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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Hope: When It Seems like All is Lost

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 2nd 2010


open doorThere may be plenty of times in life where the sense arises in our minds and bodies that all seems lost. Maybe it’s after we lose someone we loved, or after being let go from a job, or perhaps when depression has us pinned to the ground.

If there’s one thing we know as a fact, hope is never lost, it’s always there just waiting to be discovered. Hope is like the sun and sometimes the storms are so strong or the winters are long it seems like it has disappeared, but it’s always there and has never truly gone away.

Hope isn’t necessarily something we either have or don’t have, it’s a skill that can be cultivated. The late Psychologist, Rick Snyder said that hope is cultivated when we have a goal in mind, determination that a goal can be reached, and a plan on how to reach those goals. In this sense, we can hope for big things (e.g., a house) or we can hope for small things (e.g., a clean room). Although people who have hope will have a sense of determination and a plan on how to achieve these goals, they will also be flexible, understanding that they may need to have a couple backup plans in case the first one doesn't work out.

But it’s hard to muster the energy to create a goal, have determination, or make a plan when the state we’re in is just devastating. Sometimes what we need to do is just understand while we may have very convincing thoughts that tell us there is no future, we need to hold onto past experiences that have shown us differently. That even in times when the clouds were thick the sunshine of hope always eventually came out.

As we do this we no longer need to try to create a goal, we naturally have a goal, to see the sunshine once again.

Emily Dickinson said:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops—at all

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me. 

Even the slightest glimmer of hope can remind us that not all is lost and there is a future of possibility ahead.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Thank you - Catmom - Dec 10th 2010

Thank you for including the Dickinson poem.  I have been looking for work since last May and recently had to move to a less expensive place to live.

In the yard of my old place, I found a lovely red cardinal feather and taped it to one of my kitchen cabinets above a reprint of Dickinson's "Hope" poem. It inspired me at the time and helped me cope with the upheaval that a move entails.

Although I am not sure what happened to the feather in all the commotion, I am very grateful to be living where I am now and have hope that I will eventually find work.

I actively look for reasons to have hope every day. Otherwise it is very easy to sink into despair when I get turned down for jobs I apply for.

Thanks again.

what a wonderful reminder - - Dec 4th 2010

Thank you for your blog Dr. Goldstein. Mindfulness has played a big part in my recovery from self-injury and alcoholism. I look forward to reading and I always learn something new.

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