The Psychology of Hope Part III. Mourning and Fulfillment

David Krueger MD

We have to believe in order to see.  In the story, “Farrell’s Caddie”, John Updike wrote of Sandy, the Scottish caddie: “Sandy consistently handed Farrell one club too short to make the green.  His caddie was handing the club to the stronger golfer latent in Farrell, and it was Farrell’s job to let this superior performer out, to release him from his stiff, soft, more than middle-aged body.”

In its transformation to present context, hope’s illusions—viewed through rose-colored glasses—and nostalgia’s memories—airbrushed and backlit by retrospective idealization—must be mourned.  This chimney sweeping may recover lost love and balance remembered hate, to awaken an original hope not ensnared by illusion or obstacle, the antithesis of both fantasy and dread. The risk and vulnerability to make use of a significant other in one’s life to resume developmental growth becomes hope personified.  Hope can be recognized and awakened in a current context. Hope must be freed from limiting assumptions and compromised relational patterns of earlier times.

Barbara, at age 43, was hitting her business stride as her company had just gone public.  We had worked together in preparation for this event.  Yet Barbara felt a glass ceiling on the enjoyment of her good fortune.  She recognized that feeling good made her anxious and uneasy, the trepidation of being in new territory, devoid of familiar landmarks.  In examining her immediate experience, she acknowledged that her current anxiety felt different, more expectant, even exciting.  She recognized that she had been interpreting the new anxiety in an old way, assuming it meant that danger was imminent.  New wine into an old bottle.  A new model for her experience of enjoyment recognized anxiety as an affirmation that she was beyond the familiar. And that when she stopped her excitement, it reinstated her usual state of mind.  If she felt “too good too long” she engineered a “take-away” to reinstate the familiar.

She added another dimension: “I recognize that you’ve been optimistic and hopeful for me at times when I couldn’t see it at all.  I’ve needed you not just to empathize with me, but to stick up for that part of me that was not coming through—or that I didn’t even know yet.”

To remember by repeating disallows forgetting.  Memories are the evidence of being able to forget, emblem of where we no longer reside. (We use memories in order to forget).  Innate hope, developmentally unfrozen and currently embraced, moves to a present context.

Hope devises many designs.  A truly intimate relationship personifies both hope as well as purpose.  It is a partner dance, the co-constructed mix of two real people, handing each other their souls, their best feelings, with the expectation that each will give it back, enhanced.  For each to be catalyst for what the other needs to grow more of.  To hope that this relationship may share what others perhaps could not bear: the white-heat rage and shattered expectations spawned from the ancient yet still-smoldering fires of hurt and helplessness, fashioned into an arrow directly pointed at significant others to hope that they will neither retreat at its firing nor flinch at its impact.  To know that you have to be in a new story before you can give up an old story; that for a long transferential winter the old and new stories are so intermingled they don’t feel different; that the hopelessness of the present is implicit, procedural memory of the past, activated now to distinguish past from present.  To never lose the scent to the trail of renewed development; to not trade freedom for safety, or aliveness for certainty—In order to be human in a fuller sense than previously allowed or dared.

How surprised we are to learn that our terror is not in the dim shadows of the past’s unknown, but in the hopeful light of this moment’s change.

Your thoughts or feedback on any of the 3-part “Psychology of Hope” series?