Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Oct 22, 2013 3:24 pm

Do you have hope in your life? What is it you hope for? In what ways has that hope kept you stuck and in what ways has hope moved to forward?

Read Hope that Hurts in the Huffington Post.

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Oralia on Oct 22, 2013 10:27 pm

I have dreamt for a lifetime of a future filled with hope of new advances in medicine and technology where birth defects are unheard of, and/or cured in the womb. Where spinal cord injuries are easily repaired, and paralysis is a word know only in dictionaries of ages past.

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Oct 23, 2013 2:47 pm

Dear Oralia,

Thank you so much for sharing your dream. The dream is something we hold was a gentle touch, like the dream of peace on earth or economic justice for everyone or an end to these difficult disabilities.

The kind of hope I worry about is the kind we hold with a clenched fist demanding that it appear in our lives, refusing to find joy, contentment or gratitude for the life we have. Just waiting for the life we want or the life we feel we are entitled to if justice prevailed.

This kind of hope can be debilitating. I described this in my recent article for the Huffington post.


In my next article I will be writing about a different kind of hope-when hope helps.

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Wheelchair Mama on Oct 25, 2013 4:26 am

Dr. Dan, When I was first injured I lived my life for \"hope\". Checking into SCI research on a daily basis, surrounded myself with hope messages and even wore a hope necklace. But then I realized that because I was holding on to the \" hope\" of a cure in my future I wasn\'t living for today. Don\'t get me wrong, I pray for the hope of a cure everyday but I have decided that I can\'t control the future and therefore live in and for today! I stopped wearing the hope necklace and replaced it with a beautiful diamond SCI anniversary necklace. It\'s my survivor necklace and I wear it with pride!!

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Oct 30, 2013 3:12 pm

dear Oralia,

last week I said I would be publishing a new article about hope that helps. Here is the link:


When we stop telling ourselves that the only way will be happy is when… We can walk again/never have another accident/spasms go away/find the perfect spouse etc. When we stop making demands of our future, we open up to the possibility that we can have happiness with the lives we have.
I wish that for you and everyone else

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Oct 30, 2013 3:29 pm

Here is another kind of hope-fear of hope.

I recently met with a woman who had been rejected by her father and harmed by several men in her life. Understandably, she was closed off and frightened of herself and men. She felt pressured to get married and the man looked like a nice enough guy, so she agreed. Still frightened, she closed off as she was mistrusting. This brought problems in the relationship as they frequently argued. Understandably, she grew even more closed off.
Several years later, he has become more understanding and kind as he has grown to love her very much.
But she is still closed off – frightened.

When we met I wondered if she could be open to exploring the possibility that this could be a kind, loving and safe relationship. She adamantly said no: "our relationship is friendly. I don't want to have hope because I don't think I can tolerate being disappointed again."

Whether things can improve or not, our fear of being open to our lives can keep us stuck. I had mentioned in a previous post that Jerome Groopman M.D. in his book "the anatomy of hope", describes hope as the belief that tomorrow can be better than today.

But to do that, we must take a risk and face fears directly. I remember leaving the cemetery after my ex-wife's funeral. I watch my daughter's, young ladies, sob in the arms of their future mates. This took place just 2 years after my sister died. I left the cemetery by myself going slowly over the bumpy lawn and feeling unfathomable pain. I looked to the heavens and said "I can't take any more pain". And the voice back said: "sure you can Dan, you just don't want to!"

Too many times we live our lives in fear of experiencing pain. Or as  University of Texas psychologist Brene Brown says: "some people would rather live disappointed than risk becoming disappointed."

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Audrey on Nov 12, 2013 2:29 pm

Go Wheelchair Mama!  Hope is a wonderful thing, but to your point can sometimes be a terrible one.  We celebrate the anniversary of our son's SCI as the anniversary of his survival :)

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Nov 13, 2013 3:49 pm

yes Audrey, I get that. But like I said in a different discussion, easier said than done. I often quote my favorite yoga saying:
"when the heart weeps for what it's lost, the soul rejoices for what it's found."

it's only when we let go of our previous dreams and expectations of our lives that we can open up to experience and even rejoice in the life we have. But first things first!

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by DeborahE on Nov 25, 2013 9:41 pm

Hi, Dr. Dan,
I really liked both of your articles on hope. I heard you speak about 17 years ago at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Allentown, Pa, about a year after I "graduated" from the hospital following life-changing spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.  The words you spoke that day inspired me to improve and grow, and have stayed with me.  I like to think of the two hopes that you talk about as hope looking backward versus hope looking forward. I talk about hope and your articles in more detail in my blog, http://walkingdeb.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/coping-with-hope/.  Thank you for continuing to teach and counsel us all.  - Deborah

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Nov 27, 2013 3:37 pm

hi Deborah,

so glad you are doing well..  I remember that day  very well. I was given a lifetime achievement award  and my opening comment was that I was nervous receiving a lifetime achievement award  fearing that meant I was dying soon!

