“Hope is fear wearing it’s pretty face.” – Jay Easton
You’re familiar with that story about Pandora, right? The one with the box? She was told (in a way eerily reminiscent of Eve and the Apple) not to open the box, or she’d be sorry. Of course that made her want, more than anything, to open the box…and when she did, all manner of plagues and maladies were loosed upon the world. Famine, war, disease, ignorance, abstinence-only sex education, the electoral college, the Kardashians, Koontz’s Frankenstein novels…all the bad stuff came out.
Then, as the story goes, one last thing crawled out of the box. It was hope, and it is usually conveyed as being a good thing – one final gift to help people get through all the rest.
What if it’s not?
A Shell Game
What if actually that’s one of mythologies greatest misdirections?
I mean, the rest of the box was filled with horrible nasties. Why should this last thing, this last “gift” to humanity, be any different? Wouldn’t it make more sense that perhaps this last things coming out of the box is actually the worst of the lot?
My friend Jay sure thinks so. He’s got some much more eloquent words about it, but the gist is that hope is that thing that keeps us from appreciating what we have and/or dealing with what’s in front of us because there’s the option, maybe, that there’s something else better.
It’s similar to the criticism many atheists have with religious people. Rather than be moral for the hope (or fear, see how it’s two sides of the same coin?) of what comes after death, why can’t people just do the right thing because it’s the right thing? The reverse argument, of course, is why bother doing anything if you have no hope for anything to result from it? If none of your actions hold consequence beyond the immediate, why wouldn’t the world degenerate into a bunch of amoral anarchists driven by self-interest?
That’s a different argument, and one for blogs much deeper than mine. I’m more concerned with the immediate effects of hope.
Where Is The Love?
Specifically, because it’s Friday, I’m concerned with how hope interferes with love. There’s the obvious way, that “grass is greener” syndrome that makes people believe that possibly they could have a better relationship with someone other than their partner. When divorce and breakups are easy, and electronic communication gives people the opportunity to put their best face forward with no fear of having to actually deal with consequences, it leads to people hoping that “maybe this time…I’ll be lucky…”
But there are more insidious ways hope can be destructive to a loving relationship. There’s the tendency to hope that a partner will do something that you want, of their own volition. You wait and you wait, and possibly make some passive aggressive hints that might result in something…but the odds are the result isn’t what you’ve hoped for. Hope builds entire worlds in our minds and then just lets us suffer when reality doesn’t match up.
Pro tip: one of the best tools I’ve ever used in dealing with those kinds of situations is when you simply tell your partner “What I need to hear you say is…” and fill in the blank. Or, “What I need to see you doing is…” and let them know what action it is that would help you feel more loved, more secure. Odds are, they will get a surprised look on their face, and say “Oh…THAT’s what you needed? Oh, I can do THAT!”
It’s really quite easy, and the embarrassed grins on everybody’s faces are amazing. It’s that hope that your partner will suddenly become a mindreader that leads to resentment and “I can’t believe he…”
Some of you might be frothing at the mouth by now, upset that I would attack the almost-sacred concept of hope in this way. My first response, of course, is to shift the attention to Jay: “It was his idea!”
But perhaps you feel that I am conflating hope with its big brothers, expectation and attachment. Personally, I think hope is more of the “gateway emotion” to those big baddies, but I’m willing to hear differing opinions. I plan on talking more about how hope interferes with Practice on Monday, so you’ll have plenty of chances to get even more incensed.
Either way…I hope you’ll let me know.