Finding Hope in the Darkness

Mar 08, 2017

“He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Clement Clarke Moore, 1779-1863

Finding Hope in the Darkness

TISA Description of the Problem: Here is a tip about generating hope and gratitude with adolescents. A recent survey showed that many Americans are open to diversity in philosophical and religious arenas. In this regard, a large number of Americans are interested in aspects of Eastern philosophies that can be integrated into their own traditional religious views or sculpted into personalized spiritualities. Clinicians may find that many, if not most, adolescents are familiar with the symbol called Taijitu (yin/yang), which shows a unifying circle that is bisected by a graceful curving line into black and white halves, with the black half including a white dot and the white half a black dot. Jane Gomes has developed a creative way of using a client’s familiarity with this almost ubiquitous symbol to help an adolescent cope with depression and stress.

Tip: I work with adolescents in a public high school. I use the symbol of the yin/yang (Taijitu) to explain the duality of life when working with some depressed students. Usually they already have some understanding of this idea. I might say something along the lines of:

“You know this sadness you are feeling now because you have known joy in the past. We can only define the one experience because we can compare it to its opposite — we know what light is because we know what darkness is, we know what pleasure is because we have felt pain – you can’t have one without the other. It is simply the way people think, everything is contrasted with some other thing. So happiness and sadness go hand-in-hand, they are always both out there; they exist at the same time. So when we are depressed we are out of balance and must remember that its opposite, happiness, exists. No matter how small and insignificant it may seem at this moment we can remember that that small dot of lightness (pointing to the small white dot in the black half of the Taijitu) is always there in the darkness, and by focusing upon it we may truly increase its size so that more and more that is positive is there. It happens every day, that the darkness shifts and lightness gets bigger, we can trust that it is so, for it happens all the time. The work we will be doing together in the counseling can help to speed this along. It really can.”

This helps my students to sense that hope is there, both helping them to focus upon any blessings they may have while helping then to seek out more positives. Once recovery has been gained, it can also help them to feel a keen sense of gratitude, for they realize that darkness may reappear as well, and that it is wise to embrace the good times fully when they are here.

TISA Follow-up: I would like to thank Jane for a great interviewing tip, and I would like to add that this bit of philosophy is obviously useful with adult patients as well.

This tip brought a smile to my face for it reminded me of the wonderful words of the mystic Julian of Norwich who wrote back in the 1300s, “During our lifetime here, we have in us a marvelous mixture of both well-being and woe . . . And now we are raised to the one, and now we are permitted to fall to the other.” This quote forms the foundation for a lively exploration of Julian’s revitalizing philosophy in one of the chapters from my book on philosphy and finding resiliency called “Happiness Is.” (see sample chapter and reviews at or click on the title on our TISA homepage). The book is all about resiliency and the mysteries of the human matrix in which we find ourselves as fascinating moments in time when our biologies, psychologies, relationships and cultures intertwine. Herman Hesse, the great German novelist, put it eloquently when he commented, “But every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again. That is why every man’s story is important, eternal, and sacred . . . “ I hope that you will join me in the pages of this book to explore Julian, Hesse and the many other guides that are described in the book as masters of “matrix problem solving” and the practical art of finding happiness. It is my true hope that this little book can not only provide rejuvenation for us as therapists but hope and revitalization for some of our clients, and perhaps, if we are particularly lucky, even help to prevent a suicide. Thanks for joining me this year. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season!, Shawn Christopher Shea.

Tip provided by:

Jane Gomes