Hope must be qualified to be useful

I was reading a columnist in the Guardian earlier today and she made me smile because she had nothing but contempt for an article I’d read last week about how thinking like a Norwegian could help us get through this long dark Coronavirus winter, an article which had inspired hope in me.

Now we must “think like a Norwegian” in a bid to feel better about the cold and dark nights ahead. But what the hell does that mean? Become a smug, bourgeois alcoholic who lives in the dark and wears one of those horrible duvet coats? Suzanne Moore https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/06/there-are-dark-times-ahead-we-have-only-one-weapon-hope

Which is fine, or course, because we’re all going to react differently to things. But it made me start thinking about hope.

Because for me hope can be a harbinger of disaster, when you blindly hope things will get better. For no other reason than you ‘hope so.’

My Mum used to say ‘I hope and pray’ in the face of disaster, ( we grew up in 1970’s and 80’s Northern Ireland, there were a lot of local disasters), even when the worst had already happened as though somehow just saying those words could avert or somehow undo tragedy.

It made me very sceptical about hope and prayer.

And it’s blind optimism, the stuff that tells us tomorrow is another day and that day will be mine and everything is going to work out and I just have to hold on.

Unqualified hope can’t be trusted.

Now, I fully believe that tomorrow is another day, everything is going to work out for the best and I just have to hold on.

But, I also believe that I have to do all I can with what I’ve got to move forward and help everything work out.

Realistic optimism, which is something I practice, is where you take stock of your situation, you acknowledge where you are at, no dressing it up or pretending it’s better than it is. And then you start from there and do all you can to make things better, and that includes dreaming about better times to come, thinking about the ideal life you aspire to live being the best ever version of you and having faith – hope – that it’s coming into reality for you.

Qualified hope is something I can have faith and trust in.

It’s like starting a diet. You have to know just how out of shape you are to know what tactics you need to use to make the changes in your eating habits to regain/gain the body you want. There’s no point in a fasting regimen if you only want to lose a few pounds and equally if there’s a mighty weight to be released from your body, you need long term, less food, more exercise strategies that protect your health.

The most stirring example of realistic optimism is probably Victor Frankl’s attitude to surviving the Nazi concentration camps. He fully acknowledged the horrors around him, he wasn’t expecting rescue that day or the next, instead he looked to survive for as long as it took for rescue to arrive, acknowledging it might never come. whilst keeping his mental and emotional state intact.

So for me, hope can also be the chink of light in the vast darkness of overwhelming misery and horror.

Like anything, hope has to be used wisely and in qualified amounts.

Sometimes, you’ll need more. When your circumstances feel overwhelmingly grim, spending an hour or a whole afternoon dreaming of the life you want to live is perfectly reasonable to me. Thoughts start the process of taking action.

You have to get into that inspired space in your thoughts first, and then you’ll get the nudges to take inspired action. And each action you take, takes you closer so long as you stay in alignment with your inspiration.

When you’re actively making progress and facing an obstacle or two, just a few minutes of a reminder of the outcome you’re working towards can be enough hope to inspire you to keep going.

We’re going to need hope for Spring 2021, hope for a slowing down of Covid 19 contagion, for fair and equitable treatment from our governments for those adversely affected by the pandemic and by lockdown, for a global response to a global pandemic to help our fellow human beings all survive and thrive going forwards.

Hope that finally our natural world, our only home, Earth, gets recognised as being more valuable than short term financial gains for corporations and billionaires and treated as such.

And that hope must be aligned with our efforts, not merely the physical but in thought and emotion. Hope aligned with thought, word and deed. That changes our outcomes. Focus and attention combined with hope and dreams can change everything.

This winter, in some ways, and certainly for personal survival and well being, it’s important to not look too far ahead, not even to December, or even November. We will get through this the same way we get through everything, one day, sometimes one moment at a time.

On a global scale, maybe it time to start thinking big and making plans. What can you contribute? Reach out for guidance and even join organisations that are already making a difference and want to do more.

So be optimistic, stay hopeful. We can all make amazing, seemingly impossible things happen, but even the impossible starts from being grounded in reality.

From there, dreams can take wings.

As Suzanne Moore concluded ‘Admitting vulnerability takes strength, not weakness. This is the place from which we derive not false optimism, but possibility. Even as the nights draw in, there is a smidgeon of hope.’


Cynthia xx

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