The Importance of Hope in Life and In Psychotherapy. Written by Dr Linda Berman Part 1.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”
Emily Dickinson

 

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“We must learn to live with finite disappointment, but we must never lose our infinite hope.”– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What makes hope so important? Where would we be without it?

 

Hope is about potential, possibilities, aspirations. It represents promise and a chance of success and thus it keeps us going in dark times.

It can give us strength where there is danger or when there is a risk of things going wrong.

Without hope, we may feel utterly depressed, desperate, perhaps suicidal.

Hope is often the antidote to despair.

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Hope in a prison of despair. Evelyn de Morgan. Wikimedia Commons.

Oft hope is born when all is forlorn“. Tolkien

 

The Promise of New Life.

When green shoots appear and new growth is about to burst forth, we associate this with the hope of increased creativity and renewal.

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“A new baby is like the beginning of all things – wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities. ” – Eda J. Leshan

With each human conception, with each newborn, there is hope. Despite the potential dangers along the way, hope most often carries us through.

image.pngGustav Klimt Hope I  Wikimedia Commons.

imageGustav Klimt Hope II  Wikimedia Commons.

Klimt: “His bold portrayal of pregnancy contravened standards of propriety in turn-of-the-century Vienna, forcing the withdrawal of the painting from his first Secession retrospective. In this richly symbolic painting, Klimt juxtaposes the promise of new life with the destructive forces of death. Despite the monstrosities around her, the pregnant woman remains calm and unperturbed, confident of the renewal within her faith hope and charity.”

Hope in Psychotherapy. 

“The difference between hope and despair is a different way of telling stories from the same facts.” Alain de Botton.

Hope plays a very important part in psychotherapy. The experience, training, quiet confidence and professionalism of the therapist can inspire in patients a hope of being helped towards healing.

Such a sense of hope motivates the psychotherapy patient to carry on, hopefully, with what is a difficult journey into the self.

A patient may find that they lack hope in a way that might not reflect the reality of their current situation. Perhaps it might actually originate in past experiences of being let down, of loss, of helplessness and isolation.

If the someone seems stuck in this pattern of hopelessness, when appropriate, the therapist might ‘lend the patient their ego.’ In this way the patient can ‘borrow’ hope from the therapist, until the therapy process enables a less pessimistic outlook.

I think that this is a kind of containment, a gentle protection, with the therapy becoming a kind of ‘safe house’ of hopefulness.

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The meaning of the  word hope in this context has nothing to do with empty reassurance or false promises. This is not about overly positive thinking or manufactured optimism. It does not involve the fictitiously comforting illusion that ‘everything will be all right’; it would be unethical for a psychotherapist to propound such ideas.

It is about helping the patient to explore what their sense of hopelessness might be about and, perhaps, to see things differently, to reframe issues that have felt stuck and unchangeable. It is about empowering the patient to think in a way that does not always expect a miserable outcome.

Paradoxically, sometimes therapy might help a patient ‘lose’ hope.

What does this mean?

Sometimes, people cling onto impossible hopes, dreams and beliefs as a way of coping with experiences of mistreatment or abuse. However, such hopes may be unrealistic and maintaining them can be detrimental to health and wellbeing.

For example, when a patient I was seeing, whom I shall call Jo, was able to let go of the desperate hope that her ageing and rather authoritarian father would one day soften and be able to listen to her views, she became freer and less burdened by hopeless wishes.

Previously she had idealistic notions of the possibility of a fairytale outcome, perhaps a confession or deathbed admission (there was none…he died in her last months of therapy.) Her idealism had developed as a psychological defence because what she had experienced had been so painful.

“… sooner or later she had to give up the hope for a better past.”
Irvin D. Yalom

Somehow she could let go of an aspect of herself that had been clinging to the unattainable, and not just in relation to her father. An awareness of this led to a greater feeling of self-confidence, in that she could now differentiate between unreal and real hopes and expectations.

“Confidence is the present tense of hope. ” Søren Kierkegaard

Jo had been generalising from the relationship with her father, resulting in unrealistic expectations all round. This made her relationships problematic.

Psychotherapy helped her to identify what was possible and viable and to adjust her approach. She developed a more reasonable, less idealistic sense of hope.

I end this post with a telling- and important- quote, which underlines the fact that hope needs to be realistic:

“Hope is a passion for the possible.” Søren Kierkegaard

Part 2 of this post will be published in January 2020.

Next week’s post is about the concept of Giving.

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“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

See you soon on waysofthinking.co.uk. ❤️ Linda.

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6 comments

  1. Thankyou, this post has come at a vulnerable time for me and has prised open my eyes to see what’s really going on in my failing marriage, I will take these themes to psychotherapy this week to discuss but I will remember to not lose hope …..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading your post Linda. I like that you mentioned how important it is to help clients let go of hope sometimes. We can all get stuck in hoping and waiting for something to change when it just isn’t ever going to happen.
    Giving up hope may be the first step in moving on in life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very helpful! Interestingly it has taken the recent physical pain of a dislocated false hip to force me to really accept many every day ordinary discomforts & unrealised dreams. Whilst remaining sad about the situation, it has also helped me accept the very unlikely senario of our youngest son, estranged from us for 6 years after a breakdown, ever making contact with us again. I am content to know he has found love and is leading a creative life. That is the gold that covers the cracks, and I can re-zone my love for him towards others who need it.

    Like

    • So pleased you liked the post, Diana. What you’ve experienced sounds really painful and you’ve obviously found the strength and the ‘gold’ to deal with it all. You sound like a most caring person and it must have been so hard to accept the situation with your son. I’m glad you have found ‘strength in the broken places’ and I wish you well for the future. Linda. 🌼

      Like

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