Hope has been on my mind a lot. I have a client who has been talking to me about his hopes in the last couple of weeks. First, he told me that he viewed himself as a “scumbag.” Through deconstruction, we discovered that this self-description derived from taken-for-granted ideas that “all potheads are scumbags.” The more we deconstructed this, my client began to realize that he actually views himself as “unique and different.” This idea helped him understand aspects of himself which he had disconnected from for a long time such as empathy, compassion, and hope. This discovery became more powerful as he shared examples that proved these traits and identities. We began to focus our conversations on hope. This is what I love about Narrative therapy. People see me because of a problem-story and can walk out looking at their lives and identities differently after just one therapeutic conversation.
Discussing hope with this client has made me think a lot about the hope that I bring into my therapeutic work. I am certain that I started using Narrative ideas because of this hope and I have continued to bring it into the room every time I meet with a person for therapy. Having this knowledge is not enough; I have been wanting to know exactly how I became so hopeful in my work.
I want to believe that this began when I was a child. I grew up with a sense of failure and many negative stories about myself which had been constructed by others. At the same time, I was always hopeful about what I could accomplish. I remember always thinking “I have a mission in life.” Maybe this phrase came from conversations with my grandmother who often encouraged me to see myself from her eyes. I know that my grandmother has and continues to play a pivotal role in my work as a therapist. I wonder if this hope I bring into my sessions is primarily related to her and her teachings.
I recall that when I started reading about Narrative ideas, I came across an article on re-membering conversations. This concept resonated so much with me. I moved to the US at the age of 14, leaving behind family members who raised me together. I had detached from my childhood memories and the nostalgia that accompanied these because it was too painful. It was a lot easier to go on with life and focus on the future. Re-membering is an idea that made me realize how much I was missing out by avoiding childhood memories and significant people in my life. I remember saying hello again to those living and non-living people from my childhood and yes, I experienced pain, but I also experienced gratitude and empowerment. This is most likely when I reconnected with hope and when this hope became such an important part of my training and preparation as a therapist.
Around this time, I experienced many challenges in my life, mainly loss – loss of friendships, loss of conviction, loss of emotions, but I didn’t lose hope. This hope not only kept me going, but it truly became a companion. I could have easily allowed sadness and loss to become my closest allies, but instead, I felt more comfortable with hope. The level of comfort was similar to the one I felt when my grandmother had conversations with me about the good she saw in me. As I’m writing this I am beginning to realize that my grandmother actually lives within this hope and I carry it with me in my work because I want my clients to feel the way I felt when my grandmother told me everything would be Ok. My grandmother presented a different identity as well as many possibilities. She lessened the intensity of the negative stories I believed about myself by helping me see alternative stories. This gave me hope that I didn’t have to fit the negative stories or identities, and reassurance that I could act in accordance with the alternative stories. Because of this, I have been able to create my own stories for the future and try to be happy.
I hope my clients can get something out of their sessions with me. I hope that I can effectively guide them to take on a path that is more consistent with their true values and identities. I hope that my clients can see the ways in which society or culture can convince them about not being good enough. I hope my clients can see how harmful societal messages can negatively influence their lives. Narrative ideas have done so much for me as a person and therapist and I hope I can use them to help clients in the most effective way.