HopePublished on 11. 06. 2014
“Hope is the denial of reality. It is the carrot dangled before the draft horse to keep him plodding along in a vain attempt to reach it." "Are you saying we shouldn't hope?" "I'm saying we should remove the carrot and walk forward with our eyes open!”
Thirteen days after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished, an American TV survivalist named was interviewed on CNN. Why, the host asked him, should the relatives be optimistic? "I'll tell you why – you never give up hope," said Snyder, who makes a living fighting nature's most brutal forces. Those passengers might still be alive, he explained, so "there's always hope. No one should ever give up hope." He was right; theoretically the plane could have landed in secret. If you'd known someone on it, you'd probably have clung to that thought. But Snyder's glibness highlighted what a platitude "never give up hope" has become. Being against hope is like being in favor of pushing baby pandas off cliff tops. Isn't hope what motivates the oppressed to fight tyrants, what keeps people going in the most desperate deprivation? What might have become of Snyder, for that matter, if he hadn't had hope (and a production crew)?
Yet recent research, published in the Economic Journal, suggests that hope makes people feel worse. 25 years of German data on long-term unemployed individuals who, upon reaching the age of "retiring from unemployment,” reported a significant increase in life satisfaction. It isn't explained by other factors, like a change in benefits, and the employed don't get the same “boost” when they retire. Nor, the authors argue, is it simply that other people judge the jobless more harshly. It's that when you're unemployed, there's always the hope of finding a job, and people "feel the permanent pressure to fulfill the norms of their social category… Ironically, it is hope that keeps them unhappy while unemployed, and it is only when hope fades that they will recover." Retirement means the end of hoping for a job, which feels like a release.
This odd notion sheds light on another mysterious but well-supported finding about trauma. As you'd expect, people take it harder when they're widowed than when they lose their jobs – but all else being equal, they actually recover more fully. Is that because widowhood's irreversible? You've got hope of being happy again, certainly, but no hope of altering your widow(er) status. Bereavement is a hope-free zone.
The Shawshank Redemption lied to us: sometimes, giving up hope sets you free. Author John Ptacek, writes of finding meaning through hopelessness after his wife's terminal cancer diagnosis: "Time spent hoping for happier days is time spent turning away from life." Environmentalist Derrick Jensen believes hope makes activism less effective since it involves placing faith in someone or something else to make things better, instead of doing what's needed yourself: "A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place… you become very dangerous indeed to those in power."
So, what use is hope?
It’s knowing when you can affect the outcome that is most important. If you can’t affect it then rid it from your mind entirely because otherwise it will consume energy better spent on reality. If your actions have a chance of tipping the scales in your favor, then hope hard and hope often. When you mix focus with emotions, it more often than not, results in positive action.
Always be hoping for possible futures, no matter how slim the chances — as long as there are chances. Always remain realistic. Be rational and look at situations for what they are. There won’t always be a way out.
There won’t always be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You won’t always get what you want. But if there is even the slightest chance that your dreams or wants will play out, then you should hope that they do. Channel your focus, your energy and your emotions to your recovery and you will be moved to action. Action is the end result that we are truly looking for; hope itself is no more than a tool we use to get us there. Nothing changes without action.
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