This is a strange blog to write, and you’re really going to have to bear with us here as we explain, but lately Ursula and I have been playing in the energy field of Hopelessness, and finding it, well, liberating.
At BEabove, we hold that each energy field of the Seven Levels of Effectiveness has its own point and purpose, an important energetic contribution to the whole of who we are. Many times our students have said something along the lines of “I can see the importance of Frustration and even Fear, but Hopelessness? What’s helpful about that?”
To explore this, we need to talk about the difference between being swallowed up in an energy field, and connecting with its energy from an above the line place. Hopelessness, when we are swallowed up in it, is terrible, debilitating, dark and depressing. Just as Fear, when it takes over, can be paralyzing and flood our bodies with a damaging chemical cocktail of adrenalin and cortisol, and Frustration, when it is master, can cause us to do great damage to relationships and even our own hearts.
Bu this is different from being aware of and connecting with these below the line energies from an above the line place. One thing that happens in the brain as we develop our consciousness is that we become more and more able to stand in what the Buddhists call “observer mind,” that is, we have more integration between our higher brain (the neo-cortex and pre-frontal cortex) and our older, more reactive limbic system. We can watch and recover from an “amygdala hijack” and develop more and more capacity to face the truth with courage and grace. (More on that in a minute.) We can use our above the line brain to be present to our own below the line reactions.
We also believe that there is a mirror nature to the Seven Levels. That is, if you were to fold them in half, they meet like that. Hopelessness pairs with Synchronicity, Fear pairs with Innovation, Frustration pairs with Engagement, and Courage, well, it pairs with itself. There is enough energy in Engagement to balance Frustration and work with that energy, and enough in Innovation to work with Fear, but you need the full force of Synchronicity’s love to meet with Hopelessness. It’s also the case that the higher the level, the more capacity we have to see, admit and face the truth.
Which brings us back to the power of Hopelessness. The truth is, some things are hopeless. They just are. And when we cling to hope — as much as we are told that this is what we should do — it can be a strategy for avoiding the truth. Staring full in face of what is hopeless, when it truly is, is liberating.
There have been a few times in my life when the only way to move on was to admit that the situation was hopeless. I remember when I was 17 and losing my hair due to alopecia (if you don’t know me well, you may not know I have worn wigs for most of my adult life, and yes, aren’t they generally fabulous?). I kept saying to myself “It can’t get any worse.” And then it did. I’d lose more hair. And I’d say to myself “It’s going to grow back now.” And then it wouldn’t. My hair got thinner and thinner until it was basically gone within about 6 months.
I felt like my life was on hold as I simply couldn’t face what was happening. I dropped out of high school and isolated myself as I kept hoping, hoping, HOPING it would change. I wouldn’t talk about it, I pretended it wasn’t happening. And then at one point I realized I simply had to face the fact that my gorgeous thick reddish brown hair was NOT going to grow back any time soon. It was Hopeless, and time to move on. My mom helped me get a wig, I enrolled in college, and I moved on. It was liberating.
I want to add that the energy of Hopelessness is best used sparingly. I’m not suggesting that we should no longer hope for anything. That we shouldn’t try and even keep trying. And yet, I have started to see that there are often times when the courageous thing to to is to say “you know what? This job, relationship, project, etc. is HOPELESS.” And face that bravely so that you can move on.
Hopelessness can be strangely liberating, because as long as we are hoping, we are saying, in effect, “this current situation isn’t it. There is something wrong and I am hoping it will get better or be different.” From below the line, embracing Hopelessness looks like giving up. But from above the line, it actually points us to unconditional love. To love what is in front of us right here, right now, giving up the hope that it change. In this sense, Hopelessness can be a radical act.
I told you this was a strange blog post!
NOTE: This awareness around the power of Hopelessness owes everything to my amazingly brilliant business partner Ursula Pottinga, who called me up the other day, saying “You know how we always say ‘Hope springs eternal?’ Well, maybe that’s all wrong!” Everything in this post was looked at, chewed on, dissected and expanded in a series of conversations between us. I just decided to write it down!