12 pieces of hope when life becomes difficult and dark

12 pieces of hope when life becomes difficult and dark

It ain’t always sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. Life can become difficult and dark. Many say there’s no “can” about it. Are you struggling right now? How ‘bout 12 pieces of hope.

Something marvelous was about to occur, until we threw in the towel.

With some 50 years of difficulty and darkness backing it, try this on for size…

If we don’t accept life’s inherent difficulty and darkness, we’ll never have a shot at peace of mind and personal growth.

Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, no diagnosis – doesn’t matter, it applies to everyone.

Of course, acceptance is one thing, taking action is another.

”If-“ by Rudyard Kipling

Let’s kick things off with the second verse of English poet Rudyard Kipling’s “If-,” written in 1895.

Couple of interesting notes going in. Kipling wrote the poem in the form of paternal advice to his son. It’s been cherished around the world since it was published. And it’s said that Muhammad Ali carried the poem in his wallet.

See how you feel about it…

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools

Gut reaction? And that’s just one of four verses.

12 pieces of hope when life becomes difficult

So we’ve established that life can become difficult and dark. Maybe that’s the way it is for you right now. From my experience, those pieces of hope…

  1. Take comfort in constants. We may feel dark and cold, but the rest of the world hasn’t changed.
  2. The day after the very worst of days often brings surprisingly positive developments.
  3. The difficulty and darkness factors of life are permanent – only if we turn away acceptance and action.
  4. Hope is like the sun on a cloudy day. We may not see it, but it’s there.
  5. Answers exist, though they’re not always immediate and clear.
  6. Knee-jerk running for emotional and mental cover doesn’t work.
  7. It’s never over until we say it’s over.
  8. We can’t underestimate the power of reason in changing how we think – feel and behave.
  9. Living in yesterday eliminates tomorrows.
  10. Something marvelous was about to occur, until we threw in the towel.
  11. Rumination is ruination.
  12. Anybody can cruise through the good times. Give me someone who’s fought for their sanity, survival, and peace of mind.

I’ll bet each of us can come up with more.

Keep our chins up

It ain’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. I’ve come to expect it. And when life gets difficult and dark, acceptance and action are all that matter.

Those pieces of hope? A little something to keep our chins up.

Take a moment to read “If-“ in its entirety.

More Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles? Here ya’ go.

How to manage anger and free your troubled mind

How to manage anger and free your troubled mind

As cliché as it may sound, do you have anger issues? If you do, are they dominating your life – and the lives of others? Maybe it’s time to free your troubled mind. Learn how to manage anger…

The motivation to avoid or numb Core Hurts generates all harmful behavior.

How do you feel about an anger intervention discussion that features Core Value and Core Hurts?

Are you familiar with them?

Well, buckle up because that’s where we’re going. And we have just the right teacher…

Dr. Steven Stosny

Psychologist, author, and speaker Dr. Steven Stosny is an expert in assorted forms of anger, abuse, and violence. He’s the founder of Compassion Power and a regular on the media circuit.

What you’re about to read is a highlight reel of a portion of Dr. Stosny’s work. The information is excellent, so you may want to reference it down the road. Saving or printing the article would be a good idea.

Let’s go…

What is anger?

Anger is our number one self-revealing emotion. And it mobilizes us for one thing, and one thing only – a fight.

It’s important to know that anger points directly at the status of our Core Value. It’s ultimately a cry of powerlessness, and the more reactive we become, the more powerless we feel.

Power? It’s the ability to act in our long-term best interests. Responsibility gives us the power to make our lives better, while blame renders us powerless.

The role of compassion

Getting to where we need to go in this piece is a learning progression. So let’s first take a look at Stosny’s take on compassion…

  • More important than love because love without compassion is controlling, possessive, even dangerous
  • A sympathetic understanding of our Core Hurts and those of others
  • Loving others because it makes us feel worthy of love
  • Recognizing our Core Value and that of others, even when we don’t like present behavior or perspectives
  • Motivation to do the right thing
  • Not the same as forgiveness or condoning offenses
  • Not the same as reinstating relationships

Compassion has great healing power and protects us from Core Hurts. And keep in mind, the more we hurt, the harder it is to feel compassion.

Finally, compassion requires assertiveness – standing up for our rights and feelings. And we need to become comfortable with it because compassion ultimately defuses anger.

What is Core Value?

The next component is Core Value. It’s our deepest experience of self and it’s the foundation of our personal security, well-being, self-esteem, competence, creativity, and power.

When we’re in touch with our Core Value we can do no wrong. And when the impulse to control or harm arrives, we can bet the farm our Core Value has flattened.

free your mind

“It wasn’t easy, and I have to keep after it, but I’ve learned to respect and value myself.”

