Hope is what you use to sweeten reality, I once heard a woman say. She was speaking of false hope, the artificial sweetener we reach for when we’re not yet ready to accept What Is.
But there is also objective hope, which is the real possibility that something right can happen. Even when we feel hopeless, there is still objective hope.
This is important because there are a lot of people who feel deeply hopeless at times. This hopelessness is very much a subjective state. It is an internal snapshot taken at a particular moment of time that got stored in our system and gets activated when circumstances remind us of that time. It’s very hard for people caught in hopelessness to recognize that they are looking through a filter.
This subjective hopelessness needs to be replaced by objective hope, which can come with a discriminating awareness of what is possible. Sometimes we need to clear away the rubbish for this awareness to operate. Cognitive therapy and the Work of Byron Katie help people puncture some of their negative expectations and open to new perspectives. This is helpful.
It is well-known that it is helpful psychologically for people to feel hope. It has been found to help people with terminal illnesses move back toward life (see Lawrence LeShan’s Cancer as Turning Point) and it helps us take actions that lead to the achievement of our dreams.
Hope can also come as a result of spiritual work. This hope comes as you recognize that you’ve been protected and taken care of (even though some horrendous things may have happened to you). It comes with experiences of feeling the Love that makes everything and of that Love loving you.
In her poem, “Hope,” Emily Dickenson writes, “Hope is the thing with feathers/
That perches in the soul.”
I’m going to go a little beyond what the poet may have been thinking and suggest that hope can even be one of the qualities of our essence, part of our soul’s nature. Like other qualities of essence, it is not always operating because it covered over, in this case by things like an underlying sense of futility and earlier experiences of helplessness. Yet it is there, nonetheless, waiting for us to free it.
What can you do to free hope today? Can you recognize filters that are influencing your perception? You might use journaling as a tool to open up objective hope by naming obvious but usually unseen reasons that things are hopeful.