Coping With Our Emotions: Why Hope And Despair Are Two Sides of The Same Coin

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Photo by Ron Smith on Unsplash

Have you ever considered hope and despair at the same time? Hm. I’m not sure that I have. I would like to. Thoughts? Well, let’s do a cursory look, and see what we get.

In 4 Reasons Why Language Is Power, I wrote about the power of language. We don’t typically consider the power that lives inside the language we use. It is very important. It shapes experiences, expectations, and trajectories that we set our lives on.

Similarly, in The Social Construction Series Part 1: 7 Reasons Why Understanding Social Constructions Is Important, I wrote about the importance of understanding that all things are socially constructed. All of them. Hence, this post is also a social construction.

Yet, knowing this frees us from the fetter of worrying about attaching ourselves to social constructions, or concepts that we agree with or disagree with.

Alright, let’s define our key terms.

hope

Pronunciation /hōp/ /hoʊp/

Translate hope into Spanish

NOUN

  • A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.‘he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information’

despair

Pronunciation /dəˈsper/ /dəˈspɛr/

Translate despair into Spanish

NOUN

  • The complete loss or absence of hope.

Well, look at that. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire about a result. Hm. Interesting. And, despair is defined as the lack of hope, or lack of such a feeling of expectation and desire about a result. Mm, this will be fun.

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Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Expectations and desires for a certain [result] thing to happen

If hope is, at least as it is defined here, associated with an expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, when we hope we are essentially concentrating on a result.

And, if that result doesn’t occur? Then we may fall into despair, which is the lack of the expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. The issue?

We cannot have hope without despair. They go together. If you can feel hope, then it is equally possible to feel despair. Not a problem. Important, however, to understand. Why?

Often, people get upset or frustrated when in despair. Yet, as we can see from the language itself, it is only natural. If you subscribe to the feeling of hope, then you will sometimes feel despair. And, vice versa.

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Another way to look at hope and despair

Another way to think about hope and despair is as two sides of the same coin. The world is full of these opposites. Sad and happy, life and death, and so on. For the world to occur as it does, they are needed.

Yet, we can create more power over these concepts by understanding that they always occur together. Meaning that if you are sometimes hopeful, you will sometimes feel despair. It is a must.

When we understand this as true, we can shift our thinking, and mindset to incorporate this apparent paradox with a new understanding.

The new understanding is that these concepts are one. Think about the coin analogy I’ve used in this post. A coin is one thing, yes? Yet, it has two distinct sides; head and tales. Hope and despair are the same. As are all pairs of opposites.

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Photo by Simon on Unsplash

When do we run into trouble with these concepts?

When we expect hope, for instance, to show up more than despair. Why? Because then when despair shows up, we get down, frustrated, maybe even angry. Not helpful.

By accepting that despair is a part of hope, as sadness is a part of happiness, we increase our awareness about the fact that despair will come; and, guess what?

When it does, it’s okay. It’s normal to feel despair sometimes. Just as it’s normal to feel sad sometimes. If you never feel sad, or despair, then happiness and hope will elude you. True.

It is also important to welcome despair as much as you welcome hope. Why? Because when we resist feeling despair, we avoid it. And, when we avoid things, we actually attract more of those concepts into our life.

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I avoided sadness for such a long time, that I was often sad. Really. Did I look sad all the time? No. It was internal. Yet, believe me, it was there. As was despair.

Yet, when you openly accept that all feelings happen, you create a space to be with them when they come. No judgment. Being in despair or sad doesn’t mean anything.

You are not having “issues” because you sometimes feel despair. Funny how we create language around “negative” emotions and associate them with problems. Not helpful. In fact, detrimental, and untrue.

What can you do?

When you are hopeful, notice. And, be hopeful. Be just as you are in those wonderful moments of hope. Or, happiness, joy, or elation.

And, when you are in despair, notice. And, be in despair. Be just as you are in those wonderful moments of having despair. Or, sadness, melancholy, or misery.

Our emotions come and go. It is important to expect them all to show up. All of them. And, to welcome them all. When we welcome them all, they stop having power over us.

In that moment of acceptance, we create a space to be with our emotions in a completely new way. Free of judgement and created meaning that one emotion is better, or should be more expected than another.

Remember that our emotions just are, and that hope and despair are two sides of the same coin. Just like the heads and tales of a coin, hope and despair are one.

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Originally published on jeffflesch.com

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Interests include personal and professional development, increasing access to higher education, and finding new ways to create inspiration and equity.

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