I think that hope has two aspects. This is not about its opposite of hopelessness which conjures up despair and defeatedness, something nobody wants to get stuck in. The point of this is to explore how hope has positive and negative aspects, and to argue that the negative aspect of hope is not challenged enough in the way we generally think about it. It is generally assumed to be wholly a “good” thing, when in fact many of the consequences of hope are not helpful to the possibility of finding our happiness and freedom.
“Religion as the opium of the people” is in this category, and this is one form of the many “spiritual” or “wellness” or “growth” promises that operate effectively on the same level as lotteries and indeed all forms of gambling. Here the present is tolerated by projecting or imagining ourselves into a better future. We abdicate our self-responsibility into some anticipated future, and in doing so we avoid facing ourselves, facing our “what is” here and now. We instead slip into fantasy of what we “hope” will be. These fantasies move us further away from our deepest desire, which is as I understand it, is, simply to “be”, here and now.
I recently noticed how scary it is live without hope, to meet life in this moment without the old familiar crutch of hope. “But” I hear someone say, “it is all very well from your place of privilege and comfort to talk about living without hope, try doing that from a place of real deprivation!”. BBC news had an item today headed “Crippling debt ‘linked to depression’”, which of course it is, depression is largely about defeatedness. It is important though to remember here that, as Victor Frankl and Edith Eger attest wonderfully to, we always do have choice about how we are, about how we respond to any situation. To find the energy and creativity required to find our way out of seemingly dead-end impossible situations requires hope. The lack of it keeps us trapped in “victim mode” defeated and helpless. I see that we are all victims, there is no respect for any boundaries of class or wealth, and we are all struggling to find our way out.
So, it seems to me that there are two meanings to “hope”, one is about hope as projection, an expectation and fantasy about how things will be better, the “optimists” default stance. The other meaning is about hope as a deeper more general trust in life? I was pleased to find this confirmed by the OED definitions of “hope” as having two meanings, “1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. 2. (archaic) A feeling of trust.”
This helps to understand how the process of therapy brings hope in this second sense of trust. As we get know ourselves and understand that we are not “mad” and or “bad” and that we are a developmental process in which have some agency, however small, we can start to trust in life again, we regain some hope in this sense of trust, that there is goodness and creativity deeply embedded in life.
Hope in the first projective sense can obviously be a normal part of life, where it relates to realistic expectations about something good that is going to happen, but it can also be a trap that leads us into living in fantasy land, where we avoid the reality of our here and now situation and our responsibility for bringing our own creativity and solutions into play. It is possible, as many have shown, to live fully in the here and now, and just hoping for this, does not enable it to happen.