. Your courage to share something that is not from a life past, but one that is a present reality.
Thank you Laura. People need to know they are not alone. Suffering of any kind brings much isolation and fear and without inner resources and support, the struggle often feel too great. But I believe strongly in the innate resilience that people have in the face of life's challenges.
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My family, relationships, movement, nature, flexibility of mind, exploration of alternative perspectives & openness are central to my life.