Recently saw a TV commercial and one line of it was: "you can't  trip over yesterday" I guess the corollary is  "and you can't  control tomorrow".

I have hope that tomorrow will be as good  as today but I am ready (I think) for tomorrow to be better  or worse..  By the way, today was far from perfect.. I had bowel difficulties  this morning, catheter difficulties this afternoon and  problems with work  off and on throughout the day.. But I am happy  and grateful looking forward  to spending the next couple of days with people  I cherish.

As Jesse Jackson famously said "keep Hope alive". My rejoinder is "we must  have hope, but let's not paint ourselves  into a corner  with our vision  of hope.. Let's hope that we can  find well-being  with the lives we have."

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by none on Dec 10, 2013 4:52 pm

Hi Dr Dan,
Thank you for the call 12/4.  It brought me the gift of more acceptance and forgiveness for myself!
I was at the Mindfulness for caregivers conference 11/16 and I handed you a copy of my children's  book, One More Chance.
This is my mission now, to promote disability awareness and acceptance.  I work directly with elementary students locally, but need to launch a broader outreach.  This is filling me with a new kind of paralysis...mental.  I just seem to keep going in circles, kind's like when I've used my manual wheelchair with one arm.
Before MS I was a salesperson and actor handling many different demands.  But now I  often find myself hanging back, as if I don't want to be seen as a person with a disability.  I feel I have lost my confidence.
 I am a regular meditator, and have a pretty great life for the most part.  But I want to help erase the stigma againt disability (and other "differences") I realize I need to "step out" but feel stuck and frustrated..
How can I choose to utilize the abilities I do have rather than hanging out with shame.  I've proven to myself that that attitude in no way serves my purpose.
Thank you for any help you might offer!
Best wishes

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Dec 11, 2013 3:39 pm

Katharine, thank you for having the courage to call in  to our teleconference last week. It was really lively and informative  and we couldn't have done it without you!

after my accident I wouldn't go out socially with anyone until I ran down the litany of all the possible things that could go wrong. I figured that way if something went wrong, I wouldn't feel so ashamed. It didn't work, I was ashamed anyway!
Of course I was ashamed, I was different, broken, dependent and not very attractive. Not only that, but I stood out in a crowd so I couldn't hide. Know what I mean?

I'd love to tell you that with medication and psychotherapy I am now cured. But I don't think they've invented a medication that can cure shame.

I had a remarkable insight about 5 or 6 years after my accident. I grew up in Atlantic City New Jersey, and one sunny afternoon I was traveling the Boardwalk in my motorized chair. I looked to the left to a window and I saw a man in a wheelchair and the first thing that went through my mind was: "oh my God looked that crippled guy." And then I realized it was a reflection and that crippled guy was me!

I realized that I had carried more prejudice than most of my friends, family and acquaintances. I had work to do.
Shame festers in darkness. It becomes vile and ugly. And as the black mold of shame grows, the more we want to hide.

Sunlight kills mold. Care for the woman who suffers with the pain of shame. Allow yourself to feel what you are ashamed of and then share it with people you trust. Katharine, vulnerability invites compassion in other. And strength invites distance in other.

Several years after the Boardwalk incident, I was giving a lecture in a school auditorium where I sat on the stage by myself. In the middle of the lecture I noticed my leg bag was leaking and there was a growing puddle on the floor. I continued my lecture but felt so ashamed I just wanted to crawl into a hole. Making matters worse, after the lecture people started come up on stage and step in the urine without noticing. I just wanted to die.
I raced to my Van and went home as quickly as I could, crying along the way.

And for the next several years, every time I gave a lecture I told the story of how I peed on the floor so that people better be careful when they come up on stage! Sunlight cured shame and I no longer need to tell that story because now I am comfortable saying in the middle of a lecture "excuse me, but I just peed on the floor!"

My dear Katharine, be kind to yourself and hold that vulnerable frightened heart of yours. Have faith that the deepest core of you is kind and resilient and loves easily and is lovable.

RE: Dr. Dan wants to know about hope ...

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Dec 18, 2013 3:03 pm

I've talked about the dangers of unrealistic hope. But I also know that doesn't stop us from having that kind of hope. So here is what I hope for for these holidays:

I hope all of you have holidays filled with respite and surrounded with people who love you and who you love.

I hope that there is a real Santa and he is rainbow colored and that he fills all of our stockings with love and gratitude (and a tiny little human that can help me fix my computer whenever I need it).

I hope your alcoholic uncle has joined AA and will be sober this year.
I hope your crazy hyperactive sister-in-law has taken tai chi and is now mellow.
I hope that the martyr in your family comes to your door and says that she finally took everybody's advice "and I really did get a life like you told me to"!

Most of all I really hope you find peace and gratitude located right in the center of your heart.

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