Written by Stephanie Orphanacos

I read a great book last week by Martin Seligman. The Hope Circuit is essentially his memoir. It follows him through his life and through the changing dynamics of modern psychology. Of course, he focuses on his research as it relates to Positive Psychology, as well as a number of the off-shoots to these findings. In the end, the book tells a tale of hope.

The journey Seligman undertakes in his book is a long and convoluted one. But it is oh so interesting! Hope it seems is the belief that your future will be better than the present and that you have the ability to make a better future happen. It involves both optimism and a make-it-happen attitude. Seligman who once coined the term ‘learned helplessness’ to describe how we learn to give up and be helpless, is now suggesting that he only had part of that process right.

If we dwell on the past and remain unhappy in our present, we are making a decision to stay stuck. Seligman now suggests that there may be an override button in our brains. One that can turn off our self-imposed cycle of misery. This structure in our cortex apparently develops mastery over bad events. We can learn that future events, either good or bad, can be controlled. This process will, in turn, help us by creating a mental buffer against helplessness and anxiety.

Apparently, as humans, we have engaged in this process for generations. Perhaps it is a part of our developmental growth as a species that we can learn (eventually) to put the past behind us and focus on those pieces in the future that help us get to where we want to be. Now, I need to look further to see what hope is really all about.

Charles Snyder a Psychologist from the U.S., developed something called The Hope Theory. His theory has three components. The first is Goals. (Please note that this is a future-driven concept.) Having a goal he says, is the cornerstone of hope. Goals can be big or small. Next, we must have Agency or willpower. The agency is the ability to stay motivated to meet your goal. It involves believing that good things will come from your actions. And finally, Snyder identified Pathways. These are the specific routes we develop to meet our goals. If our first pathway doesn’t work, we problem-solve to find a new pathway. High-hope or resilient people understand that roadblocks are inevitable and that it might take several tries to reach our goals.

High-hope people tend to have higher levels of overall well-being. In one study researchers looked at hope in a sample of nearly 13,000 participants. The team discovered that high-hope participants reported having more positive emotions, a stronger sense of well-being and meaning in their lives as well as lower levels of depression and were less lonely than those who remained focused on their present problems and did not look into the future.

Having more positive emotions like hope can also help us to develop deeper relationships with others. In a 6-year longitudinal study of 975 adolescents (grades 7-12), hope predicted future well-being, particularly in important transition years like when beginning at high school. The researchers found that hope is an important attribute that encourages positive youth development.

Hmm, Hope seems to have been a little undervalued. I hope that’s about change. To quote Frank Sinatra:

Next time you’re found
With your chin on the ground,
There’s a lot to be learned, so look around.

Just think what makes that little ol’ ant
Think he’ll move a rubber tree plant;
Anyone knows an ant can’t
Move a rubber tree plant.
But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes.
He’s got high apple–pie–in–the–sky hopes.

So anytime you’re gettin’ low,
‘Stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant.
Oops! There goes another rubber tree
Oops! There goes another rubber tree
Oops! There goes another rubber tree plant.

Hope you’re smiling!

Stephanie Orphanacos B.A., Q.Med
Part-time Professor, Family Counsellor, NLP Master Practitioner

About Stephanie

Stephanie Orphanacos is a Family Counsellor and part-time Professor. She enjoys supporting her clients and her students as they wind their way through the system to access the supports and services they will need to achieve success for themselves or for their children.

Stephanie brings her years of experience in multiple therapeutic modalities and her background in crisis management, mediation, and program development to mentor her clients on how best to locate or develop the resources they require to realize their specific goals or objectives.

Stephanie contributes to the Wild About Wellness Community online where members passionate about holistic health and wellness come together to share information, educate and contribute for the purpose of learning and growing. You are invited to explore the site with a free 1-month membership. Get your 1-month free membership HERE.