Keep on Hoping: Making Hope Concrete in an Uncertain Time
“Keep on hoping” is the buzzword of this time of lockdown. Yet, when we make hope concrete or solid, for ourselves or others, it changes the way we feel.
It’s essential at this demanding time of major life transition that we find concrete ways to support ourselves, both independently, and in connection with one another. It’s still a time when we can find ourselves bombarded by discouraging news, in some ways more than ever, even though there’s some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. It’s important for us to connect to something that can be life-giving.
I’ve written about hope a fair bit over the last while, and there’s a reason for that. There’s an archetypal dimension to hope. Jung recognized that hope comes from some more fundamental place in us than the ego. Yet we can do things for ourselves that support hope and invite courage—and right now is a very important time to be doing that.
My Experience Getting the Vaccine
As many of you either have, or soon will, I was fortunate enough to get the first shot of my COVID vaccination at OTMH in Oakville this weekend. I’m mentioning this not to show how lucky I am, or anything of the sort, but to notice something that I think is important about the experience of getting the vaccine.
To be completely frank, I was actually approaching the prospect of vaccination with a degree of trepidation. I had heard so much about side effects and I was worried that the situation might be disorganized or chaotic. When I arrived, however, the process was simple and straightforward, and we went through the process quickly, thanks to the efficient and courteous hospital staff. We soon found ourselves in the post-vaccination waiting room, and after a few minutes we got to leave.
While we were sitting there, all socially distanced, waiting for the all-clear to leave, I felt that we were infected with something: hope. It seemed to me that there was a shared feeling that maybe we were starting to see some daylight. I don’t think that I was the only one who came away from that experience with a sense of (dare I say it?)—joy.
Hope is Something We Do Together
How can you get a sense of joy from getting a needle? I think that the strong emotions that people feel on getting vaccinated generally have to do with the long wait, and with the sense that maybe, finally things are starting to get somewhat better. As San Jose, CA therapist Melinda Olsen put it in a recent HuffPost article:
After I got the shot I started to tear up; it felt like there was finally some hope after [endless] months of personal difficulty and collective trauma due to the pandemic.
There is also something incredibly powerful about a shared community of hope. Even though on Saturday morning, the group of us gathered, waiting to get the “green light” to leave after our vaccination were a group of people essentially thrown together by circumstance, there was a sense of something shared in this sense that maybe, just maybe we’re starting to see some daylight and we’re ever so slowly starting to move towards it.
Renewal in Shared Trauma: Keep on Hoping
The American poet Emily Dickinson touches on something profound and fundamentally human in her deceptively simple poem “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
“And never stops at all”—this is a sure sign of something archetypal, as Jung would tell us. Hope is something present at the very base of the human soul. Beyond our intellectual assessment of situations, our weighing of odds, hope “sings the tune without the words”. We humans have an immense capacity to sustain hope, to engender it in others and to keep on hoping. Together, we have a vast capacity to hold hope as a shared thing.
As we move through the pandemic and eventually bring it to a close, the capacity to keep on hoping is one of our most precious gifts. The process of working with a /a-midlife-transition may prove to be an invaluable aid to our individual capacity to keep on hoping, and to share our hope with others.