The Myth of Hope

The words fit to fill, and fill perfectly. It’ll get better. Better, the light at the end of the tunnel, the holding hope of greener grasses that so many positively assure us as we face struggle and illness. It’s the appropriate response, it’s the expected response, but is it the right response? When does gleeful wishing cross the line of ignorant naivety. Scientific literature has scripted this things-are-always-brighter narrative which has taken stake of social discussion around illness. It’ll get better, a largely bullshit line shoveled like manure with the hope that it would fertilize a ripe ground for green pastures. Yes, it might sprout, but for the most part it is just a huge pile of shit. And that is the myth of hope.

Optimism is valid when there is optimism to be had.

A promising medicine, a stretch of good days amidst a bad draught, a connection with a renowned therapist. Optimism is valid when there is optimism to be had. When positive things happen, a positive response is natural, and beneficial. It contributes to this momentum of moving forward toward the brazened mountaintop of better. But too many of us paint this optimistic picture with a thick brush across all scenarios without being realistic about the situation. It is when we become ungrounded in reality that hope becomes dangerous.

In an article discussing this phenomena of over positivity, Julie Norem, PhD, a professor of psychology at Wellesley College, discusses that thinking negatively breaks overwhelming problems into digestible bits. “These tiny pieces feel more manageable, which can help people put their energy into working to prevent the bad things they’ve imagines from actually happening,” she says.

Being realistic in the face of illness is the only steadfast mentality you should take. It is when you are most in tune with a situation when you can process what’s happening accordingly and from that act effectively. The myth of hope is the inflation and cure-esque rhetoric we surround the word with. Poof! Like the wave of a wand and a dash of hope will make the problem disappear. Saying it’ll get better, doesn’t assure that things will get better. What’s better is saying how it is and finding ways from that point to try and strategize a way towards actually being better. Not just blindly pointing and ignorantly grasping at this anomaly of hope.

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