Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

The Power Of Hope

Have you ever felt hopeless? I have. Without hope, you have no will to act because you don't believe your actions will make a difference. You have no will to persevere because the obstacles seem insurmountable and the troubles endless. You may even have no will to live because life is painful and you can't see that it will get better.

I believe that hope is at the center of our ability to recover from physical and emotional difficulties. It's a key element in patience, perseverance, and positive problem solving.

Recently, I've taken time to reaffirm that belief through a re-examination of the psychological research literature and the Scriptures, as well as a review of my work with clients across the years. The occasion for this focus on the subject of hope was the decision by Sharon Whitley Stahler, Stacy Fortenberry, and I to name our newly-expanded clinical practice, "The Hope Center."

I want to share with you what I believe are four elements of hope, represented by the letters H-O-P-E. I "hope" that these thoughts will ignite a spark that rekindles hope for you.


Hope is born deep in your heart and spirit, superceding your circumstances. Now I'm not referring to losing hope about a particular situation. Sometimes giving up hope on a losing proposition is the wise and healthy thing to do.

I'm talking about having the kind of hope born of a secure, spiritual assurance that, even when things don't work out as you planned, you have hope. You have a future ahead.


Optimism flows from your thought habits. When you look at your life, do you focus on what's right, or what's wrong? Do you think about what you can't do, or what you can do?

According to psychological researcher Dr. Martin Seligman, three patterns differentiate the thoughts of optimists and pessimists. Are you an optimist?

  1. Optimists see stressful events as temporary, not permanent.
  2. Optimists view personal failures or negative life events as specific, not general. For instance, an optimist would say, "I failed at this task," rather than, "I am a failure."
  3. Optimists don't personalize negative events. They don't make themselves responsible for things over which they have no control.


Another element of hope is the degree to which you either see a pathway through the problem, or at least believe there is one.

Is there any small step you can take to explore a pathway, giving you a little more light and momentum that may help you see new perspectives? I learned something about this from my daughter Amy, some 26 years ago.

When Amy was four, we had let the time slip away on our visit to Ms. Franks, the elderly lady who lived on the hill across the street. We quickly said our good-byes and began the long, winding trek down the driveway. The thick darkness was interrupted only by the distant light of our carport. Grasping my hand, Amy exclaimed, "Mommy, Mommy, we can't see!"

Seconds later, she made an exciting discovery. "Oh, look, Mom! We can't see out there...but if we look down at our feet, we can see how to take the next step."


Sometimes you don't know what action to take, and you just have to hang on, wait, and persevere. When your grip begins to weaken, remind yourself of what an Emergency Room doctor told me when I swallowed my temporary bridge while eating a barbecue sandwich. You guess it. He said, "This, too, shall pass."

Rev. Robert Schuller wrote a book with a great message and a great title: "Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do."

People with genuine hope, last.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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