If you strive for unconditional love, then this has to come first

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I heard it again last week. I feel like I hear it all the time.

"I don't want to get my hopes up." 

This time it was my friend talking about how her daughter wanted to get into her first choice school. And so my friend was having sympathy pains like most Mamas do because we have a I-would-suffer-in-some-way-if-possible-so-my-child-could-get-what-they-want kind of feeling when it comes to our kids being happy. (Spoiler alert: the universe doesn't work that way. You can't trade in suffering like that. But still that's how we feel...)

And so I asked her to tell me more. (I've started doing that even though I think I knew what she meant)

She explained that she didn't want to get her hopes up just to get crushed. That would be even more painful, she said. 

Alright, I get it. We’ve all been there. You’re so over the top excited about something and then it doesn’t happen….and then it feels like the earth opened up and swallowed you whole. I get it.

But here’s my argument.

It would feel horrible no matter what. Yep, that’s the sad truth.

So, why wouldn’t you spend the time beforehand in hope instead of in fear? Why not?

I’ll tell you my number two reasons you might want to take on my newly coined phrase (yes, you heard it here first!)….

UNCONDITIONAL HOPE

You’ve all heard of unconditional love and you know how beautiful it can be for both the giver and the receiver.

But I’ll argue this is just as important.

I’ll break it down.

  • Hope is good for your health:

There are plenty of studies to show this. Hope has been linked to happiness (and who doesn’t want to be happier?), having less physical pain, and it’s even a strong predictor of mortality. (If you want to geek out about all of that, there are some studies below)

In fact, in one study of 309 middle-aged patients scheduled to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery, the optimists were only half as likely as pessimists to require re-hospitalization!

If those all aren't things to be excited about (seriously, those are reasons to think of how to find hope everyday!), I’ll give you the part that can’t be studied as well. It comes from my decades of taking care of patients, being a Mama and just being plain human. When you’re hopeful, you are in a higher vibrational state. Now, I know that sounds all woo-woo but think about it. When you have HOPE, you feel better and everyone around you senses it. You have a better energy than when you are scared and doubtful. I may not have a randomized controlled trial to show it (truth is no one will ever pay for it) but I’d bet anything on that being true 100% of the time and that’s not something you can say very often.

  • “There is no false hope”

I had a teacher who said that once. I wish I could remember who it was but it was very early in my integrative medicine training and it was something that resonated deep to my bones. In medical school, attending physicians would caution us all the time to not “give patients false hope” and to be honest, it kind of made sense. If someone had a dire diagnosis, I didn’t want to sugar coat it (and I still don’t do that) But they left out such an IMPORTANT part.

There is ALWAYS, ALWAYS a reason to Hope.

It was so narrow-minded to think of only having hope for a cure (which I also think is ok to have) but to leave out all the reasons to hope, no matter what. You can hope for strength. You can hope for peace and acceptance with your situation. You can hope that the love you have poured out into the world will now surround you and buoy you. You can hope that you are able to meet each day with compassion and open-heartedness. You get where I’m going with this?

And you need unconditional hope to have faith that this life loves you. That you will be cared for.

It’s never false. It’s always real.

When you say you have unconditional love for your spouse, your kids, you mean you can love someone no matter what they do or say, that you accept them as being human and always having the best intentions.

Why don’t you also say you can have unconditional hope?

That you’re going to hope, no matter what.

Because it’s better to hope than to fear.

Because it’s better to have faith in your life rather than reject it or resist it.

Because just to put it plain, your beautiful life, the one that has gotten you this far, deserves that much.

Because your life deserves unconditional hope.

So, the next time you’re wanting to be hopeful for something or someone, but feel scared to do so, take a moment, stop and remember this.

If you can’t hope, what is there left?

You NEED unconditional hope to walk through each day.

From the moment you wake up until you lay down at night.

And if you don’t get what you were hoping for, what have you lost? You’ve just spent the time waiting in a healthier, happier state and at least that part was easier than this moment. Nothing lost.

Be hopeful, for any damn reason. It’s good for your health. It’s good for your spirit. It’s good for your life.

Unconditional Hope…I say we embrace it.

Live (and hope) well,

Tanmeet

References:

1.  Gallagher, M.W., & Lopez, S.J. (2009).  Positive expectancies and mental health: Identifying the unique contributions of hope and optimism. Journal of Positive Psychology, 548-56.

2.  Synder, C.R. et al. (2005). Hope against the cold: Individual differences in trait hope and acute pain tolerance on the cold pressor task.  73 Journal of Personality, 287-312.

3.  Stern, S., Dhanda, R., & Hazuda, H. (2001). Hopelessness predicts mortality in older Mexican and European Americans. 63 Psychosomatic Medicine, 344-51.



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