Hope –Antidote for Human Suffering or Pipe Dream?

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. Positive Psychologist

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. Positive Psychologist

Hope is an often over used word in today’s world, but perhaps it needs to be examined it a great more detail in these tumultuous times. Dr. John Schinnerer examines some important facets of that every day notion of hope……..

To what extent is hope necessary or relevant for these difficult times? The world is besieged by economic, military, educational, and healthcare problems which seem to be insurmountable. In such a world, of what possible use is hope?
It feels as if Pandora opened her box only recently, allowing a wave of good and evil to descend upon humankind. And yet, in the Greek myth, Pandora closed the box while one thing remained inside – hope.

Is hope a powerful psychological asset, an antidote to human shortcomings? Or is hope simply a pipe dream for Pollyanna-ish optimists who can’t see the brutal, harsh nature of reality?

Hope Is Helpful In A Variety of Areas

Hope has been studied in psychology labs throughout the world for dozens of years. Research studies have shown that greater hope is associated with:
• Freedom from anxiety
• Less depression
• More positive mood
• Increased popularity among peers
• Higher achievement in a number of areas (academic, athletic, military, political and professional)
• Greater quality of social relationships
• Improved physical health
• Increased accomplishment of goals
• Increased tolerance of pain
• Reduced cardiovascular risk

If hope is a pipe dream for those who do not see reality accurately, then the rose-colored pipe dream comes with a slew of physical, emotional, social and vocational benefits. Given the broad range of positive advantages that hope confers upon its users, it might be more simply stated that hope helps. Hope is, in fact, a powerful psychological asset.
Hope Defined

Hope is a belief or wish that in the future good events and positive feelings will come more frequently than bad events and negative feelings. Rick Snyder, a researcher at Kansas University, sees hope as having three distinct parts:

1. Goals – Goals can be large or small, short- or long-term, formal or informal. Goals can be set in any area of life. However, without goals, there is no future-oriented thinking, and thus no hope.

2. Pathways – A workable plan to get around potential challenges to enable one to get to the goal.

3. Agency – The energy, motivation, or will to act. Agency is the degree of determination one has to achieve a goal.

Hope Is More About The Future Than The Present

To the extent that one has these three elements, one has hope. Hope comes from the excitement one feels about the future possibility of accomplishing goals. Hope is not as much about the present moment as it is about realizing future potential. Hope is a perception whereby one sees the future as filled with possibilities. Hope helps to create the future as it motivates people to strive towards creating new constructive realities.
Hopeful People Don’t Play The Blame Game

One of the appealing aspects of hope is that hopeful people do not get into blaming themselves or the world for falling short of a goal. Instead, when they fail, hopeful people ask ‘What now?’ They come up with alternative ways to achieve their goal. They excel at discovering multiple pathways to attain goals.
Hope has been shown to enhance problem-solving abilities and thus makes people better at brainstorming potential solutions to challenges.
Learning To Be More Hopeful

Instead of creating New Year’s resolutions that will be broken by nightfall, you may want to resolve to become more hopeful. If that’s the case, here are some suggestions to help strengthen your hope.

Dare to Hope – Most are taught growing up ‘Don’t get your hopes up!’ Hope is a human strength which makes the accomplishment of goals more likely. Be brave enough to have hope.

Set Goals That Are Personally Meaningful – There is little point to attempting to fulfill goals that someone else has for you. Goals are effective when they have meaning to you.

State Your Goals in the Positive – Rather than ‘I’m going to lose 10 pounds’ tell yourself ‘I will get healthy’. The human mind does not respond well to negative statements and goals are no exception. State your goals using positive language.

Be Mindful of Where Hope Falls Apart – Does your hope break down at the pathways stage? Perhaps you need better planning, or help in creating your plan. If your hope falters at the motivation or determination stage, share your goal with loved ones to give you extra accountability.