The self-statement from Stosny…

I am worthy of respect, value, and compassion, whether or not I get them from others. If I don’t get them from others, it is necessary to feel more worthy, not less. It is necessary to affirm my own deep value as a unique person (child of God). I respect and value myself. I have compassion for my hurt. I have compassion for the hurt of others. I trust myself to act in my best interests and in the best interests of loved ones.

That’s a keeper, don’t you think?

What are Core Hurts?

Next in our learning progression are Core Hurts. Feeling…

  • Disregarded
  • Unimportant
  • Accused
  • Guilty
  • Devalued
  • Rejected
  • Powerless
  • Inadequate/Unlovable

Okay, things are coming together now. When Core Hurts are active a quick drop in Core Value takes place. And whether or not we realize it, many of us learned early on to protect ourselves from Core Hurts – Core Value hits – by using some form of anger, aggression, or resentment.

Any wonder why Core Hurts trigger anger?

Bottom-line: The motivation to avoid or numb Core Hurts generates all harmful behavior.


Now that we have the pieces in place, let’s get after relief with HEALS. Here’s how to intervene when anger slaps us upside the head…

  • Healing: When we first feel angry, visualize the word “heals” in bright lights. If it’s being triggered by someone, picture “heal” written across their face.
  • Explain to ourselves the deepest Core Hurt that’s causing the problem.
  • Apply self-compassion: Access our Core Value by asking ourselves if we’re unimportant, not valuable, or unlovable because of an external event or someone’s behavior. If need be, take an inventory of what makes our life worth living – good deeds we’ve done, loving relationships, or admirable personal values.
  • Love ourselves.
  • Solve the problem: Once we’re more calm and relaxed, it’ll be easier to address the conflict that’s generating the anger.

HEALS takes us beyond anger management techniques to an automatic regulation of anger and resentment. And that generates power.

With repetition, HEALS builds a conditioned response to increase self-value whenever resentment or anger occur. And since HEALS repetition strengthens Core Value, it makes the defensive use of anger and resentment unnecessary.

By the way, to get to the point where HEALS comes automatically when anger strikes, Stosny prescribes 750 repetitions over four to six weeks.

Free your troubled mind

If anger is dominating your life – and the lives of others – isn’t it time to free your troubled mind?

Dr. Stosny has created a wonderful intervention to help you out. Come on, give it a go.

Be sure to visit Dr. Stosny’s blog on Psychological Today: Anger in the Age of Entitlement

And if you’d like to read more Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles, go ahead and peruse the titles.

Living with mental illness: The truth about puzzles

Living with mental illness: The truth about puzzles

Puzzles: with an unsettled mind they just keep coming. In fact, I’ve been working on a couple of toughies for some time. The truth about puzzles when you’re living with mental illness? You can’t solve ‘em all.

’You struggle to make the change because the old behavior is still meeting a need. Instead of shaming yourself…”

I’m a mental illness lifer.

My first derealization episode hit when I was nine. And things went full throttle generalized anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, social anxiety, OCD, depression, and alcohol 11 years later.

Sharing air with mental illness for the bulk of my 68 years has been an odyssey.

Physical, emotional, and mental puzzles

If you’ve coexisted with mental illness – what I really prefer calling emotional/mental disorders – for any length of time, you’re likely not stunned when a new puzzle gets tossed your way.

And human beings that we are, we don’t much like aggravation and pain. So if a particular puzzle delivers a good portion of it, we’re going to do all we can to solve it.

But is it always possible? My version of the truth…

Physical puzzles

When it comes to anatomy, physiology, and genetics puzzles, there’s no way they’re all going to be solved.

I don’t get wound up about it because I’ve studied and written about them for years. And when you view the lay of the land you realize an unsolved puzzle isn’t going to do you in.

We also have to consider the fact that the brain and the rest of the body will always generate “unsolved psych mysteries.” And if the greatest minds in the world can’t solve the puzzles, why should we sweat nails over them?

Emotional and mental puzzles

Now, those emotional and mental puzzles – I absolutely get wound up about them. To underscore the point I’m going to share those “couple of toughies” I mentioned in the opening.

But before we jump in…

It’s hard for me to open up about deeply personal information. It would be one thing if I were telling you I’ve always wanted to be a CIA agent. But to me, what you’re about to read exceeds Top Secret.

Still, it’s good to get it off my chest. And who knows, it may hit home for someone, providing a measure of relief.

The unsolvables

Generalized anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, social anxiety, OCD, depression: as challenging as they are, they aren’t puzzles to me anymore. They’re just part of life.

