The Pressure to be Hopeful and Resilient

Young depressed woman during her therapy session.

In the midst of this pandemic that has so altered our collective world, it seems like there is now a plethora of postings advising us to appreciate all the opportunities this crisis is giving us. We’re told to focus on being hopeful and to claim our resilience, as if these are easy things to do.

However, attempts to force us to feel hopeful and to appreciate our resilience can have a very negative impact on our mental health. In fact in one article I read the author acknowledges that there is some value in messages that emphasize that we can appreciate some positives in all this, but also, that our obsession with staying positive means we don’t feel the real, raw experience of this pandemic. And that people might not feel free and safe to mention their struggles. It could silence and shame those who are in isolation, making them feel that there is something wrong with them!

Another journalist, Annie Reneau, writing for the website Upworthy, shares a similar sentiment from a recent Facebook post by trauma psychologist Alaa Hijazi: “A ‘motivational’ message has been circulating during the coronavirus lockdown, which is allegedly supposed to kick our butts into gear since most of us now have more time on our hands,” she states. A trauma psychologist from Beirut weighed in on this idea that we should be extra productive right now, and she didn’t mince words. Alaa Hijazi’s Facebook post has been shared 19,000 times, so people are clearly appreciating her wisdom.

brain graphic with a heart inside

There is a time and place to invite ourselves to see a better future and therefore to have the hope that things will indeed get better. It is a balancing act to not minimize or discount the real feelings people are having right now. We need to be mindful not to pressure and shame them into imposed positivity with the thought and hope that things will not stay like this and in fact will get better. It is important to be allowed to be in one’s own space of feeling scared, overwhelmed, anxious or whatever else might be swirling around inside us and to not try to mask those feelings or feel a pressure to deny them.

hands making a heart

Wherever you are in this journey right now, your thoughts and feelings belong to you, and you have the right to own them, claim them, name them, without having to change them. We are in a scary world right now! You do not need to put energy into minimizing or distorting your real feelings. There is nothing wrong with needing to stay in that place while you, along with most of the rest of the world, deal with all the confusion of these times. Yes, we certainly can have hope that things will get better and we can take the time to see some of the benefits of our current situations, but not at the cost of putting ourselves down for not doing these things at the expense of the realities of our real feelings.

Invitation for Reflections:

  1. Have you felt bombarded by messages that you should be feeling hopeful and should be putting energy into promoting your sense of resilience? To what extent do some of these messages make you feel guilty or ashamed because that is not what you are actually feeling?
  2. What can you do to allow yourself to truly feel what you are feeling while balancing that with the hope that things will get better?
  3. As the days go by, allow yourself to be who you are in the moment and to refuse the pressures others may be placing on you, all with good intentions, to look for the silver lining in this gigantic cloud under which we are all living.

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Lakeside Global Institute