I assigned myself end of last year with the task to write about hope. With everything that 2022 had offered to me, to my loved ones, to anybody near and far I felt the call to share words of hope with this community.
Even in the year after the pandemic the wiggles and squiggles we, as a collective, were exposed to were nothing short of intensity, challenge, disorientation and disassociation. In short: when war rages on, Iranian protestors are murdered, extreme weather become the norm and humans with uteri are silenced in their medical choices it can’t really be a surprise that we lose our hope for times during which we may finally feel better. Or maybe even just a little lighter. To be honest, it might not sound very positive, but I keep on wondering, what are we going to do with all that dark now?
Today hardly anybody dares to say out loud ‘this year things will finally be better’. The little voice of doubt in our head will say ‘are you really sure? It surely didn’t work out that well last year…’
As our team was sitting together to form thoughts and ideas for this new year one word that spoke strongly through me was the word H-O-P-E.
I had this deep desire to be seen in my struggles, a longing for words that felt like they could lighten the load, messages that sparked joy and brought about tender and careful lightheartedness with the promise that these positive feelings are safe to have, that they can stick around and that we are deserving of them.
This year I want to see and read about fairy tales, about myths and wonders, not the ones with unrealistic expectations of love and light, or hard and hurtfully learned lessons, morals and lectures, but the ones where humans, animals and spirit beings simply made it through their challenges and struggles because they believed in something greater and bigger than what currently is.
And by expressing my desire to draw my attention towards a little magic I don’t mean to negate or bypass any of the individual and collective conversations we are currently cultivating in this world.
What is hope?
As I was contemplating the word ‘hope’ I find that what we like to associate with this word is often more the idea of a ‘wish’ or a ‘wanting’. Hope isn’t something positively sparkly, necessarily exciting or power-blasting-ly active, however, it carries a notion of trust and faith which in ancient days was the original meaning of the word hope. It refers to the aspect of faith that relates to what lies ahead of us.
Hope feels to me as if it carries a certain luminescence deep within, a glowing instead of a burning and a charge into a new chapter. And maybe that is about just enough to deal with all of that dark that enfolds us. One step at a time.
Hope can feel like a balm for those of us who regularly experience anxiety. It instantly makes us feel better in moments of heavy doubts and negative thoughts. The only issue here is that for someone prone to catastrophic thinking the idea of hope somewhat appears as flimsy. I may wish or hope for something, yet am also confronted with the other side of the coin - the deeper seated fear around ‘what if this isn’t going to come true?’
Words of hope
There are manifold angles and approaches to understanding hope.
Primatologist Jane Goodall said hope is a survival skill that “enables us to keep going in the face of adversity.”
Esther Perel describes hope as "the prayer that things will change, that our loved ones will be healthy, that this year will be better than the last, that we will finally be happy."
Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, recognized that hope is directly tied to meaning. Meaning is not only what keeps us going; it’s how we can help.
“Hope is the belief in the probability of the possible rather than the necessity of the probable.”, according to Marshall Ganz.
So what can we do to become more hopeful?
Perhaps we can focus on trust and faith instead of wanting and wishing. Perhaps we can create intentional action and trust in that without knowing the actual outcome of it and having no guarantee for it.
Perhaps we can be ok with not knowing exactly what we’re hoping for, but cultivate telling ourselves that it’s okay to take the leap of faith and trust the landing.
There is a saying in French that translates as ‘The appetite comes while eating.’ Through the doing comes the feeling, the clarity. It is in the behavior that we enact as a response what we will be feeling.
Active hope needs memory of having survived. Purposeful action absorbs our anxiety and diminishes our sense of helplessness. It is somewhat empowering. Hope knows that shit happens and despite it, it makes you want to continue to fight.
Here is an invitation to contemplate these thoughts. To set your intentions in the change you want to create. While we cannot control the outcome we can have a meaningful impact on the ones around us. Baby steps. Have the conversation about your hopes.
Hope sits on the top of keen awareness and the trials and tribulations of life. It doesn’t replace them. But here is where acceptance begins.
What are your ways to cultivate hope?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. Turning the view on you, here are a few questions to sit with:
What strategies help you to cultivate hopefulness?
What has made you feel hopeful in moments of darkness, loss, or grief?
Is there a person in your life who gives you hope? Do they know?
What’s a song that lifts your spirit?
Please share your hopes and thoughts in the comments with us. We’d really love to hear. After all, we are in this together and can learn from one another.