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The "hardware" of hope may be found in the frontal lobes and other highly evolved brain areas. Nevertheless, it is left to each culture to determine how hope will be experienced and directed. A web of social norms, philosophical worldviews and spiritual traditions create very different expressions of hope. Christians look skyward for their higher power while Hindus seek the inner Atman. Native Americans derive hope from the group. In Navajo, the word for hope ("sih") also refers to compassion, mercy and pity. Jews and Muslims pray for a heavenly reunion with loved ones. Buddhists hope to escape the infinite cycle of being and suffering.

Hope is not a private matter. Culture plays an enormous role in shaping the way individuals experience hope, imagine the future, and negotiate the flow of time. In this chapter, we describe the profound effect of socialization on the motives for attachment, mastery, and survival. We also show how cultural factors can influence an individual's sense of where hope originates and where it can lead in life as well as after death.

Related issues covered in our book

    The social value of hope: The cultural uses of hope to reinforce important values

    Where hope begins: How culture determines the perceived origin or sources of hope

    The beneficiaries of hope: How culture shapes who is included in our dreams and aspirations

    Where hope leads: How culture determines our imagined final destination or "ultimate" hope

    Time and hope: The cultural fabrication of linear, circular, and spiraling time

Hope Tip #6: Expanding your frame of hope

Your frame of reference can be compared to oxygen. Like the air we breathe, a frame of reference is vital for our daily functioning. Like the air we breathe, it is taken for granted and rarely given a second thought. However, unlike the air we breathe, your frame of reference is heavily influenced by the culture in which you were raised, as well as the time and place you happen to be stationed on this planet.

Your frame of reference includes your experience of hope, including where you believe it comes from (e.g., a higher power, other people, inner strength), who it should embrace (you, your loved ones, or an entire group), and where it might lead (e.g., a state of joy or peace, a place in heaven, or to some form of rebirth).

The following exercise is designed to help you rethink and perhaps expand your frame of reference with respect to hope.

Part A: Your current hope frame

1. Where do you look for hope? (God, a higher power, friends, your self, etc.)

2. What are your three biggest hopes?

3. What is your ultimate or greatest hope?

4. Do you believe in progress?

Part B: How "fixed" is your hope frame?

1. Is your reliance on a particular hope source based on reasoning, your cultural tradition, personal experience, or faith?

2. Has the focus of your hopes and dreams narrowed or expanded over the years?

3. If heaven did not exist, would you be able to have any form of "lasting hope"?

4. Do you find yourself living primarily in the past, present, or the future?

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