But low self-esteem and emptiness – the “toughies?” In my mind, they’re 1,000 piecers. Solving them would be an unexpected gift.

I’ll open the book…

Low self-esteem

I struggle with self-esteem. And that means self-confidence and insecurity can also become problems. I call them the “Big 3.”

The puzzle doesn’t include awareness or acceptance. Even why isn’t much of a factor anymore. But it definitely includes what to do about it.

emotional and mental puzzles

“I guess I’m going to have to let this one go – unsolved. I tried and that’s all I can do.”

I’ve wrestled with the Big 3 since I was a kid. I mean, the derealization episode I mentioned earlier bears witness to the fact that goofy things were going on in my head.

Curiously, most things came easy to me growing up. Athletics, social life – you name it – I did well. And I enjoyed the spotlight. I’ll even go so far as to say I was a lot of people’s “pick to click” in life. That is until the puzzles appeared and devoured me at the age of 20.

I’d fooled my share of people, most of all myself. There was a ton of mind work to be done and it didn’t happen. But then again, I didn’t know.

What to do about it? I work hard on coming to grips with myself. Will the puzzle ultimately be solved? No.


Just as my self-esteem puzzle is a combo package, so it is with emptiness. Its partner is loneliness.

By the way, isn’t it interesting that we’re most often dealing with a constellation of signs and symptoms? Never seems to be just one thing, does it.

Okay, for years I’ve affectionately referred to it as “The Feeling.” It’s this overwhelming sense of emptiness – desolation. Maybe I could call it “The Black Hole.”

And that’s just what it is – a feeling of gnawing anxiety, loneliness, and “Where did everybody go?” “Everybody” includes me.

No problem tracing its roots to childhood, so the why’s are handled. What to do about it? Just like self-esteem, I do everything I can to manage, but the puzzle will never be solved.

I never grew up

As long as I’m on a revelation roll, I may as well go all the way.

Low self-esteem, low self-confidence, insecurity, emptiness, loneliness, and more. I really believe I never learned how to live. And in many ways, I never grew up.

That accounts for a whole lot of unsolvable puzzles.

New ways to meet the need

As we begin to wrap things up, take a look at this brilliant observation I found on The EQ School’s website…

You struggle to make the change because the old behavior is still meeting a need. Instead of shaming yourself, identify the deeper need and allow it to exist. Then get curious about a new way to meet it.

Regardless of your truth on the solvability of puzzles, what a remarkable take – and great advice.

You can’t solve ‘em all

Anatomy, physiology, genetics, the emotional and mental: puzzles just keep coming when you’re living with mental illness. And that’s never going to change.

The truth is, you can’t solve ‘em all.

Looking to improve your emotional intelligence? See what’s up at The EQ School.

And if you’d like to read more Chipur info and inspiration articles, just hit the titles.

Socratic questioning: A great tool for depression relief

Socratic questioning: A great tool for depression relief

If you’re relying solely upon meds for depression relief, you’re cheating yourself. There are a host of great tools that can challenge your mood misery. One of them is Socratic questioning.

Socratic questioning is used as a cognitive restructuring technique to uncover, challenge, and negate the beliefs, assumptions, and supposed evidence – our thought patterns – that cause distress.

Greek philosopher Socrates was one smart and sensible man. I mean, you must have something going for you if you’re Plato’s teacher.

And it’s astounding that he influences reasoning and behavior 2,400 years after his heyday.

Intro to Socratic questioning

One of Socrates’ major contributions to the modern world is Socratic questioning, also referred to as Socratic dialogue or Socratic maieutics.

Not only is maieutics a $500 word, its meaning is important to our discussion.

Maieutics is the method Socrates used to elicit knowledge in a person’s mind by interrogation and insistence on logical reasoning. Maieutic is Greek for midwifery. And he chose the term because he likened his method to birthing – and his mother just happened to be a midwife.

Socratic questioning (SQ) can be utilized in a variety of settings. We’re going to examine it within the realm of psychology, specifically depression.

I might add that SQ can be effective in treating anxiety.

Socratic questioning research

I bumped into some research from 2015 that remains relevant. A team at The Ohio State University discovered that when therapists use SQ in their cognitive therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy work with depressed clients, substantial symptom improvement is realized.

“Therapist Use of Socratic Questioning Predicts Session-to-Session Symptom Change in Cognitive Therapy for Depression” appeared in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy.

Now, we’re going to get into the nuts and bolts of SQ in a bit, but for now, let’s just say it’s about a series of guided questions in which the therapist challenges a client to consider new perspectives on themselves and their place in the world.

