Along the years research has shown, that the level of support a person is surrounded by, is a powerful indicator of positive outcomes. More in-depth literature, however, has provided evidence that the amount of support, may be less important, than the perception the person has of that support (Shin, 2002; White & Hastings 2004). Meaning, that the recipient of support, needs to see that support as helpful, or else there is a risk that one will not be helping much. This explains why at Inspire, we consider parents as part of our team, not only when discussing their children, but also in relation to their own support.
Life experiences do not only affect the individual living through that experience, but also the wider system surrounding that person. Most common symptoms being physical stress, isolation and a sense of helplessness which come up as stories constructed and shared by the individual to make meaning of that lived experience Labov and Waletzky’s (1967/1997).
Let’s call these constructed stories, the narrative voice within the self, which is a significant resource for human healing. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) explain how narratives capture personal and human dimensions of experience over time, making our stories change each time we narrate them. This way we make space for any new learning and new experiences.
A crucial aspect of our narratives is that they need to cohere for us and for others, they need to have continuity and be able to predict, even if to some extent, certainty about the future. The difficulty with disability is that the future has been wounded and creating a conversational space that can embrace both the hope and hopelessness that coexist in the family experience, helps them heal and support their child’s development. So at Inspire we provide our families the peace of mind that there are people and professionals who are ready to listen and be with them in a way that helps them grow.
Research by Snyder, Cheavans & Cheavans (1999) explain that; ‘Individuals who are hopeful do better at problem solving, at managing challenging situations and even coping with illness and disability’…
…however, hope does not exist in a vacuum, it originates from powerful lived experiences. It is embedded in family history and that of the wider community, and it’s influenced by social context and circumstance.
Hope is relational and one’s role in his/her family, determines ones position towards hope and hopelessness:
- Some people hold onto hope.
- Others bear hopelessness.
- Some do hopeful actions rather than feel, think or speak about hope.
- Others sustain beliefs of hope but are not good at acting hopefully.
In contradiction to what people think, hope and hopelessness are not opposing forces, but co-existing ones. As beautifully put by Carmel Flaskas (2007); ‘Hope is the other side of despair. Being closer to one side, reminds us the need of the other’.
Thus, when we open healing conversations with wounded families, when we witness their hope and hopelessness, we do so in a way that nurtures hope and emotionally holds both hope and hopelessness (Flaskas 2007). Our aim is not to fix the despair, but to embrace both for what they are…co-existing human emotions.
Charlene Borg M. Sys. Psy.
Family Relations Manager