The Construction of Hope

“You keep hoping!” a close psychologist friend had accused me a few months ago, in a tone that he generally reserved for criminals, and for his severely disturbed patients. “You have these delusions [that your love can miraculously change people’s pathological patterns to normalcy]….” he had qualified at a later moment. And yes, the situation I faced was such that my hope for someone could not, would not die for 2 long years, no matter how I tried at his behest. And though the intensity associated with it has long since ended, I have no doubt that the hope itself still lives within. It simply has become more manageable since, as other associated emotions are reduced in intensity.

Ever since then, I have wondered what it was that gave this particular one, and others like it, such tenacity and resiliance, a numinous quality that other little hopes within me generally lacked! In another instance I had hoped for 20 long years enduring the the trauma of continuous disappointments, without ever achieving the desired outcome. So far the last few months, after this discussion with my friend, my psyche has been embroiled in an inner  exploration of the expression that we call “hope.” At the time there was no separation between the experiencer and the experienced. Hope was not presented as a content of my awareness – my awareness had morphed into the hope – I was hope and hope was me, and in that process-  of my identification with a mere construct of my mind – all real awareness was stifled. Hence I needed “time”  to regain the balanced and uinvolved perspective of an experiencer who can choose to experience, and can also choose not to.  Back then I had had no choice.

I had started to write about about the construct of hope, but my views were disperate, and fragmented in their expressions, and needed “time” and warmth to hatch. We already know that some hope is genuine, and some a delusion. Some is meaningful, some meaningless. Some brings cheer, other melancholy. It seemed that there could be as many attributes attached to hope as there are stars in the sky, and then some. And then my explorations started getting into the territory of imaginations, illusions and delusions, falling into psychosis. Where did one end and the next begin? And where were those darn boundaries when you needed them? The boundaries that the DSM and our college education promised would be our scientific victories – why couldn’t I sense them clearly ?  Who was Elpis, the godess of hope, really? What was she like? Who birthed her ? What made her stay behind to comfort mankind? How was she related to imagination? Who and what else was related, intertwined, enmeshed in the web of Hope ? And how? Questions, questions, questions….to which there were no answers within because the more I learned, the more aware I became of how little I really knew, and also because I was not able to observe and experience the birthing process of hope, the creativity of Brahma! And then of course there was the entire developmental cycle that Vishnu cradled in his arms, and finally the death, followed by the process of psychic mourning – the realm of Shiva. How did the gods of hope manifest? And how was  mourning, psychoanalytic or otherwise, so necessary for intra-psychic structuralisation, related to hope?

For me to explore the construct of hope at the deepest level, I needed an experience of a new hope. Granted that we are into Christmas, a season for hope, joy and peace, yet when I searched within, there currently lived only the same ol same ol hopes  – all of those that had passed thru their infancy and adolescence, and were mature enough to be balanced. These were not creative hopes, they were spatial and logical hopes. They did not arise spontaneously as the sudden, spontaneous breath of infant life in the moment.  Their hearts did not beat as intensely as I had previously experienced. These hopes within me were of a different texture, different amplitude, different intensity, they were different from the hope of a new love, for example. They would have satisfied my psychologist friend who looks for linearity and conformity to established and accepted norms, but to me the lack represented an impairment in spontaneity, the hope-producing paraphenalia of the soul. And then there were also some hopes within that were dead, their corpses littered without being buried. Still others were dead and buried – black boxes of memories attacked by psychic ants in the afternoon of my life. And even though I wrote up several pages on the construct of hope, those were all cognitively derived language symbols, not the stirrings my psychic truths, and so a thorough exploration of this construct became impossible……….. and I gave up hope………until…..

…………..until I realized that I was going away for a few days. My vacation destination is someplace that I have been looking forward to going for the last two years. I have been eager, and impatient, and frustrated by my inability to make it happen. And in the flatland of a perfectly balanced lived life, here was this newborn hope….of a transformational experience. A choatic, as yet unorganized experience that created an anticipation of meaningfulness. The anticipation posited hope, which arose from the deepest parts of my soul. And this was my infant, untainted hope, my new love. I had found it within!

During my vacations, perhaps this newborn hope will pass through its own developmental milestones, and mature to a cognizable experience of satiation. And then like any other earthly object, it would die perhaps ? I don’t know, but whatever it may be, such explorations are always interesting and insightful. And so I may get to write this particular blog after all, as soon as I return in January. But of course we can only hope!

So here is wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and a very very Happy New Year. May your own hopes find ways to blossom – within and without.


7 responses to “The Construction of Hope”

  1. Hello Madhu,

    I have been waiting, hoping (!) for some inspiration to write something here. I think I have at least another two weeks to wait. The ground is frozen and covered with snow here literally, and England grinds to a halt when this happens, sapping me of energy and almost but not completely of hope. I cannot go anywhere, I am stuck with what is. I spent two hours hoping, trying to go to London today and then arrived hopelessly – home!

    What have I learned about hope? Hope needs nourishment, otherwise it will wither. Your journey and sense of the unknown that it offers, is nourishing your hope.

    I hope that your journey fulfils itself and you, and more. I look forward to your account of whatever unfolds.

    Wishing you well for the new year and more interesting exchanges,


    1. Hi Karin.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Hope needs nourishment, yes, because I suppose anything and everything needs nourishment to remain alive. But what is the nature of this nourishment? Does hope feed on imagination?