Check In With Your Self – Whenever you are distracted from the task you are working on, ask yourself ‘What am I doing?’ and ‘What are my goals for this task?’ These simple questions will help you to stay focused on the task at hand, remind you of your goals and perform well in the moment.

Listen to Positive and Uplifting Music – Recent research has shown that listening to music (as well as playing and composing) involves nearly every neural network in the human brain. Music lights up the brain.

The power of music is the power to evoke emotions. If you want to feel hope, listen to hopeful music. Some of my favorite songs that evoke hope are…
• Lovely, Love My Family by The Roots (on the Yo Gabba, Gabba album)
• Imagine by John Lennon
• Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
• You’ll Be Blessed by Elton John
• Three Little Birds by Bob Marley
• I Don’t Ever Give Up by Patty Griffin
• Joy by Mick Jagger
• The Middle by Jimmy Eats World
• Fall Back Down by Rancid

Watch an Elevating Clip On YouTube

Studies have shown that the brain is a very literal organ and doesn’t differentiate much between what is real, what is imagined and what we watch on a screen. In some meaningful way, hope can be injected into the mind by watching clips or movies that inspire you.
• One uplifting clip on YouTube is actually an ad from MBF, a health care company in Australia, featuring the song ‘Accentuate the Positive’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDRQbrBhoWg.

• Or check out the short film ‘Validated’ with Hugh Newman in which a parking garage attendant ‘validates’ the existence of others by offering words of kindness and encouragement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao.
• One of my favorites on YouTube is ‘Free Hugs’ with music by the Sick Puppies (‘All the same’) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr3x_RRJdd4. This clip has been viewed over 40 million times and won YouTube’s video of the year for 2007. This social experiment, giving away free hugs, has been replicated in dozens of countries with similar hopeful results.
• There is a great video by the Dave Matthews Band called ‘Everyday’. It was done back in 2001 and may be the predecessor to the ‘Free Hugs’ idea. It’s on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMBgSfQI49E. It appears as if the main character in the video is asking people for spare change. See what the guy really wants by checking out the video.

When Pandora did close her infamous box, it’s fortunate for us that hope was left inside. Hope is a powerful internal asset which can be used to offset many of the hardships life brings. One of the guarantees in life is that there will be ups and downs, good times and trying times. Increase your chances of success by fostering your own feelings of hope and thoughts based on realistic optimism. Please share songs or videos that inspire your sense of hope (email them to John AT GuideToSelf DOT com). Everyone can use a shot of hope now and then.

About the Author


Dr. John Schinnerer is in private practice helping people learn anger management, stress management and the latest ways to deal with destructive negative emotions. His practice is located in the Danville-San Ramon Medical Center at 913 San Ramon Valley Blvd., #280, Danville, California 94526. He graduated summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Schinnerer has been an executive and psychologist for over 10 years. Dr. John Schinnerer is President and Founder of Guide To Self, a company that coaches clients to their potential using the latest in positive psychology, mindfulness and attentional control. Dr. John Schinnerer hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a prime time radio show, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dr. Schinnerer’s areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to moral development, to sports psychology. Dr. Schinnerer wrote the award-winning, “Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,” which is available at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and AuthorHouse.com.





Victor Sinclair. VP of VSC International, Founder of the Positive Imperative and the Positive Music Imperative movements/concept and community, has a wide background in teaching, broadcasting, the music industry and business and most recently served as a founder and Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada (AmCham Canada). He has also dedicated more than 30 years of his life to volunteerism and not for profits including Big Brothers, Memorial Boys and Girls Clubs, Minor Leagues Sports and as a President and board member of several not-for-profit boards. Interests include family, biking, tennis, reading, music and PI/PMI of course. http://www.vscinternationalcorp.com http://www.positiveimperative.com http://www.positivemusicimperative.com http://www.twitter.com/posimperative http://www.facebook.com/Vic.Sinclair http://www.linkedin.com/in/victorsinclair

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