From the study authors

Justin Braun…

People with depression can get stuck in a negative way of thinking. Socratic questioning helps patients examine the validity of their negative thoughts and gain a broader, more realistic perspective.

Daniel Strunk…

We found that Socratic questioning was predictive of symptom improvements above and beyond the therapeutic relationship – the variable that has been most examined in previous studies.

Let’s get into the work…

Study details

Here’s how the study went down. Fifty-five participants took part in a 16 week course of cognitive therapy for depression.

When it was all said and done, the team analyzed video recordings of the first three sessions for each participant and estimated how often the therapist used SQ techniques.

And go figure, the sessions in which more SQ was used generated a greater improvement in pre-measured depressive symptoms.

Perhaps even more meaningful, it was obvious to the team that the participants were learning the process of asking themselves questions. And they were becoming aware, and skeptical, of their negative thoughts.

For all of us, the more that occurs, the more we can anticipate symptom improvement.

And it’s important to discipline ourselves to use SQ to confront and reason through our negative thoughts. When we do, we’ll find we’ve overlooked information that contradicts the garbage we believe to be true.

What is Socratic questioning?

Okay, the moment we’ve been waiting for. What the heck is Socratic questioning?

In short, it’s a disciplined style of questioning used to explore complex ideas, get to the truth of the matter, open up issues and problems, uncover assumptions, analyze concepts, distinguish what we know from what we don’t, and follow out logical implications of thought.

How does SQ differ from regular questioning? It’s systematic, disciplined, deep, and typically emphasizes fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems.

Socratic questioning in therapy

“Okay, what evidence supports me being a loser and what evidence supports I’m not?”

Though it can be used in several therapies, we’re going to discuss SQ within the context of cognitive therapy – just like the study.

Real quick, cognitive therapy is based on the premise that our problems may have started in the past, but they’re maintained by things in the present.

So it’s about identifying current thought patterns that result in negative moods and counterproductive behavior.

Okay, SQ is used as a cognitive restructuring technique to uncover, challenge, and negate the beliefs, assumptions, and supposed evidence – our thought patterns – that cause distress. Cognitive distortions loom large here.

Socratic questioning progression

Now, there are numerous SQ models, and I encourage you to do some research. However, let’s keep it simple and take a look at the following SQ progression, with indicated questions…

  1. I’m the issue: “What evidence supports this idea? What evidence supports it isn’t true?”
  2. Conceiving reasonable alternatives: “What might be another explanation or point-of-view regarding the circumstances? What else could have made it happen?”
  3. Examining various potential consequences: “What are worst, best, bearable, and most realistic outcomes?”
  4. Evaluate those consequences: “What’s the effect of thinking or believing this? What could be the effect of no longer holding onto this belief – thinking differently?”
  5. Distancing: “Imagine a family member or friend has the same dilemma or views the circumstances as you do. What would you tell them?”

Do you see how SQ works?

Socratic self-questioning

In addition to a therapist asking the questions, we need to be asking them of ourselves.

Here’s a small collection of random SQ questions to try on for size…

  • Let me see if I understand, do I mean ____ or ____?
  • Do I understand correctly? I seem to be assuming ____.
  • Why would I make this assumption?
  • Is it always the case?
  • What could I assume instead?
  • Do I have any evidence for that?
  • How could I find out whether that’s true?
  • When I say ____, am I implying ____?
  • Would that for sure happen, or just maybe?
  • What would someone who disagrees say?
  • Is there an alternative way of perceiving this?

Do you think consistently asking yourself such questions would challenge your negative patterns of thought? I sure do.

Take care of biz

There’s not a thing wrong with relying upon meds for depression relief. Heck, I use an antidepressant. But believe me when I say there’s so much more to the relief and healing equation.

If you’re struggling with depression, I’m going to stick my neck out and say your negative thoughts are mega-contributors. How couldn’t they be?

So why not assertively address the obvious dilemma? And you can use Socratic questioning to take care of biz.

The study authors: Justin Braun, Daniel Strunk, Katherine Sasso, Andrew Cooper. If you’d like to read the full study: “Therapist Use of Socratic Questioning Predicts Session-to-Session Symptom Change in Cognitive Therapy for Depression”

More Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles? Head for the titles.

The Black Dog | Part 2

The Black Dog | Part 2

Let’s play Jeopardy. “World History for $600, Ken.” THIS HEAD OF STATE WOULD WEAR CUSTOM-TAILORED SILK UNDERWEAR IN STAFF MEETINGS “Who is Winston Churchill?” Yesss.

’Work keeps the black dog from the door, the blue funk on the other side of the window.’

We began a two-part series on Winston Churchill and his emotional and mental health challenges last week.