      In my professional consultations, I was made to believe hope fed on gratification, but to breed coldness in therapy felt so wrong – cruel – to me. Perhaps the Loving Kindness mandate of Buddhism, a culture that deeply influences me, was responsible for my rebellion against the established gods of psychology. So the question remained unanswered….

      And hold on for just a little more. I have my eyes locked on the Winter Solstice (is it on 23rd?) – the date has the capability of fooling my psyche into believing in the predictability of spring. And inspiration must be the daughter of hope and spring – which ever culture. Because we have learnt to solely depend on the external world, on time, then if you can allow your senses to be deluded thus with the promise of a winter solstice, you won’t have to wait for two weeks though of course in reality it is an internal template of accumulated despairs, of cold encounters – always latent – that is projected on the symbols of the cold snow and the falling rains that restrict us and become the external correlates of an internal phenomenon. It actually needs to be mourned. And spring is regenerative…

      Perhaps this is an overanalysis ?! Ok, well, being stuck leaves you free to search. I hope the confinement leads to new openings and hence gets easier to handle, and I hope pretty inspiration grows until and beyond the spring….

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and all of yours…


      1. Hi Madhu

        The solstice is 21st – tomorrow – a date that is always lodged in my mind, a turning point. I wrote June instead of January a few moments ago in an e-mail to a friend. I am ahead of myself!

        I always think of either solstice as a still point in the turning world:

        ‘At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
        Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
        But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
        Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
        Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
        There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
        (TS Eliot, Burnt Norton)

        When I am stuck it is always in the moment and never fixed. Even writing it unsticks it. So, yes, hope needs imagination I believe, and mine is rarely fettered.

        Gratification is for me a cold and inhuman feed for hope. In fact, I feel gratification can suffocate hope. Hope is about something beckoning, something beyond…

        So I am imagining you now discovering whatever it is that wants and needs and is to be discovered on your vacation in a mysterious place.

        Warmest wishes for the time ahead,


      2. Hi Karin,

        About June and January, you time travelled to the past, or the future. Or for a moment, you lost your consciousness and lived an unconscious fantasy. Slips aren’t frivolous….

        Love the poem, and your metaphor. Stillness is dear to you. Too many turns perhaps, not enough stillness ?

        Great to know about your ability to unstuck yourself. We *get* stuck because the unconscious wants to re-evaluate, or recharge, or just plain rest – with no concept of time. We *feel* stuck because the often-unreasonable consciousness wants to keep pace with the external, the chronological time. You seem to be in sync on either front, which is always terrific.

        My views on gratification are different than yours, and that is my rebellion with the western psychology. Briefly, it is the same parallel between romantic love and ordinary day to day living, and it always interests me to explore these two in context of early object relations.

        Can feel the anticipation, but make an effort to remain blank and refuse to imagine anything, so as to make sure the potential unfolding remains unconditioned by my own desires. Kinda like going to a prestigrous jewelry store that you love, to write an objective report on the jewelry being sold !! LOL! It lacks the oomph of our subjectivity, but is rich in other ways…and I can feel the warmth of your wishes….and am sending back the same, with a higer interest. -g- By the time I return, the winter solstice would be in the rear view mirror, and nature would have done its bit !



      3. Hi Madhu

        Glad you liked the poem. If you’re not already familiar with TS Eliot’s Four Quartets I think much there would chime with you.

        I often make the effort to travel to June in January (aka December – this year!) and the reverse – expecially when driving down rural roads near home. It is hard either way – but certainly harder when in June imagining January! I don’t want to. But I like to re-place myself as a kind of experiment. Yesterday it was an involuntarily slip, a deeper hope or desire.

        Now I understand what you mean about your views on gratification being different. Before I wouldn’t have.

        Enjoy the blankness and the fullness.


  2. Hi Madhu, Happy Holidays and Happy vacation. I have a question: are you talking about hope as a mental construct? I see/feel/experience hope as a spiritual quality that comes of it’s own. I see it as part of what Jung calls the ‘transcendent function’. I think that our neurotransmitters can play a role in diminishing our experience of hope, such as in severe depression, and a balancing of neurotransmitters can increase the experience of ‘hopeful feelings’. My view is that hope comes from the soul. It can’t be forced, or constructed by mind, b/c it is an essential part of soul. Just some thoughts on a rainy Sunday afternoon…Best, Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth,

      Having a developmental background makes me question everything. Nothing in personal consciousness comes of its own. Hope must first arise in the symbitic unity, because our adult hopes are usually linked with our gods. I have struggled with it, nevertheless, as you can see.

      The word construct is wrong in the heading, I had originally used the term developmental lifecyles, but then only a professional would know the difference, I figured. You got me there. I will think of a better title over the next few days. I haven’t read Jung on this, and thanks for pointing that out, now I will. Hope as a transcendent function makes a lot of sense, I just hadn’t thought about it that way. His alchemical state of negredo as an opposite did cross my mind. Any particular work of his throws light on this stuff?

      I see neurotransmitters as manifestations of psychic conditions and once seen that way, I would agree with your viewpoint.

      Why does the soul create hope? And how does it create hope? The myth states the Elpis stayed in the box to comfort makind but can we go deeper than comfort? Comfort appears as a defensive strategy. Hope seems like a part of the river flowing – from imagination to hope, to agency, to Neitzsche’s will to power. And my curiosity now is especially piqued due to this association with the metaphor of the river………

      Rain, clouds, dark….don’t ask……..I wish to hibernate in my helplessness ! And would it be surprising that in the middle of such weather, my psyche would constell its opposite – a writing on Hope? There certainly is a method to my madness….

      And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: