10/22/2014 03:56 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2014

To Hope Again: A Picture of the Process

In the last article I wrote, I started a conversation highlighting the importance of recognizing a person's need to envision possibility when moving towards growth. There is an unseen nature about the ability to hope that draws us out of the physical and circumstantial realities, into that which we do not see but can believe. If one relies heavily on what is seen, then the ability to hope may prove impossible as it requires looking beyond the present reality to a possibility of building something that has not yet been made concrete. This writing is intended to encourage an understanding of how vital it is to regard a person's ability to believe and move towards possibility. It is important to bring to awareness just the features that seem to point out the direction of how these possibilities appear to arrange themselves in an order that is consistent with growth and development. It will also provide an understanding for where one may have lost the ability to create, based on how the possibility for their life was either frustrated, confused or dismissed.

All of this may seem like a vague abstraction, which is why it is important for me to use a metaphor to create a context. So before we go through each stage to point out the critical pieces of seeing possibility and actualizing, here is a picture I developed to guide our interpretation.

Take a minute to consider the element of water. What comes to mind? Notice how your body needs it daily to live, and then think about how every life form depends on its provision. The experience of water is universal. It is something that is a part of us, something we cannot live without, and something that every single person experiences. Now I would like you to think of the associations that water may bring beyond providing nourishment. There may be happy memories of playing in water that was the right temperature and shallow, and then perhaps there are fearful images that come up of waters that were uncertain, deep, cold or dangerous. I would like to make water analogous to our emotional experience. Our emotions, moods, feelings are part of our life force, and yet, given a situation that is distressing and uncomfortable, or uncertain, they can threaten to overtake us.

The picture I want you to envision is a huge body of water against a sandy comfortable shore line. Out in the distance there is knowledge of another shore with great promise, but it is not visible and would require traveling across the water to get to it. At a young age there are no skills in place to navigate water, so, unless there is a nurturing other that can teach a child to swim or provide a boat, they either remain on the shore or brave the water themselves with great struggle and a threat of drowning. This may have been your childhood or a child's that you know. A critical stage in growth, or the shore of possibility, could not be reached due to absence of nurturing, skill building, or a safe place provided to sail on the water and protect from life's storms. This could lead a person to remain on the shore for that stage or every stage to follow. Though a person is physically growing, development is arrested at the season that they got stuck on the shore. Erikson would propose that this would progressively lead to mistrust, shame, guilt, inferiority, role confusion, isolation, stagnation, and finally despair in old age.

The possibility that I speak of in these articles is the period of growth you may need to get across in order to find the hopeful promise for your life, and experience fulfillment. Depending on your life circumstances, the water may include big waves, cold water, and great fear. It is important to find a person or place that can guide you. This is not a journey that was ever intended to be taken alone. Each stage of development needs other people, but the other must be someone who wants to see you reach that possibility that you envision, encourages your growth, and points you in a direction to get the skills you need to swim or build a boat. With that said, as much as others are needed, the strokes can only be implemented by you. In my writing the strokes are ways that involve creating with raw materials to reach for possibility, while building a boat implies putting together the resources available which would provide rest, refuge, and renewal on the journey.

I believe never getting into the water results in anxiety and depression. A prolonged view from the shore can only build more fear and sadness as the water is watched and wondered about. This will eventually lead one to a believe that there is no hope for their life or no possibility to reach full potential. I am here to tell you that this is not true,to be a voice of hope for you, and to invite you to take steps into the water as I guide you with ways to learn the necessary strokes. In the meantime, find people in your life that will encourage you towards your personal possibility, and prepare to build a boat should you need a place for rest from storms that may come along the way.

It is time to hope again.