We got to know a little bit about him in part one and gave the black dog, a metaphor Churchill used for his depression, a lot of attention.

Here in part two we’ll get into portions of his psych history, which will include his, what I call, eccentric behavior.

I’m thinking you’ll find this series closer fascinating. You may even identify with a thing or two. Onward…

Who was Winston Churchill?

Winston Churchill 1941

Quick review, The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister and Minister of Defense during World War II.

He was a great man, ranked #37 on Time’s 100 Most Significant Figures in History.

But of all his accomplishments, his greatest may be courageously moving forward in the face of intense life-or-death stress – all the while dealing with what was likely bipolar disorder with severe depression.

Winston Churchill and bipolar disorder

Let’s begin with the words of the man himself. And I’ll bet the farm I’m not the only one who can relate…

I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation.

That may not be a sign of bipolar disorder, but I can feel anxiety, obsession, and compulsion. And that gets him in the ballpark.

Mania saved the UK

It’s interesting, there are plenty of folks who remain outraged by reports of Churchill’s supposed bipolar disorder. Whether they realize it or not, they’re implying that such a great man could never have suffered from such an ugly disease.

Did I hear the stigma buzzer?

What’s even more interesting Is historians are quick to point out that mania was a huge contributor to Churchilll’s greatness.

Fact is, the odds were incredibly stacked against the UK during World War II. And a leader without Churchill’s boundless energy would have likely been unable to inspire the people of the UK to continue the fight.

Had Churchill and his mania not been at the helm it’s quite possible the UK, and hundreds of thousands of lives, would have been lost to the evil insanity of Adolph Hitler.

Winston Churchill’s psych history

2nd Lieutenant Winston Churchill Age 21

Historians report that Churchill’s depression began in his youth.

And we know depression typically hits first as bipolar disorder presents.

Churchill was the son of a British Lord and descendant of a Duke. His mother was the daughter of a New York financier and horse racing enthusiast.

It’s known that Churchill was neglected as a child. And his saving grace is reported to have been his nanny.

As we discussed in part one, she introduced him to the metaphor, black dog, frequently used in those days in reference to feeling depressed or gloomy – “I’ve got a black dog on my back today.”

The depression

Churchill’s depressive episodes were long and severe. By all accounts, they could be triggered by environmental factors (exogenous) and come out of nowhere (endogenous).

The mania

Let’s get right into the signs and symptoms of Churchill’s reported mania…

  • Friends described his emotional state as either extremely high or terribly low
  • Difficulty with personal relationships
  • Delirious over World War I, which he referred to as “this glorious, delicious war”
  • Sarcasm, heavy-handedness
  • Ramblings that could go on for hours
  • Ongoing financial woes because he couldn’t manage his gambling, impulsive spending, and living beyond his means
  • A typical workday began when he awoke at 8a and ended somewhere between 2 and 4a the next day. He expected those working for him to do the same.
  • Dramatic behavior and speeches
  • Grandiosity: self-assessment as a great man with an incredible destiny, disdain for others and their opinions

Funny, inhibition certainly wasn’t a problem for Churchill. He’d think nothing of meeting with his staff dressed only in his custom-tailored pink silk underwear, walking around the house in the buff, and conducting meetings from his bathtub.


Churchill enjoyed alcohol. It’s reported that his minimum daily consumption was six glasses of wine or champagne and five to six ounces of whisky or brandy.

It’s also believed he took the occasional prescribed amphetamine and barbiturate. To be fair, his workload and stress, especially during the war years, were brutal.

And, of course, his trademark cigars.

“…keeps the black dog from the door.”

Let’s wrap it up with more Churchill…

Work is for me the antidote, not for any of the world’s ills, but for all of my own. Work keeps the black dog from the door, the blue funk on the other side of the window. When working well, my life falls into place; I needn’t search for life’s meaning but seem temporarily to have found it; I am, in a world not notably arranged for sustained felicity, as close to happiness as I am likely to get. That’s what’s in it for the talent – the sweet delight in exercising one’s gifts – and that is everything.

So did Winston Churchill endure bipolar disorder? Kind of looks that way. However, I’d rather know him for his courage, drive, and accomplishments – not his diagnosis.

Much like the two of us

That’s a wrap on the series. By the way, did you identify with some of Churchill’s signs and symptoms? If so, did you find his story especially inspiring?

Sir Winston Churchill: an amazing man who lived an amazing life under amazing circumstances – black dog and all. Much like the two of us, don’t you think?

If you haven’t already, give part one a go: The Black Dog

Lots of Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles are waiting for you. Go ahead, peruse the titles.

Churchill images: public domain