Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. Desmond Tutu
When I was younger, I thought hope was another word for denial. It was bullshit to hope for something, why not just accept it? The world is terrible- it’s better to keep your expectations low rather than have it dashed. Nihilism was the sexy, cool bad boy and Hope was the sweet, weird dude that often got friend zoned.
I had this mindset for a long time, until the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. I went through shock, denial, and anger until I realized that staying stuck in these uncomfortable emotions wasn’t going to help me. Despairing wasn’t going to change the outcome, and it wasn’t getting me out of my funk.
I decided to try hope.
According to a blog post by Scott Barry Kaufman, the scientific director of The Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, “Hope is not just a feel-good emotion, but a dynamic cognitive motivational system. Under this conceptualization of hope, emotions follow cognitions, not the other way round. Hope-related cognitions are important. Hope leads to learning goals, which are conducive to growth and improvement.” His words made me think of optimism and how it pushes people to focus on the good things that happen rather than dwell on the negative. Also, how seeing the good in the mess of a situation can push us to our potential, no matter how painful and traumatic.
Kaufman also adds, ” Those lacking hope, on the other hand, tend to adopt mastery goals. People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless, and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope.” I resonated with these statements because looking back in my past, my lack of hope led me to resentment and veering towards “safe” situations that made me unhappy in the end.
Charles R. Snyder, the world renowned positive psychologist, and his colleagues developed the Hope Theory. They defined hope as the “perceived capability to (1) derive pathways to desired goals and (2) motivate oneself via agentic thinking to initiate and sustain movement along those pathways.” In layman terms, hope involves the belief to achieve goals and the plans on getting there.
Encouraging and maintaining hope plays a significant role in successful therapy because individuals are challenged to perceive problems in a different light and to develop strategies to overcome them.
Not only is hope useful in therapy, but it’s also an essential survival life tool. Without hope, nothing would get done. There wouldn’t be scientists, teachers, artists, and other innovators that inspire and create materials to make society function.
In regards to election results, hope has helped me change my perception. Rather than looking at the results as something where the U.S. is doomed, I decided to look at it as something the country needed. Needed in the sense that it lit the fire in me and many others to fight for issues that are important, such as women’s rights, education, and reproductive rights.
On my social media feed, hope has inspired people to post ways on how to influence their local, state, and the federal government. It inspired me to call my representatives, something that I’ve never done before.
Despair limited me, but hope energized me.
I love you,
Photo Courtesy By: Clight92 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons