By Adeoye Oyewole
Hope is defined as the belief or expectation that something wished for will happen. This attitude of mind connects us to the future and keeps the activities of life focused on future goals in a way that invigorates life.
However, the accruable state of mind can experience setbacks and at times total breakdown when the future seems bleak and hopeless especially when certain permutations, forecasts, and projections coming from the news media spell doom. This has serious implications for the mental health according to Aaron Beck in his explanation for cognitive distortions. He is of the opinion that human minds operate according to certain cognitive templates such that when they malfunction can lead to depressive illness which is a very common disorder. My basic deduction here is that our moods are a product of our thoughts. What our thoughts dwell on will invariably dictate the tone of our mood.
Hope is in the future and a little distant apart from it being very vulnerable to disillusionment since it is usually not within the conscious rational control of the individual. However, faith is personal, active, functional, energetic, creative and dynamic. It converts the wishful thinking of the future and impregnates it with energy and life. Faith is in the present, active and engaging as it transforms hope from a wish into a real psychic experience described as a conviction. When I consult with a depressed patient; I perceive incapacitation of a mind to expunge negative thoughts holding it captive and helpless.
This incapacitation could manifest as guilt feelings as they take responsibility for every bad thing that has happened in their neighborhoods which provides an explanation for the widowed, old women usually abandoned in the dilapidated family house and most times barren hence bereft of psychosocial support taking responsibility for deaths and mishaps in the neighborhood. The community responds by prescribing death as punishment for witchcraft instead of medical attention and social rehabilitation.
For modern city folks; guilt feelings about the past may come as an exaggerated sense of mistake in major life decisions especially at midlife. Death may become the desired means of escape from this tormenting thought pattern. I want to believe that these thought patterns according to Aaron Beck, grow unconsciously in a cumulative manner when uninterrupted. This becomes plausible since mild depressive illness may respond to cognitive behavioral therapy where distortions of the thought patterns are engaged and empirically straightened before they fester deeply and become insurmountable. Thought distortions can affect the present where the individual perceives self as worthless and injures the hope of a future. When hope is injured; only faith can come to the rescue.
Faith has the capacity to take the wreckage of hope and build life into it as individuals get empowered from the inner recesses of their minds to locate the power of omnipotence. Faith then becomes therapeutic as it becomes the assurance, the very psychic energy and the conviction of a new future. The experience of faith builds conviction as a present tangible experience which is superior to fantasy and wishful thinking of the future.
As we enter the New Year we must learn to courageously confront our challenges. The denial of the reality of life- challenges based on an unfounded non-personal conviction in a supreme being is the breeding ground for delusions. This state of mind impairs reality and injures mental health. Faith, as opposed to delusion, confronts the reality of life- experiences, engage it and strips it of its torment by connecting to the power of omnipotence. It is the Nigerian brand of our religious faith that breeds materialism rather than heal people of it so that they can engage in productive, problem-solving activities. Faith disconnects us from our destructive psychic impulses of survivalism, ego, materialism, nepotism and connects us to the energy of egalitarianism and productivity. Faith releases us from the hurt and bitterness of the past and launches us into love and service to mankind. The principle of faith cannot work when we dwell on negative thoughts of hatred, anger, bickering, and selfishness. Faith provides the facility for forgiveness and true reconciliation whether at the family and community levels. Faith in the power of omnipotence secures peace within and peace without.
The message for us especially in Nigeria as we enter the New Year is to confront our challenges in the power of faith as we realistically deploy our problem-solving skills. Faith changes our perception of the situation from the negative to the positive reinforced by the neuro-linguistic practice of positive affirmation. We should endeavor to speak positive words of faith to affirm our belief in the power of omnipotence concerning ourselves, our family, our community and our nation. Wishing everyone a glorious New Year in sound mental health.