Belief vs. Hope in PTSD Healing: Are You Using Both?

belief-imagineerI’m just going to dive right in and say: In the beginning I didn’t think I had hope I would overcome PTSD. As a matter of fact, when I received my diagnosis I don’t remember feeling hope at all. By then I’d been hoping for too long that I’d be released from the psychological and physiological hell in which I lived. After 25 years of struggle hope was a passive thing I was waiting for to rescue me.

To me, to have hope that my life would be returned to normal would mean I had a plan, which I didn’t. When I received my diagnosis I only had belief: I believed there was a way out. I believed PTSD was not the life I was meant to be living.

The Role of Belief

At the beginning of my healing then, for no good reason at all I believed I could heal. I believed in the power of my most authentic self. I believed in the strength that lay (dormant) in me. I believed in the courage of my soul. I believed in the possibility of the universe. I just believed because belief made success feel like a foregone conclusion. On my very sad, down days this little belief was like a tiny raft that sustained me as I bobbed on the ocean of “what do I do now???”

Slowly, I educated myself. I researched and learned and tried to think things through. I struggled on my own. Sought professional guidance both in and outside the traditional paradigm of treatment. And then plunged into a worse psychological place than I’d ever been. Still, I believed.

Eventually, I defined a path I thought would work for me. I decided to write out what had happened. I identified a new treatment process (hypnosis) and I found a new hypnosis practitioner that I really liked and who I thought would be able to help me. When all of these things came together — when I started taking new actions that were in alignment with what felt right and good to me — that’s when I remember hope coming into existence. I hoped my plan was a good one. I hoped my actions would prevail. I hoped the treatment I chose was effective. I hoped I was on the right path. At that point, my belief that healing was possible joined with my hope the strategy would work. Eventually, my belief and hope paid off. I reached a day when I could honestly say I am 100% free of PTSD symptoms.

Defining Belief and Hope

Looking back on it today I can see that in order to believe I could heal I had to have hope, first. While I felt hopeless I really was hopeful that I could do what I was trying to do, that it wasn’t too late for me; that I had what it takes and would find what I needed.

When I look it up now, I can see that it’s true: I did have hope. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Belief = to consider to be true

Hope =  to desire with expectation of obtainment

In the beginning I had more desire with expectation than I had scientific proof I considered to be true. But then, I did have myself. I knew what was true about me: I was strong (after all, I’d survived not only my trauma but over 20 years of PTSD). I knew I was determined; I was hellbent on getting out of the hell in which I lived. I was dedicated; I promised myself I would do whatever it took to heal, even if that meant more pain than I thought I could bear. You are all those things too. Maybe in different increments on different days, but that’s why you’re here, on this site, searching for answers.

Using Belief and Hope In Your Recovery

Beliefs create your world. They create you, too. That is: What you believe is who you are. What you believe is what you see in yourself and in the world as well. Yikes! When was the last time you took an accounting of your beliefs? When was the last time you deliberately chose what you believe?

Every now and then in recovery it’s incredibly important to check in with your beliefs. What you believe can stall, crash and halt your healing, or it can lift you up and carry over your worst day. Pause for a moment right now and make sure your beliefs are helping, not hindering your healing. Ask yourself:

  • What do I believe is true about me?
  • What do I believe is true about my life going forward?
  • What do I believe is possible for me?
  •  What do I believe is possible in my recovery?
  • What do I believe about other people in my life?
  • What do I believe about other people in the world?
  • What do I believe about the world at large?

Fill in the blank: I believe _________________.

These are deliberately general questions so that you can define your beliefs any way you wish. In the end, make a list of your beliefs and see how they stack up in terms of what would support the end results you’re seeking. If they don’t, start looking at your beliefs and determining which ones need to be changed. Ask yourself, “What would be a more supportive belief?” Then, find a way to make that belief a reality in your world.

You can do a similar exercise with hope by asking yourself what you hope is true about:

  • your life
  • who you are
  • your recovery
  • the intention of others
  • the future of the world

… and any other element that occurs to you. Fill in the blank: I hope _________________.

The more clarity you have about what you hope and what you believe the more you will create the results you want because you will be focused, full of intention and looking for opportunities for your wishes to come true.

(Photo acknoweldgement on Flickr.)


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