You know that sinking feeling when you’re really looking forward to something but it doesn’t work out? You say something like, “I really got my hopes up.” That lingering hope afterwards as you imagine different ways that everything will work out or somehow just get better is killing you, and you have to stop.
I am a prime example of hope, as much as I hate to admit that. I’m an instinctual obsessive problem solver; if something isn’t working, I make it my mission to find a solution, because hope is one my my biggest vices. The thought of not being able to fix something doesn’t even occur to me because I become so focused on that hope that nothing else will matter. This is where hope becomes hell.
You see, the problem with hope is that it can be an illusion. Don’t get me wrong, hope can be good to an extent, but it can also consume you.
This goes for everything—work, family, relationships, and life. You have to find a balance between healthy hope and destructive hope.
Have you ever been through a breakup with a partner and had that hope that things would get better or work out? Did you hold onto that hope more than the acceptance of what things actually were? That’s a one-way ticket to your own personal hell, and that is destructive hope.
Now imagine having rough times with a partner and you were both committed to really understanding and working towards making things better. That you were on the same page with your feelings and intentions. That is positive hope.
The difference between these two scenarios is one is a collective goal that both parties want to work toward. The other is denying acceptance and holding on to a hope that was never present to begin with. This is almost the perfect definition of what suffering is.
So what do you do? How can you break free from clinging to a hope that is only cementing your life from moving forward? Consider trying these to train your mind away from the hope maze.
1. Understand the difference.
Like I’ve said, there’s positive hope and destructive hope. Take a minute to have a real, raw conversation with yourself to decide if the situation is realistically something to have hope for or if it’s you just hoping it is. If it’s going to bring you more suffering than joy, it’s probably destructive hope.
2. Instead of hope, learn acceptance.
Too many times, when things don’t go well, we jump to hope. This is a real mental coping mechanism to not accept this bad, hurtful thing happening to us. Resisting what IS by thinking of what could be will lead you down the hope road to oblivion. Accept the realities of your situation and rip off that bandaid.
3. Find a NEW kind of hope.
Our fixation with hope can be destructive if it’s in the wrong place. Set your sights on a different hope for yourself. Hope to learn something new and make a plan to do it. This way you turn a negative into a dope positive. That hope will drive you to do much more great things. Remember hope is only wishful thinking without an action attached to it.
4. Don’t Dwell.
Stop drowning in a pool of your own sorrow as you obsessively dwell on something that won’t change. That type of thinking puts your life at a standstill. You don’t move forward because you’re stuck in place, and that stagnant living will make life feel useless and stale.
This is all easy to say, but I know it’s not easy to do. You owe it to yourself to let go of that hope in the back of your mind that’s tying you to bad situations and bad people. I know this from years of experience and slow progress, but I have hope! I have positive hope that one day you’ll understand, you’ll accept, and you’ll know the difference.