Nourish the Hope unto the Last

Nourish the Hope unto the Last

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Two men were admitted to a recovery ward about the same time. One got his bed by the window and the other by the wall. Both were confined to bed with nothing to do, so the man by the window would describe in great detail all kinds of interesting things he saw in the parking lot and on the street across it. The man by the wall listened with rapt attention to such stories as those about a romantic encounter developing between two visitors, a pet show on the street or a pageant passing by.

The man by the wall just couldn't wait to recover enough to be able to walk up to the window and see for himself those fascinating "shows" taking place all the time. His anticipation and curiosity kept him going. He set a goal that in the following week he would be standing by the window and seeing the action.

He indeed recovered faster than was expected and walked up to the window to take a look. What he saw totally surprised him. There was no parking lot or street on which his fellow patient had "staged" such fascinating events. What he saw was a bunch of bushes leading to the woods! It dawned on him that his fellow patient was kindling interest, hope and motivation to lift his spirits so he could muster his resources and get out of that bed. Upon this realization, he wished his fellow patient was still there so he could bring him the biggest bouquet from the hospital shop and say to him, "Thank you my friend for getting me out of that pit of despair and hopelessness." But, the fellow patient had left the night before, carrying his trump card close to his chest.

Dr. Bernie Siegel, renowned cancer surgeon and a strong believer and champion of spontaneous recovery relates a story of a woman who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was advised to prepare for her imminent death. The lady kept her spirits strong and went on a trip to Mexico. She was determined to live every moment as long as she was alive and let happen whatever was to happen. One day winding through the streets, she ran into her doctor who had also come to Mexico for a vacation. Her doctor admonished her something to the effect "What are you doing here hundreds of miles away from home? Don't you see, you've an illness that can kill you in this distant and remote place." The lady came back to her hotel and died that night!

Two stories, one, that revived hope and the other that squashed it. What do you say? Does hope hurt or help?

I don't know why some are afraid of giving another person "false hope." The so-called false hope might not necessarily be false, it might be just an optimistic version of what could possibly happen. Stated another way, what some brand as false hope, may be a view of pure potentialities; a vision of what is possible, a miracle. Every body needs a dream to live for and a goal to work for.

A lady who had several chronic illnesses involving serious pain and challenges in performing activities of daily living, shared with me the difference between her (a triumphant patient) and a defeated patient, in these words, "I go to bed every night thinking about all the things I'd do when I wake up, while some go to bed wishing they would never have to wake up." She is coping remarkably indeed with her illnesses.

Positive emotions such as hope, optimism, fighting spirit and persistence broaden our thinking and enhance our coping abilities. Negative emotions such as hopelessness, pessimism, fear and avoidance narrow our thinking and limit our action ability. For example, interest urges us to explore and try out different things while lack of interest shuts down our drive to explore and experiment with new solutions. Joy creates the urge to play and laugh while mood morbidity suppresses the desire to be "silly."

Love, laughter and commitment help to build strong relationships while anger, griping and cynicism eventually drive a person to isolation and loneliness. In the course of life, people transform themselves, based on their major pattern of emotions. For example, living with a backdrop of positive emotions, some increasingly become more creative, resilient, likeable and healthy. While others living in a backdrop of negative emotions become more cantankerous, sick and unhappy. They don't understand why everybody around them is leaving or dying which makes them even more bitter.

Developing an attitude of positive expectations can be highly beneficial. We don't need to wait for a research to prove it to us beyond doubt. Take my word for it. It works.

Here are a few guidelines for a positive orientation in life. It is largely based on hope and optimism. It is about having a generalized and constant expectation that things will eventually work out. In uncertain times, expect the best. When there is a problem, know that there is always a solution for it. Set a goal. Have a plan to reach that goal. Believe that the goal can be achieved and successful plans can be made to reach it.

Constantly evaluate how the plan is working. Modify the plan if you need to because an optimist person knows what can go right just as he or she knows what can go wrong. He or she also knows that there are lots of ways around any problem.

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Copyright 2000, Mind Publications 


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