Hope doesn’t seem to be a word we use much anymore – at least I haven’t used it much and I don’t hear others using it. I hear my clients sometimes lacking hope or not being able to find hope, and I myself have recently been on a struggle to find hope. What is hope anyway? Is it wishful thinking? Magical thinking?
Wikipedia says the following: “Hope is the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. The term false hope refers to a hope based entirely around a fantasy or an extremely unlikely outcome.”
So hope is a belief process. To me it is a faith process and many people no longer have a sense of faith or trust in their lives. What do we put our faith in? What do you trust will help you get where you want to go? If we don’t have trust or faith, even in ourselves, then it will be difficult to have hope. But maybe hope itself can strengthen one’s faith and trust in themselves and the world. What if you were to just decide to have hope in a positive outcome? Actually, I find it interesting that the definition in Wikipedia states “belief in a positive outcome.” Maybe that is where people lose hope, in that the outcome must always be positive. We certainly know that not all outcomes are “positive” but that does not have to mean it was not what we needed or what is helping us grow. Maybe hope is the belief that the process you are in is the one you need to be in. I do think at some point there is a positive outcome, but always setting our eyes on the positive instead of the content might be tripping us up.
I believe hope can be both a cause and a symptom to things like depression and anxiety. When we are depressed, we often find it hard to have hope. When we are anxious we are no longer having faith that things will work out – we hyper-vigilantly try to control everything. There is no trust, faith, or hope in that. Does depression cause a lack of hope or does a lack of hope cause depression? Depression and anxiety can often both be results of disconnection and when we are disconnected from our loved ones, the world, and ourselves it is hard to have hope.
There needs to be something that grounds our hope. We need to have grounding aspects to our lives, things that make us feel safe and secure, things that make us feel valued, loved, and appreciated, things that make us feel productive – something that helps give us a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. If we are not grounded in purpose and meaning it will be difficult to have hope. It will be like a floating feather, untethered and directionless, unsure of where it is going. We do not need certainty of where we are going in order to have hope, but if we are completely disconnected from ourselves, our important relationships, and our deeper purpose, then we have no sense of any direction whatsoever and that is hopeless.
How can you return to a place of feeling grounded? What grounds you? How might you begin a journey to finding a grounding place? How might you be able to start having small glimpses of hope along the way? I believe hope is a long lost human characteristic that needs to be revived. I think we’ve given up on hope because we have all bought into the idea that we can solely, all by ourselves, make us happy, and when that fails we give up on hope. Happiness is not within our complete control, but comes with letting go, trusting, and having hope in a “positive” outcome, while consciously and responsibly living our lives.