In defense of hope

hopeI love research professor and scholar Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, for all of her important and excellent work around vulnerability, shame, and perfectionism. She is smart, funny, a great presenter (check out her TED talk) and a fellow Texan, but this small quote, attributed to Brown, bugs me:

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
~Brené Brown

That sounds so negative. Maybe there is more to this, but these words seem like they are saying if we are hopeful, then we are engaged in struggling. Really?

Ok, I get a smidgeon of what Brown might be saying, such as, when we are in the midst of struggle we hope for something better, different, new. We pin our hopes on something else; we pine for relief or a solution. And the hope itself, perhaps, becomes entwined and a part of the struggle.

Yet, Brown’s six words are snatching away a runway that gives people possibility. Hope, to me, is beyond struggle. Hope is an anchor that keeps our feet on the ground so we can take the next step. Hope allows us to feel possible and open to something new. Hope is the flame of a candle in a dark room.

Hope is the antithesis of struggle. Hope keeps our spirits up and our heart open. Hope can be comfort on a dark, scary night. Hope can be a higher-altitude way of dealing with difficulty and disaster. Hope offers potential and promise. When we are beyond tired, feeling beaten down, and the next step seems unfathomable, hope is the juice in our engine that keeps us chugging forward.

In my work with my psychotherapy clients and most especially, suicidal clients, hope is my healing ally. Hope opens a door to a bigger perspective. Hope reminds us that nothing is constant and change is possible.

The mere idea of hope, gives me hope. Hope releases the bindings of struggle. Hope says, “Heads up. Stay awake. There’s something around the corner.” Hope reminds us to trust and have faith and that Mystery is part and parcel of our human lives.

In contrast to Brené Brown, my words are, “Hope leads the way out of struggle.”


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7 Responses to In defense of hope

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell July 9, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Thank you, Na’ama for adding such depth and heart to the conversation. Much love

  2. Adele Ryan McDowell July 7, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    No, I have never heard of the poem, but definitely think it would be a part of the conversation. The book title kind of says it all. Thanks, Dianna. You are always such a good resource. Much love

  3. Dianna July 7, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    Have you ever read Jason Schinder’s poem “Stupid Hope?” It’s interesting to look at this from both perspectives. Sometimes we stay in awful situations hoping that they get better when they won’t. I’m thinking about a particular bad and long marriage here. And then that same hope can take us out of difficulties when we shift our focus. Maybe intention and intuition have to be part of the discussion on hope.

  4. Adele Ryan McDowell July 2, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Sending you much love and many thanks. You’re always such a great support. Talk soon. Much love.

  5. Adele Ryan McDowell July 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    Thanks, Na’ama. I so agree with everyting you said. As always, I love your response and I, too, am familiar with the research on kids and resilience. I refer to it frequently. You’re the best! Much love, Adele

  6. Na'ama Yehuda July 2, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Yes. “Hope leads the way out of struggle”–I love that. I also get what bugs you about the other way of stating it. Because even though Hope is often MAGNIFIED and CLARIFIED and gets extra focus in struggle (like the light of a candle in a dark room), there is hope even in good, bright, lovely times. It is just less in focus, less clearly the bootstraps that pull one out.
    We hope in the worst of times. We hope in the best of times. There is hope when everything is going excellently well. We call it joy. We call it purpose. We call it satisfaction. When something great is in the works, we are very hopeful–for all the good it will bring, for the lovely ideas of the future, for the excitement and energy it infuses us. We may not be aware that we are in the vicinity of hope, because there are so many other pleasant, light-up-the-room-of-the-soul feelings taking place at the same time. But it still hope. Right there. Without the struggle.
    I would even say that it is the knowing of the possibility of hope during GOOD times that gives it the purposeful light that guides us out of struggle. We recognize it as the thing that bridges the hard times with the better times. And we hold on to it, during struggle, because we have met it before, in better times.

    There is research on maltreated children that shows (Zimerin from ELI Israel–the head of the child protection agency) that the difference between the children who ‘made it’ and the children who ‘did not make it’ (i.e. were too broken by what they endured to be able to heal well enough to continue on with life, were in a cycle of violence and addiction, in jail, etc), was the presence of ONE caring adult in their lives who gave them a different experience: a teacher, a neighbor, a relative, a storekeeper–someone who was kind and showed them that there was another way. In my words, I would say, who gave them hope. …
    To me, it was the memory of that goodness, the association to ‘something better’ and the ease-of-tension it brought, that allowed these children to have hope that something could get better.
    There is no hope without the experience of good. We have to draw on something, and that something is born of kindness, compassion, empathy, light.

    Hugs and love your way, Na’ama

  7. Colleen July 2, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    Like your response and of course I wholly agree with you… after all, with us what’s not to love. Grin … Good one, girl..