Does Hope Have a Downside?

Does Hope Have a Downside?

Hope, Action and Goal Achievement

As we have seen, a recurring theme in studies about maintaining hope is that hope is attached to goals and people need to have some belief that they can attain their goals. They need to be attached to the future outcome they desire and see some way to eventually reach that outcome. (Less study has been done on the maintenance of hope when people feel little control over outcomes.) To achieve any of our goals, whether they are for our individual lives or on a societal level, I believe we need the right “dosage” of hope coupled with action to temper the effects of hope. Perhaps we even need the right kind of hope. Not all hope is the same. There is hope with and without expectations, as well as realistic and unrealistic hope. John G. Messerly, PhD who was a faculty member of both the philosophy and computer science departments at the University of Texas at Austin said, “For instance, when confronted by the reality of the concentrations camps, Viktor Frankl didn’t hope to dig his way out of his prison. That wasn’t possible. Instead, he hoped that the war would end and he might be freed. That was realistic. Thus the difference between false and realistic hope. The former is delusional, the latter worthwhile. Sometimes only fools keep believing; sometimes you should stop believing. False hopes prolong misery” (Messerly, 2017).

Some people see a place for hope in our lives as long as we keep our hopes realistic. Perhaps a downside of hope is when things don’t work out the way we hoped while our expectations were high. There can also be a downside to low expectations. Hopelessness can induce the expectancy of negative outcomes and a bleak future resulting in sadness (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989). Guillebeau offers a compromise in order to keep hoping in check. “You can also hope for miracles. You can keep your hopes inside you, safe from harm, and bring them to mind whenever you’d like. Because if you hope for something without expecting it, you won’t be devastated when time goes by and it doesn’t happen, but you still hold space for it in your heart. This choice, all by itself, has value” (Guillebeau, 2019).

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About the Author

Mary McFaddenMary has lived in the Sacramento, California area her entire life. Her undergraduate degrees were in Journalism and Music. Upon graduation she worked for small regional newspapers which launched her career in Sacramento’s city government. She worked several years as an aide to a city councilmember, then moved to the Sacramento Police Department where she worked for over 20 years. Mary worked in a unit providing community policing training to law enforcement throughout California and participated in several curriculum development meetings with the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. She then went on to be a creator and editor for many years of the Police Department’s publications, annual reports and website. While working for the City Council, Mary received her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from The Professional School of Psychology (PSP). She is currently pursuing her Doctorate degree at PSP. Mary’s husband is also a graduate of PSP and they have two grown children. Her education in psychology has been an invaluable part of her professional and private life.

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