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The philosophical case for staying hopeful in dark times

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Life is beautiful Photo: Yellen

A therapist’s guide to staying productive when you’re depressed or heartbroken

“We entrepreneurs can’t afford to date,” I half-joked to a friend the other day. “We can’t take sick days when we get our hearts smashed.”

I’m a therapist who helps people learn to be resilient in the face of life’s uncertainties. But even I catch myself feeling anxious about how to stay motivated when I’m feeling down—especially in the shit-show that is dating in New York.

 

All of us will experience grief and sadness—whether due to heartbreak, bereavement, or some other loss—over the course of our professional lives. And roughly 300 million people worldwide deal with depression, the most common cause of disability. Both grief and depression are no joke when it comes to affecting our productivity. While some people may dive into their work as a much-needed distraction, most experience a nosedive in basic functioning. Our motivation gets shot; we lose focus and concentration; our sleep and appetite get totally messed. On good days, we might be able to meet a deadline despite feeling like a shell of a human being. On bad days, just getting…

 

The philosophical case for staying hopeful in dark times

When the news is bad and things look bleak, it can be difficult to enjoy the present. As the author and activist bell hooks once put it, “the overall social climate promotes disillusionment and despair.”

But succumbing to these feelings can wind up producing inaction—which only allows bad conditions to endure. And despair also makes our everyday existence seem unbearable.

Today, as people around the world grapple with hardship and grinding inequalities, many feel confused about how to live happily in the here and now—while others think doing so is downright impossible. But as a philosopher, I think there is a way to make the present enjoyable and open to change. It’s making room in our lives for hope.

Philosophy shows that we can acknowledge the very real pain and suffering in the world today while still living with hope. And hope can be seen as a transformative way of enjoying an otherwise bleak present. Hope is a way of living felicitously despite dark times, believing that tomorrow can be better than today. This does not mean that one passively waits for everything to come out all right in the end. Rather, hopeful people desire a certain outcome, and believe that it is possible.

Hope doesn’t turn on probability assessments. It is not about whether you expect to, say, stamp out white supremacy for good in your lifetime. If anything, hope goes against the evidence. In that sense, hope is a break with history. No pattern of past events underpins it. Hope

 

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This entry was posted on 08/10/2017 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .

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