Community Trauma: Navigating a Pandemic #5


Article #5: Creating a Narrative of Hope

J. Thomas Munley, LPC, CTP-C

Trauma Coordinator, ACE’s Master Trainer

Mid-Michigan Trauma Collaborative

“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.”    Rebecca Solnit



It has been said that “Depression is about the past and anxiety is about the future”. Truth is, we have plenty of both to go around. There are times I wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning, first trying to remember if all of this pandemic stuff is real and then once I realize, yes, it is real, the worrying starts. I can go hours between semi-asleep and semi-awake thinking until I wear myself out or take a sleep aid. Many thoughts are based in reality but some are just a product of an over-processing mind. It is the litany of “what-ifs” that invade my sleep, my mind and my peace. What if this keeps going for months, what if I lose my job, what if I get the virus, what is it going to be like on the other side of this crazy pandemic?

In reality, I won’t have those answers at 2:00 in the morning and I won’t have them necessarily when I wake up. But they get free reign in my head anyway and it drives me nutty when they start the cycle of an endless play loop. As a counselor, I have a good tool box of stress and anxiety relief techniques, but that doesn’t make applying them any easier. I have to work the tools I know just like everyone else and sometimes struggle to pull out of the morose, overwhelming deluge of thoughts.

I do not, nor do many of the experts have the answers to what lies ahead for us. Even when we see daylight on the other side of this virus, we still do not know how the world will have changed or how it will have changed us. That is why “Creating a Narrative of Hope” now will influence and guide our behaviors and lives when we find our way toward a new dawn. It can be our action plan for what we do now as we attempt to fulfill what we want to create.

So, what does it mean to ‘Create a Narrative of Hope”? First, we must have a common understanding of what the word “Hope” means. The one I like is: “to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment”. It implies hope is not just a nice sentiment but a verb; an action. There is something that will happen as we create our narrative and work to bring what is “hoped for” to reality. Also, we need to agree what hope is NOT. It is not a wish. A wish implies some kind of magic or supernatural force will intercede for us. We are the creators of our own hope and thus our own narrative.  As stated above, we must act to bring about the hope we desire.

A good place to start our narrative is to look at what inspires, excites or moves us. Our narrative does not have to be grand and ominous, but baby steps toward our hope. We may also join an organization, agency or person who aligns with our hope to become part of the change we want in the world.

I have known and understood for a long time that part of my Narrative of Hope was to help the underdog, those in need and find solutions that assist others to be their best selves. Because I feel blessed to have come to this place in life, through all the bumps, roadblocks and missteps, I have a desire to help others find their worth and meaning. As someone who is steeped in Trauma literature and learning, I am always looking for ways to create resilience and healing both for myself and others. I continue to learn about myself and the events and people who have both left me scarred and also those who have helped me feel whole.

My narrative is to keep thriving in the new world that is coming and, in the process, see if I can’t uplift and bring some healing to others. I don’t always know what that looks like. I just know that if I keep the vision in front of me, the details will show themselves in good and unexpected ways.