Written by Dr. Ken Buckle for Maggie’s Place Alumni Moms
Given on December 12, 2011, The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
HOUSTON—On Facebook last week someone asked the community what gives us hope. There were several interesting answers and opinions posted to this question over the next several hours. It is a great question, especially during this season of Advent as we wait in hope for Christmas. The simple word “hope” is talked about both as a passing thought or a feeling, but can be an attitude as well.
Hope is an important and powerful issue for us humans. Sometimes people having a difficult day may feel down in the dumps, and they may have lost hope that the day will change for the better. They may bounce back the next day and all is well. Yet people with severe depression can feel completely hopeless and full of despair day after day. It is a heavy and dark place to be. We need to really reach out and support our brothers and sisters who are feeling hopeless.
Thoughts and feelings come and go like the weather, sometimes changing very quickly. If we feel hopeful about some particular event, like the possibility of a new job or a good grade on an exam, the outcome can bring us sudden joy or pain. We will feel happy or sad then usually for just a short time. However, an attitude of being hopeful and optimistic is something that can be practiced and learned. This attitude then can be carried with us as we journey through the ups and downs of life. For our mental and spiritual health, this is essential. And there are some research studies in recent years suggesting that this attitude of hopefulness and optimism can even have a positive effect on our physical health.
Hope is one of the key ingredients in change. Change is a big topic in the field of Psychology. Two researchers, Dr. James Prochaska and Dr. Carlo DiClemente, have studied and written about change and how it happens across six stages. Their idea is that people usually don’t jump quickly into change, but ramp up for it over time. Today’s article begins a short series which will focus on these six stages of change.
The first stage is called “Precontemplation” and this stage represents the time or position when we are the farthest from being ready to change. If contemplation means thinking or reflecting on something, then the term “Precontemplation” suggests that there may be a place in time in which we may not even be thinking about changing. This can go on for months or even years.
What is happening when we are in this “Precontemplation” stage? At this point, we may not even see a need for change. We don’t believe that we have a problem, but others may tell us about it. This is a common experience for those abusing drugs including alcohol. In fact, sometimes our reaction to being confronted about something is to rebel and then just refuse to change. Or it could be possible that we are just enjoying what we are doing and don’t want to give it up, as is frequently the case with cigarette smoking. We might just not be ready to change, and we feel like we want to wait for another time to change. We may make excuses, like it’s too sunny or too cold outside to exercise. And then there is the possibility that we have tried to change, as with dieting, but we have given up and feel that there is no hope for us. We have decided that we cannot change. Precontemplation then is when we are not at all ready for change.
But there is always hope for all of us. We can change when we are ready. We can change with the help of others. We change with the help of the Holy Spirit. We may become ready to change like they say in Twelve Step programs: when we are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
One of the fantastic things about our God is this wonderful idea of hope. God likes the unexpected. There are quite a few examples of how He likes to switch things up a bit. Our loving Father takes a poor, humble, young girl and makes her the Blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus. Our merciful Father takes a beaten down and crucified Christ and raises Him up in astonishing victory from the dead. Anything can happen. In the book of Revelation 21:5 we hear the message: “Behold, I make all things new.” All of this is indeed hopeful and Good News.
In the next article we will see how people can move from the “Precontemplation” stage to the “Contemplation” stage, which is one step closer to taking action and experiencing lasting change. Studying these six stages of change might help us be more successful with our efforts in 2012. May the hope, joy, love, and peace of the Advent and Christmas seasons be with you all. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for Us.