To prepare for the upcoming retreat, I am looking for the best ways to present the concepts that I want to teach the participants, such as understanding what happens to our body, brain, and nervous system when we experience trauma. There are certain concepts that are very important for helping us see what is learned, what can be un-learned, and that we can choose the change we want as adults now.
A concept that fascinates me and that I love to help survivors learn about is hope. This is a word people often throw around without understanding the power behind it and, most importantly, how painful it can feel when you are being presented with a concept that you cannot quite conceive of or have any examples of. Most survivors struggle to understand what others mean they talk about hope because they have never felt it.
I realized a parallel of this that would happen almost daily in my life. English is actually my third language and I used to get so frustrated with English words and their multiple meanings. I would often say to my husband, who is a brilliant writer, that I didn’t understand a word he had used, that I couldn’t picture it or conceive of it and I had no examples of its meaning in my mind. It was so frustrating at times and I used to be so hard on myself about learning new words.
This feeling came back to me when I would get frustrated with my healing. People would throw around common phrases like, “Just trust the process!” or “You have to be hopeful!” and “Stop being so hard on yourself, be kinder to yourself.” As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I had had no examples of what any of these phrases were telling me to do. What process? What is hope? What is kindness? What does any of this sound, feel, look like? I would feel so frustrated and confused and then I would spiral into shame because I assumed everyone else was clear about these concepts and I was the only one missing something. But I kept going, trying to learn more and more so that these concepts would begin to make sense. And hope turned out to be one of the most vital lessons for me to learn. So I want to provide you with some clarity about the importance of hope and what it means.
So what is hope?
In her book, Rising Strong, Brené Brown explains that the path out of powerlessness, even despair, requires hope. She defines hope not as an emotion but as a cognitive thought process built on three parts, goals, pathways and agency. For those who might need clarity, agency is another word for action or the capacity to act and create an effect.
In other words, hope is when you believe that your future can be better than your past and you realize that you have control over making it better. Hope is the outcome of us finally believing in our ability to achieve our goals, despite adversity, with our actions, our will, and our faith in ourselves. Hope is learnable, like any habit or new belief. And it isn’t just important for healing, it’s necessary.
An award-winning documentary called, Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, delves into the work of those who created the ACE Study and the work of other professionals who studied the short and long-term impact of trauma. The concept of resilience is discussed in the documentary and how resilience can be learned, no matter what phase of life you are in. The solution the film comes away with is that hope is the actual pathway to resilience, to surviving and healing from trauma.
The Alliance for Hope International wrote about the documentary and supported its overall themes. “Hope is the single best predictor of well-being compared to any other measures of trauma recovery. This finding is consistently corroborated with other published studies from top universities showing that hope is the best predictor for a life well-lived...All of our studies demonstrate that the impacts of high ACE scores can be reduced by rising Hope scores. Hope is the best predictor of outcomes focused on well-being and quality of life. More significantly, hope is measurable, teachable, and cultivable – for the cancer patient, the natural disaster survivor, or the victim of violence and abuse. We can teach the science of hope to children and to adults.” (Read the rest of their blog post here)
I chose the name of the upcoming retreat for a reason. The Hope For Healing Weekend Retreat is going to be filled with just that, hope. More specifically, teaching survivors how to hope and how to use hope to overcome the struggles of life and create the life they want.
And the best part about hope is that it’s contagious. When I see a survivor go from feeling completely hopeless to finding their path to hope, they immediately turn around and start to lift up others around them. That is the gift of our healing journey. When we tap into what is possible, we can’t help but want to share it with others.
When one of us finds hope, we all do. And hope is what will heal us all.
I made these shirts for survivors joining me on the upcoming Hope For Healing weekend retreat. But I realized that so many of my followers love the idea of living from the heart that I should make it available to everyone! It comes in different colors so check it out!
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