- Do YOU Suffer from a Dis-Ease Called Hope?
15th July 2012
Once upon a time there was a little baby bear who lived in the woods. One day, while out playing, he ran into two badgers. He wanted to play with the badgers but they didn’t want to play with him. They wanted to fight. And they did. They bullied the little baby bear every day for a week. Then, one day, the badgers stopped coming. He never saw another badger for the rest of his life.
That little baby bear grew up and eventually had his own little baby bear. And the first thing he taught his own baby bear was how evil, wicked and violent badgers were. And so that little baby bear grew fearful of badgers and he hoped he would never meet one. Even daddy bear, remembering his fights with the badgers when he was little, would say, “I hope you never meet a badger, those scoundrels, those horrible creatures, I’ll never forget them”.
For years, as baby bear grew up and roamed the forest, at least once a day he would have the thought, “I hope I don’t ever meet a badger, I hope I have a badger free day today.” And as he thought hopefully so he feared the badger. Then, one fateful day, he encountered three badgers. They came suddenly out of the bushes laughing and joking with each other. The bear stopped in his tracks, paralysed by the sight of the badgers. His one and only thought was “Oh no! BADGERS!” The moment the badgers saw him they stopped laughing. They also stood absolutely still as if paralysed. Then, howling in fear, they scampered back into the bushes.
Now the bear was surprised at this. But it only took a few moments to realise why. He was in fact five times bigger than the badgers. He was a giant in the badgers eyes. From that day on he never feared badgers again. He never once ‘hoped’ he would not meet a badger.
And the moral of the story? To live in hope is to live in fear. Hope is often just an attempt to put a positive spin on worry!
Living in Hope
Hoping for something to happen is also a great to way to avoid DOING something to ‘make’ things happen or not happen. Leading sports people, business people, career people, family raising people, don’t sit around hoping for the best, they get up and create the best. They make the best happen because the know they can. And that’s probably the key phrase; know they can. Could that be why so many decide hope is enough? They live in hope because they don’t yet KNOW that they can. At best they have learned to doubt themselves and at worst they have learned to believe that they can’t! The bear had learned to believe badgers were bigger and stronger so the foundation of his hope was ignorance. And ignorance begets fear. As soon as he realised he was much bigger and stronger hope became irrelevant. Ignorance was dispelled.
Hope says that one day I MAY be able. But as long as we just ‘live in hope’ it’s unlikely that day will come. And if it does it’s likely to be too late! Somewhere in between are those who are not sure if they can, but they are not prepared to take the risk (fear) to either find out if they can, or begin learning ‘how to’ become able. Perhaps we have all known that state at some time.
Hoping for something better than now!
Why do we live in hope. Why do we think and say that we have high hopes? Why do we hope for a brighter future? Because we don’t like the way people are and/or the way circumstances are right now. We are afraid that the way people/circumstances are now may continue. We are in a state of resistance to the circumstances that we find our self in today. So we hope for a better tomorrow. But hope makes us lazy. It’s easier to hope than actually do something now that may create the tomorrow that we say we want. So hope becomes a comfort zone that is easy to slip into. Only our own actions can create a way out, a way beyond hope, a way beyond the paralysing effect of fear that always underlies hoping.
Either that or we can learn to simply accept the way things are right now, not in helpless surrender, but from the wisdom that reminds us that acceptance of the way things are in the present is the first step in invoking and influencing change in the future.
Hoping something bad won’t happen in the future
Otherwise known as worry! Worry is simply the fear of losing something in the future that we are comfortable with (i.e. attached to) now. We create an imagined future in which that comfort is lost. For this mental process we have plenty of raw material from which to shape ideas and images of our imagined catastrophes, and thereby frighten ourselves into a paralysis that prevents action. Much of that material comes from our news and entertainment industries who are always on hand to feed us with the latest darkest events with a pessimistic outlook thrown in!
Hoping we will get what we want... eventually!
Just as hoping that something bad won’t happen is really fear masquerading as hope, so waiting to get exactly what we want is usually desire masquerading as hope. However it’s not easy to see that all desire is just a way of delaying our happiness! This comes from the belief that it’s only when we get what we want that we can be truly happy. Hoping means that at best we are living for tomorrow today, which is not really living but more like avoiding life. At worst we are trying to live in the future itself, which is insane because it’s impossible.
