​Does hope take us away from peace?

Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.

When somebody tells us something they are worried about we can respond by encouraging them, telling them that it surely will not be that bad, to forget it, that in time everything will go back to normal, that the last thing to lose is hope etc. This is what we do with other people and also with ourselves.

What do we gain by it?

We are simply protecting ourselves from the anxiety or pain that these events cause us. So we tend to tell ourselves stories that soothe this sensation of fragility, pain or impotence.

The first time that I decided to do some fairly informal workshops for children, I ended up feeling rather dissatisfied and that I had not achieved the objective I had set myself. I felt tempted to blame the children and their fathers/mothers.

I was angry and sad. On my way back home I realised what I was trying to do, and I turned my attention on myself, with the intention of learning; I had made a mistake, I had not taken into account certain information and my focus had not been appropriate.

At that moment I felt at peace, I ceased to be disappointed, I stopped blaming others for what had happened and I felt happy. I stopped deceiving myself, I stopped wanting to cling to the hope that the next time things would go better and I started to examine the bare facts, without any false interpretations.

In our daily lives we always come across situations, both internal and external, that lead us to resort to hope with the aim of reducing tensions and making ourselves feel better. But this does not make the difficult situation change, we just put it to one side, away from the focus of our attention. By doing this we separate ourselves from what has really happened and that makes it impossible for us to do what is really necessary to tackle the situation. We consign that part of our experiences to the deepest recesses of our memories as if it did not exist, or that it were not like that or that it were not that important. Hope forms part of this tactic of removing uneasiness. Some might think that this is pessimistic, harsh or unnecessary. In my experience, there is nothing more pessimistic than hope. The Spanish word ‘esperar’ meaning hope, comes from the same source as the verb to wait and when I just wait, the only thing that I achieve is to become impatient and I do not manage to forget what I am worried about.

For me, the only way to be at peace is to be honest about facts. Facts tend to be straightforward when you do not insist in disguising them. Honesty frees up a lot of energy for us to tackle things as they are and this brings happiness and a feeling of empowerment, I mean the self-confidence to confront what you want to happen in a clear-eyed fashion. If I am present, hope has no place.