Light at the End of the Tunnel
The darkness of hopelessness arrives when there is no escape from the intolerable. Experts who have reviewed the suicide notes left by the ancient Romans, Greeks and Jews find repeated references to being trapped in an impossible situation. In the film version of J.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers, there is a powerful affirmation of the soul's longing for liberation. Note this exchange between Aragorn and Eowyn, two of the principle "forces of light."
Aragorn: What do you fear, my lady?
Eowyn: A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accepts them, and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall and desire.
Aragorn: I do not think that will be your fate.
In this chapter, we offer specific suggestions for overcoming hopelessness. We begin with case studies that demonstrate various forms of entrapment, the central problem in every experience of hopelessness. In our view, the "entrapment" that is felt in hopelessness is the result of either a disrupted hope motive or a conflict among these motives (attachment, mastery, and/or survival). These motivational disruptions and conflicts can produce as many as seven different types of hopelessness, including "dream abandonment", "fear-based hopelessness", "alienated despair", and "hopeless rage". (This explains why various experts have disagreed over the years, each claiming that the "opposite of hope" is one experience or another- in truth, there is more than one "opposite" of hope.)
Additional sections of this chapter deal with two other serious consequences of hopelessness; namely: depression and self-destructive behaviors.
Related issues covered in our book
Hope Tip #16: Confronting Abandoned Dreams
"Dream abandonment" is one of the seven types of hopelessness. It results from a disruption of the mastery motive.
Part A: What do you believe?
1. I believe there is less than a fifty-percent change of realizing my dream
2. I do not have the personal resources (talent, strength, or persistence) to achieve my dream
3. I do not see any way of achieving this dream
4. I do not have the social resources (friends, family, other networks) to achieve my dream
5. I do not believe that I have enough time to achieve this dream
Part B: Confronting your "dark zones"
Despair increases when negative thoughts cluster together to form a hopeless mindset. The effect can be compared to tiny snowflakes that turn into an enormous and deadly avalanche. For this reason, it is important to extract from the above 5 questions, your particular "dark zones", the one or two most troubling beliefs that lead people to abandon their goals and dreams. Are you uncertain as to whether your hard work would lead to success? Do you feel that you lack talent or skill? Are you alone in your quest? Is time a major problem?
Part C: Understanding your "dark zones"