Hope is a perception which is deeply entangled with the life of all human beings.
The essence of Humanity
Author: Al Tamehi
"Sometimes I feel so much pressure that I want to end this misery".
I received this anonymous message last week; there was no signature under it. However it had a heading: "In the HOPE of Santa Maria".
Hope is a perception which is deeply entangled with the life of all human beings from childhood to years of retirement. It's with us in all our moments of joy, grief, fear, anxiety, and even in our dreams. It is so entrenched that I call it the "Essence of Humanity". It affects our character, behavior, attitude and our approach towards the future.
But there is very little unanimity between Psychiatrists, Philosophers and sociologists about what Hope truly is. Is it an attitude towards life, a sentimental reaction towards uphill realities of life, an asset to help us through or some kind of a myth we create to face the realities of the world. Or on the other hand as Aristotle said, "Hope is a dream of a waking man".
In this article we are going to analyze Hope in all aspects of life; this will be a methodical analysis, based on personal experiences and scientific studies.
The Psychology of Hope
In any analysis we have to first agree upon a definition for the topic under discussion. Various definitions of Hope have been put forward by scientists. However they all share a common core.
- Hope can be defined as the aspiration for something coupled with eagerness for it to happen.
- To Hope is to yearn for something, and to believe that the possibility of it happening although may be less than ONE, is greater than NIL.
- Some argue that Hope is nothing but a wish, and it's only the question of prominence than anything else.
In such an analysis it is helpful to define the opposite of the phenomenon under discussion. Opposite of Hope is undoubtedly fear, a desire for something not to happen tied with the expectation that it might happen. Embedded in any Hope there is an adjacent fear, and in every fear there is a hope. Also despair and hopelessness can be considered to be the antonyms.
Some studies have drawn parallels between Hope, optimism and faith. Optimism is an overall assumption that everything will turn out fine. However, Hope is more specific. When you Hope for something you make a claim, not in a passive mode but with a positive nostalgia to make it happen.
To make a tangible conclusion of all these attempts to define Hope I believe that it lays deep inside every one of us. It associates our present to our past and future. Hope for a human being is a rebellion against the myth of destiny. Hope is to desire for ingenuity, to stand up and go forward no matter what the odds are, to say YES to the challenges of life and never succumb in front of hardship. Hope is not a wish; it is a commitment to reach a certain goal in life.
Hope gives us the drive and motivation to create change. As Martin Luther said, "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope".
However there are arguments against this assumption which should be heard and answered.
One argument is that the absolute plea for something to happen, can lead to intentional overestimating the probability of it happening. Where sensible Hopes are a lift in our lives, false Hopes can lead to frustration, disenchantment and antipathy.
To conclude this chapter; every human being needs Hope and it's a MUST in our lives. However this Hope should have a perception, otherwise we will suffer from it. In my view the philosophy of Hope is to set realistic goals for our lives and make it a commitment towards our loved ones.
Hope and Hopelessness - Two paths, Two destinies
In this chapter I will tell you about the life of two of my best friends. One died last year because of cancer and the other is in good physical health, although still coping from the aftermath of a tragedy which occurred 20 years ago. Hope and hopelessness played a major role in both of their lives. I share their thoughts, their sorrows, their moments of happiness and their inner feelings with you, in order to prove to you that Hope is not a utopia; it's a commitment towards us, our family and the humanity.
Elizabeth 35, a mother of two sons, was a kind, intelligent, hardworking woman. She knew from the beginning that she was suffering from cancer but her closest friends never found out until she was finally admitted to hospital in her last days. She suffered great pain but believe me even I who knew her closely never realized this fact. She was all smile and care for others. She was full of energy and seemed tireless. I knew of her illness and she was aware of this fact too. However she only once or twice gave me the chance to talk with her about it. I just listened to her. She said it is my commitment to fight with my illness, because my life does not belong only to myself, it belongs to my family, and all those I love. I will fight with my cancer with the Hope of granting my love to my family, my friends, and my neighbors even for one day more. Doctors were amazed by her will and incredible courage. Her doctor told me privately that she has virtually prolonged her life for at least 3 years by fighting on and never losing Hope. These words from a scientifically minded doctor carry its own weight. Her Hope was not to cure her cancer because she knew well that it is in the stage of no return. Her Hope was a commitment towards her loved ones and she succeeded. In her burial ceremony I recalled her commitment to all those who had attended to pay their last respect, "I hope to live one more day to bestow my love to all those I have in my heart this is my commitment to them".
David 45 lives alone in his small flat. His ordeal is completely different to Elizabeth. However in essence it portrays Hope from a different angle. His partner 20 years ago died in a tragic accident. David for all these years has recalled every second of his relationship and the accident with lead to her death and up to now he has tormented himself of what happened. I don't want to dramatize the situation but I am searching for the roots of Hope on one hand and hopelessness on the other. 20 years is a long time but for David it is just like yesterday. He has decided to live in the past with no Hope for future. But he was faced with his own reality last week by my sister. A reality that he knew all along deep inside his mind and sole. I had invited him for dinner and as the coffee was being served my sister without any introduction looked at him and said you are a coward!! I was shocked at first, although I soon found out that she was exactly right. David just starred at her as she continued, "you are coward because you don't want to accept what you are. You have chosen to live in the past because you have found a safe haven there to distance yourself from the realities of life. You have lost hope in yourself, in us as your friends and towards Jane (his partner)".
The above stories although they are on two opposite sides of the spectrum but I think share a same essence. To define this spectrum the psychological definition put forward by Charles Richard - Snyder (1944-2006) covers it precisely; "HOPE is the WILL and the WAYS to achieve our goals". He means that by motivating ourselves we have the ability to develop a path to achieve our goals. So WAY is the plan of action and WILL is the motivation to make it happen.
Therefore people react differently to stress and traumas in life. One like Elizabeth endeavor to proceed forward and one like David succumb in front of the adversity. Hope and hopelessness are two distinctive human behaviors.
But the factor which is commonly unheeded by scientists is that Hope in the closed circle of an individual is a futile effort against the challenges and adversaries of life. Elizabeth earned her strength because she hoped to live longer to be able to bequeath her love and affection to people around her and not for her own self. While on the other hand as long as David feels sorrow for himself he would never pull out of his hopelessness.
Hope & Optimism
There has been much discussion between scientists on the definition of optimism and its difference to hope. Optimism can be defined as being assertive of the future. In general adopting an optimistic view of the world and life can be beneficial to an individual because they will experience more contentment and less anguish in life. When an optimist encounters a demanding situation, he can adjust accordingly because of his positive attitude. This may include humor, having the ability to notice the prospects, and not giving up in the face of hardships. With this definition you might say that there is no difference between the two (Hope & Optimism).
How not to lose Hope in life
I have read many articles listing all sorts of methods to stay hopeful when facing difficult situations. However I believe there are two underlying principals that guarantee our unwavering Hope in life.
First to be honest to ourselves, accepting our reality and secondly reaching out of ourselves for support and help.
Accepting the truth of ourselves:
By accepting your true self you are not in a constant dilemma of comparing yourself with others. You can step on firm ground and set goals which are realistically within your capabilities. Therefore you respect yourself and your unique abilities and values. This will induce hope and steadfastness in you to tackle the challenges in front of you. To put it more bluntly you stop being a clown and start being what you really are.
Reaching out for support, knowing that you are not alone
Hopelessness is the fruit of inward attitude towards the world around us. We are all unique individuals. However when these individuals join hands in a common Hope the cycle of change starts for us, our family and our community.
"In the hope of Santa Maria"