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The Strength of Hope

The bad news: Without hope, you won’t achieve your goals.

The good news: Everyone is capable of hope.

What is hope?

Webster’s dictionary defines hope as desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.” Think of your biggest accomplishment. Now reverse back to the beginning: before you were successful, before taking steps towards achieving that accomplishment, the very beginning when the thought originated. What drove you to take the first step? You believed it was possible. YOU HAD HOPE. Seemingly impossible things have happened in our world because of hope: humans have walked on the moon, cures for different cancers have been found, and the list goes on and on.

Hope is good for the brain

Hopeful patients have higher levels of dopamine and endorphins which promote well-being. Individuals with high hope levels see barriers as challenges to overcome and set about finding alternatives to accomplish their goals. People with low hope levels view the same challenge as a roadblock that can’t be passed. (Snyder, 1994 as cited in Snyder, 2000 p. 10). People who grew up in a household void of hope and full of trauma can have reduced levels of dopamine in the brain. It’s no wonder then that due to those low levels of dopamine, one can turn to drugs and alcohol in order to increase their dopamine levels. Hope is vital to our well-being and survival.

Meet Hope’s best friend, Resilience

Hope and resilience go hand in hand. Resilience means to do well, despite adversity. (Clinton, 2008). Those that are resilient respond to stressful situations in positive and constructive ways. Sounds a bit like hope, doesn’t it? People that are resilient are transformed by adversity and come out changed by the experience. They don’t just cope, but recover and move on in a positive way. Resilience is more than optimism. It’s about facing adversity and continuing in an intentional way to be hopeful. It’s about looking at the hard times in your life and appreciating how you pushed through.

Resilience and hope are not something you’re born with. You can learn to access both.

In a study done at Harvard, professor Stuart Hauser and a group of researchers interviewed 67 teens who had faced serious troubles and were admitted to a locked unit psychiatric facility. They followed them throughout their lives and only 9 of the 67 were doing well after they got out. The others continued to lead troubled lives. Hauser’s group looked at the narratives of each of the teens and found what separated the 9 from the others were three characteristics that are crucial to resilience:

  1. Concern to overcome adversity
  2. A self-reflective style
  3. Commitment to relationships (Hauser et al. 2006, 39)

How to Foster Hope and Resilience

Here are four actionable steps to help strengthen your hope and resilience.

  1. Create Goals. The more concrete, achievable, challenging and appealing they are, then the more likely you are to believe that acting on them will make a difference in your life.
  2. Accept losses. Anytime you decide to make changes to your life, there will be things (and sometimes people) you will have to say goodbye to. Speak openly about the feeling of loss you’re experiencing so those feelings don’t stay trapped inside.
  3. Build a Network. Surround yourself with loved ones and other people who support you and in turn, you support them on their journey. You keep each other honest and remind each other of your strengths when you’re struggling.
  4. Know your Family Stories. With the help of your family, climb high into your family tree. How many generations can you go back? What stories do you know? What adversity did your great-great-grandparents face? How did your grandfather provide for his family when he lost his job? Learn your family stories and find the themes of resilience and hope. Those stories are your stories. You carry the genes of your ancestors. They were resilient and so are you.

Transitional Family Therapy and Recovery

Transitional Family Therapy (TFT) helps foster hope and resilience in recovery. “[TFT] is designed to help the family understand its current problems in terms of both present and past relational interactions within the extended family, its natural support system, and its environment (Seaburn et al., 1995).”

The transitional pathway demonstrates the need to create continuity from past, through present, into the future–an unbroken, transitional pathway. When families can look at this flow and discover that the current problems, they’re having had originally begun generations ago as a way to deal with past problems. Those problems are no longer relevant today, so this gives the family hope to find more adaptive solutions for the future. It also allows the family members to develop a sense of competence that amplifies their confidence and effectiveness in dealing with current problems. Remember those family stories we talked about earlier? Find the power of your story.

Never Give Up

All it takes is the smallest sliver of light to see in the darkness. Sometimes that’s all you have, hold on to that light, hold onto that hope. Foster it, do the work. That light will glow brighter and brighter. Once you can see clearly, share that light with others. I promise you, there are many people out there feeling lost in the darkness, void of hope. Remind them of their strength, give them hope by sharing your story of resilience.

Family of Origin Workshop

The ARISE® Network offers classes for those wanting to help their clients access their resilience and learn more about Family of Origin. You will learn about inter-generational patterns, traits, unspoken and spoken rules, stories, relationship dynamics, vulnerabilities and strengths that come from one’s family-of-origin. The workshop builds on the following beliefs:

  • Families are intrinsically healthy;
  • Every family has both strengths and vulnerabilities;
  • Symptomatic behavior has its origins in protection;
  • Families are in constant transition and uncompleted life cycle transitions repeat themselves in families unless understood on a conscious level and resolved.

To learn more about our workshops visit our website or email Michelle Johnson at




Acharya T, and Agius M. 2017 Sep;29(Suppl 3):619-622. The importance of hope against other factors in the recovery of mental illness.

Gross, Stanley. (2018) ‘Fostering Hope’, PsychCentral, 8 Oct. 2018,

Hill, Maria. ‘How to Create a More Hopeful Life’, Lifehacker,

Landau J.L. (2018) Transitional Family Therapy. In: Lebow J., Chambers A., Breunlin D. (eds) Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy. Springer, Cham. First Edition.

Suddaby, K., and Landau, J. (1998). Positive and negative timelines: A technique for restorying. Family Process, 37(3), 287-298, 475.


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