In our previous post, we discussed how to counteract the negativity and fear that threatens to consume us by tapping into the beauty around you. You may not remember, but beauty was part of a three-part list, along with hope and opportunity.
If you’ve had even one “emo” moment in your life, you’ve probably had this two-part thought:
“What is hope, anyway, and isn’t it entirely naïve to be hopeful?”
This usually comes up when you’ve experienced a moment of chaotic unpredictability [Like that time the entire world decided to work from home (including the kids!), except for the doctors and nurses who HAD to go to work (but without fundamental protective gear) because a highly contagious virus was on the loose.] At times like that, you begin to seriously worry that things “Won’t be OK.”
One of our sincerest hopes is that things “Will be OK.” Hope, generally, is the feeling that we can anticipate how things will go, and that if we do things right they will go “our way.” When things start to spiral out of control, we “lose all hope” and when things start to line up and follow the pattern we declare ourselves “cautiously optimistic.”
The beating heart of hope is predictability.
Most people oscillate between believing in order (and feeling hope) and believing in chaos (and feeling at the mercy of shifting tides). While some people land in a stubborn commitment to one or the other, insisting either that “everything happens for a reason” or that life is inherently chaotic so “we all better get what we came for (YOLO!),” I land somewhere else.
If the heart of hope is predictability and “the world” appears to be driven by chaos, then the question for me becomes: What CAN we count on to be predictable?
I’ve spent the last two decades in a concerted study on the question of what it means to be human and I’ve found a few things.
There are a few forces that run so strongly through humans that they replicate again and again, even as circumstances shift and veer around us.
Said another way: no matter what is going on with the world, humans be human.
One very strong piece of human nature is about navigating the tension between connection to others and personal expression. In fact, much of human history (including our day-to-day lives right now) can be understood as we navigating this tension as the world does its thing around us.
What this means is that when we are tapped into our greater selves* (which happens a lot in a crisis!), we will show up for each other and we will capture that experience for all of human history to come.
We are wired to help each other, to love each other, and to care for each other and so we will. We will feel empathy and love. We will want to entertain others so we can feel the relief of seeing them smile. Families will step up for each other, friends will chip in, and strangers will make other strangers face masks on their home sewing machine.
We are wired to express our unique perspective and so we will. Out of this will come voices that can correct the arc of history. Beautiful poems and songs and stories will emerge that make us stop and notice their truth. Facebook posts will surprise use with their absurdity and make us laugh out loud (an impulse so important that we had to shorten it for ease of use). Someone will find the words to make us breathless with anger, weep with relief, and sing with joy RIGHT NOW in the middle of the coronavirus.
This is our calling as humans, the first and only species to observe our own dance with emotion.
So, is it naïve to have hope? Of course not. Human beings are predictable- we will create order and safety for each other. We will watch what’s unfolding and we will raise the alarm and put out the call to do things better.
There will be love and empathy and connection, and there will be art, stories, jokes, and calls-to-arms; we will help each other and then we will tell each other our stories.
*PS- For my cynics, yes every one of us will have moments when we aren’t tapped into our greater selves. We will supermarket sweep the grocery store, buy all the N95 masks so we can be safe at the grocery store and price gouge hand sanitizer like a jerk on Amazon. And then we will go home and hug our kids, call our mothers and tell a funny joke. Hope is everywhere if you choose to see it.
Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.