So are there ever moments when hope has a place, a value. Are there times when hope adds strength? Sometimes we hear or read real life stories of those stranded in impossible and apparently hopeless situations. Perhaps waiting to be rescued at sea or on a mountain. Then they often say, “It was hope that kept us alive”. But in such situations hope is usually that absolutely final thought that arises after all other possibilities of escape or survival have been exhausted. It momentarily assuages feelings of helplessness.
It reminds us all to ask the question whenever we find our self saying or even thinking, “I hope...”, have we truly exhausted all possible ways to create a way forward. Have we explored all possible perspectives and perceptions which may allow us to find a different meaning than the one that is triggering our feelings of hopelessness.
And then there are those moments when we say to the other, “I have high hopes for you’. It sounds eminently positive and yet, when decoded, it usually means high expectations which usually means desire. We witness this each year in the arena sport when we have collective ‘high hopes’ for our sporting heroes. And when they don’t live up to our hopes we find ourselves suffering emotionally. Our hopes are dashed by their failure which means we are living vicariously and once again missing our own life!
So what then of hopelessness?
Helplessness is the feeling that arises from the belief that the situation is not going to get any better and is likely to get much worse, if not fatal. It is the belief that there is nothing we can do to affect change. “It’s hopeless”, is often what we feel and say when we describe our self at our ‘wits end’. It’s the moment we decide to ‘give up’ on our self or give up on the ‘other’ or on the situation.
Sometimes these thoughts and feelings are entirely appropriate. They are not a sign of a spiral downwards but a liberation. It’s usually when giving up really means ‘letting go’ in relation to some situation or indeed relationship e.g. “It was hopeless so I gave up trying to convince them or make them do what I wanted” or “It was a hopeless endeavour so I let go of the idea of making a million by the end of next month”. In such contexts while there may be a sense of loss it’s outweighed by a sense of freedom from a self imposed pressure.
In the Depths of Hopelessness
But many people do experience a deep and mysterious hopelessness, not in specific situations but in relation to life and living in general. It can be one of the main symptoms of depression. In such instances it is signaling an absence of well being, it’s a feeling of heaviness accompanied by a complete lack of enthusiasm for anything. Described by many as staring into a dark abyss it’s as if there is here is a huge gaping whole in the soul.
However like all forms of suffering it is a signal something needs to change, not within the world, but within the self. That something is ‘always’ to do with self awareness or self understanding. To free ones self from deep feelings of hopelessness is to free our self from our dependency on others or the world for our sense of well being. Being well starts not with our bodies but with our mind and heart. Not the heart of our body but the heart of our being. The feelings of hopelessness arise because we lose sight of the unlimited creative power that we have and that we are. We become ignorant of the extraordinary beauty that we have and that we are...on the inside. We have lost the awareness that we are the masters of our destiny.
So the opposite of hopelessness, or the cure for hopelessness, is not hope but the realisation we are free spirits, tied to nothing and no one, dependent on nothing and no one; that we are not only able to create our own destiny but, in truth, it’s what we are here to do. The moment we start to translate that realisation into action hopelessness starts to fade, and hope is known for what it is, a false sense of strength. The ultimate cure for hopelessness is the realisation that nothing can overwhelm us, there is nothing that we cannot face and deal with, nothing that we cannot do. That we are not the baby bear (small and overwhelmed) but the fully grown bear who is much bigger than all the badgers in the forest. We are all bigger than any situation or circumstance that we have to face. Hence the ancient wisdom in the saying, “You will never be asked by life to face anything that you do not have the capacity to handle”. It’s just that sometimes our capacity is unrealised and life throws us the opportunity to rediscover it.
And so hope and hopelessness are both dis-eases of consciousness. They are symptoms of deeper underlying disease known as ignorance. An ignorance of our self. They are signs that we are living in a ‘unrealised state’ i.e. we don’t know how powerful we are! Feelings of hopefulness and hopelessness are both saying. “It’s time to become more self aware”. Wake up to your capacity, your power, your intrinsic greatness. With the guidance of someone who knows this ‘inner territory’ it’s possible to induce the insights and self knowledge that restores our inner strength to our spiritual muscles!
Then hope is known and used for what it is, a temporary relief from hopelessness, the lesser of two dis-eases, and perhaps a platform from which to spring forth into new action, into a new life.
Question: For what do you hope for your self, for others and for the world?
Reflection: Why do you hope for what you hope?
Action: What can you DO that will free you from needing to be hopeful or from feeling hopeless?
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