There is a scene in the American sitcom Friends where Chandler (Matthew Perry) is upset because he comes across an old home video of a couple making love. He thinks the woman is his wife Monica (Courteney Cox). When they watch the video together and Monica tells him that it’s not her, he exults, “What? That’s not you! Life is good again!”
On a more serious note, when is life good again?
For many of us, life is good again when we bounce back from adversity or a difficult situation such as a health crisis, a job layoff, financial woes, a bad relationship or workplace issues. There are times when we feel mentally and emotionally reinvigorated after experiencing a stretch of failure, dejection or emptiness we can’t explain. One moment we’re feeling depressed and the next moment, unexpectedly, we find ourselves back in the game of life and ready to go.
Psychologists attribute our capacity to turn a negative experience into a positive one to hope; the mental ability and inner strength to overcome transient or even severe setbacks in life and feel good again. As Charles R. Snyder, the noted American psychologist who specialised in positive psychology, observed in his Hope Theory: “A rainbow is a prism that sends shards of multi-coloured light in various directions. It lifts our spirits and makes us think of what is possible. Hope is the same – a personal rainbow of the mind.”
A rainbow of the mind is a rainbow of possibilities. It’s what keeps us going, why we never give up, even when we’re going through a bad period. Hope makes stressful events less challenging or threatening, motivates us to sidestep our fears and anxieties, infuses us with a sense of optimism, before finally assuring us that all will be well in the end.
For a lot of people life is probably good again when they or their loved ones pull around after a health issue. For those struggling to make ends meet or who have gone without income for months, a new job opportunity or an unexpected windfall can mean a reversal of fortune and better times ahead. For some a midlife crisis can prove to be a turning point as they get over inner turmoil and regret, and make new and meaningful life choices. For still others the prospect of success after failure can set their compass in the direction they want and seek greater fulfilment.
In all these and other real-life experiences, it is the power of hope that encourages us to surmount difficulties and get on with our lives, and sometimes even start anew. For, hope is the best shot we have to make life good again.
Perhaps, there’s another way of living the good life. It’s the way of the mystics – saying yes and accepting whatever happens to us, at least some of the time if not all the time. Maybe, if we stop resisting life as it comes to us and learn to flow with the current, we can then experience a period of calm, emerge stronger, and lead healthier and happier lives more often than we do.