By Jude Bijou, who will be presenting Attitude Reconstruction: Build Joy, Love, and Peace in Vancouver on Oct 22-23, 2016.
Feature Photo Credit: Circle of Docs
If you’re waiting for a change and frustrated it’s not happening, maybe it would be beneficial to give up all hope! Sounds strange?
“Hope” is a double-edged word. Hope in its best sense is something that keeps you going in difficult times. It can keep you heading to your heartfelt goals and dreams. Hope can keep you from feeling despair. Positive hope focuses on the good, sending good wishes and positive energy on to others, such as, “I hope for world peace.” Or “I hope you have a good trip.”
But “hope” can also be something that keeps you stuck in a no-win, less than satisfying situation or relationship. You remain attached to the potential instead of accepting that it is unlikely to change. In a negative sense, it keeps you from gaining clarity and moving forward in your life. Hope can also keep you in agony, feeling discouraged, hopeless, and angry. You are not accepting the reality that no matter how much you want something to be different, it isn’t. It’s out of your control.
We hold onto memories of ideals that no longer exist. An example of this is your boyfriend used to think you were so smart. He valued your opinion and made you feel more important than anyone. Now he doesn’t listen, cuts you off when you’re talking, and criticizes and ignores your perspective. And furthermore, he would rather hang out with his friends than spend time alone with you.
Hope Keeps You Stuck
By clinging to the false hope that he will wake up and change, you convince yourself that if you just hang in there, people, organizations, or situations will shift. But in truth you are sacrificing yourself and your needs and clinging to crumbs. You are denying what you know in your heart of hearts.
Rather than pleading and begging to make a personal connection, hoping to have a meaningful two-way conversation about the finances, or transferring to another department, it might be time to give up all hope. While this may sound extreme, it’s the only way you’re going to get yourself to a place of peace, clarity, and choice.
Giving Up Hope and Acceptance Are Kin
Giving up hope goes hand-in-hand with acceptance. First you must accept the abject reality, realizing the future will likely be the same as the present. In the above example, accept that he no longer takes your opinion into consideration. You must unequivocally accept that nothing you can say or do will change him. Acceptance means truly realizing that you are powerless to change people and things. They are out of your control. You must accept that people and things are the way they are, not the way you want or think they should be.
How to Give Up Hope
- Write out a list of what you wish was different. Then one by one, repeat, “He will never do… He will never say… He will never be such and such…” For example, my partner will never be affectionate the way I’d like. Or, my boyfriend will never say he loves me. Or, my girlfriend will never invite me to go out with her friends. Or my parent will never stop drinking to excess.Over and over repeat each item as a statement of fact until you believe it. In the process, I guarantee you’ll experience some emotions, namely sadness (hurt and loss of your fantasy), anger (feeling cheated and deceived), and fear (being scared that you’ll be on your own and lonely, and wonder what your friends and family will say).
- Allow yourself to express your natural emotions while repeating your statements, such as “I give up all hope Dan will ever be as affectionate as I want.” While expressing your anger, don’t focus on him. Just release the pure emotional energy by pounding or stomping, while making sounds or naming what you are feeling – “I feel so mad. I’m angry. Angry. Angry.”
When sadness arises as you repeat your statement, encourage yourself to cry. The loss is truly worthy of tears. Just don’t put yourself down. “I’m okay. I just need to cry.” Continue keeping your attention on what you are sad about giving up, and what you will miss while saying “Good-bye.”With fear, while you shiver out the pure energy by shivering, remind yourself, “Everything will be okay no matter what.” The fear is huge and keeps you stuck. You might think, “How can I make it on my own financially? I’ve never lived alone. I’ll be in uncharted territory.” But rather than giving in to those thoughts, shiver and think “I’m just feeling scared. It’s okay. I’ll be all right.”
- Keep giving up what you are holding on to. When you comprehend the loss of the first item on your list,” repeat this procedure with the next, and then the next.
- Make a plan. After you’ve laid the foundation by dealing with your inner processes, you will be in a position to set a course of action. You will no longer feel like a victim in your own situation. Rather you’ll most likely feel clarity and strength. It’s like you have awakened from a bad dream and now feel in charge of your life.Contemplate what the next steps in your future will be and lay out how to accomplish them, recognizing what is in your control. This is a time for speaking up and taking action. From a calm space, set explicit announcements, make reasonable request, deadlines, and boundaries. Formulate well-thought-out and doable consequences.
- Speak them up and follow through on what you say. It will be scary. You’ll question yourself at times, but hold true to the reality that he or it or they won’t change. As you reclaim your personal power and give up hope that he will come to be senses, he might! But don’t hold your breath. It’s rare but as you step out of the dysfunctional dynamic, sometimes your shift will be a wake up call and allow for a change in others. Either way, you will no longer be stuck in hopelessness but full of your own personal power.
By giving up all hope for things that are out of your control, you’ll set yourself up to embrace hope for the right reasons – the good and the positive. You will stop wishing and hoping and channel your energy into what will feed you. You’ll relinquish the comfort of the familiar but say goodbye to endless waiting. You’ll truly honor yourself and be able to create the life to which you are entitled.
Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and consultant in Santa Barbara, CA. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients and students and is the subject of her multi award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. attitudereconstruction.com