Reflections of the importance of hope are found in religion, philosophy, literature and current inspirational thinking.
- God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us in the dreariest and most dreaded moments can see a possibility of hope. ~Maya Angelou
- There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope. ~Baruch Spinoza
- Hope never abandons you, you abandon it. ~George Weinberg
- Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. ~Christopher Reeves
Hope is broadly defined as an emotional state that promotes the belief in a positive outcome. Clearly we need hope, but even as we embrace it we often wonder – Does hope really make a difference? Is it myth, fiction, collective denial?
In my clinical experience with people over many years, hope seems to be an important ingredient in the equation of life, adversity, fear, and the courage to keep on moving – even on a journey of fear and illness with no clear beginning or end.
There is actually increasing scientific evidence that hope changes us psychologically and physiologically – that it makes a difference.
The Psychology of Hope
In his book, The Psychology of Hope, You Can Get There from Here, Charles Synder operationalizes the definition of hope as “The sum of the mental willpower and the waypower that you have for your goals.”
- A study used the Synder Hope Scale to assess hope in a group of 146 veterans diagnosed with PTSD who were enrolled in a 6-week residential cognitive processing treatment program. The Hope Scale assessed the sense of agency i.e. “ I can pursue my goals” and the belief in pathways i.e. “There are a lot of ways around my problem.” When a vet had the sense that he/she could do it and could find pathways there was more hope, more movement and as a result – there was reduced PTSD and depression.
- As we face this Corona Virus Epidemic, having a sense of agency that allows you to feel you can made social-distancing work, that you can work from home while children need your time, that you can manage to be alone with a new project or book – you will actually foster the hope that you can somehow get through this unimaginable time.
- Hope and believing you can find a way are bidirectional- they fuel each other.
From Psychology to Economy –The Gift of Hope
Nicolas Kristoff, recently described a randomized study involving 21,000 people in six countries over three years. The study recognized that people trapped in a cycle of poverty suffer a poverty of despair, low self-esteem and hopelessness. As such, they don’t believe they can change their lives through their own activities.
The power of the study is the surprising finding that when people are given a gift of hope– be it a goat or bees, they experience a boost of self-esteem and life circumstances that is self-fulfilling and continues even after the program ends. According to Kristoff, the researchers described it as “ the power of hope.”
The Physiology of Hope
In his book, The Anatomy of Hope, Jerome Groopman asks and answers the question of whether there is a biological mechanism whereby the feeling of hope can contribute to clinical recovery.
Drawing upon his experience as an oncologist, Groopman says “To hope under the most extreme circumstances is an act of defiance that…permits a person to live his life on his own terms.”
- Citing research findings from placebo studies in varying medical areas, Groopman illuminates the way in which belief and expectation, cardinal components of hope, can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphin and enkephalins – the body’s own version of morphine.
- Groopman reminds us that it often takes only a small stirring of possibility to confront despair and elicit the power of hope.
How Can We Hold On To Hope?
An important factor that is vital to holding on to hope is the power of connection. In this time of the Corona Virus it could be the call we make to a friend, the cookies a Dad makes for his kids, the FaceTime with a friend or colleague, the letter to grandma that stirs the feelings of hope
Holocaust Survivor, Elie Wiesel tells us, “…Just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.”
Hope does not dispel all pain, take away all sorrow, cure all illness; but it gives us the courage to keep working, praying, connecting and believing that we will get through this pandemic.
It is part of the human spirit to endure and give a miracle a chance.
– Jerome Groopman
Listen in to one of many podcasts on Psych Up Live – Here is the list on Itunes – Please Enjoy -Suzanne