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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Hope in the Future

 

Hope may be defined as a desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment. Dissimilar to the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) notion of demandingness (rigidity of irrational beliefs), ambition for one’s future presumes flexibility. 

 

In relation to this understanding, when first learning about psychotherapy, I was introduced to the concept of the instillation of hope—belief that things can be better, as it relates to positive expectations for therapeutic outcomes. Such assumption isn’t necessarily logical or reasonable.

 

To use a basic form of logic, consider the logical form that if X, then Y. For instance, if one seeks care for mental, emotional, and behavioral health (collectively “mental health”), then one will have a better life.

 

This is a logical proposition. However, it isn’t reasonable. This is because not everyone who seeks mental health care will have a better life. There are no guarantees in this regard.

 

Thus, while it’s a hopeful belief that one will have a better life when receiving mental health care services, this assumption is irrational. As such, hope in the future isn’t based on rationality.

 

When contemplating this matter, I’m reminded of the final verse in the Solillaquists of Sound’s song “As if We Existed”:

 

There’s more to you than what you know, believe, or even choose to be what you ignore

There’s more to love than just the lust and pain, and comfort isn’t based on what’s the same

More… there’s more in store

Beyond what you have seen before, before

Proven action ain’t philosophy and oppressive music isn’t hot to me

So rally round the poplar tree, salute hypocrisy, and floss your property with pride

It’s a sweet but bitter victory with whom you disagree, you think it’s me but it is I

And I is you essentially so never take what’s meant to be and get it twisted

This isn’t anger, no, it’s passion, so let’s live the way we should

As if we existed

 

Use of the word “should” in the verse represents a preferential should statement which is a healthy alternative to an absolutistic should narrative. The former expresses flexible hope while the latter relates to inflexible demandingness.

 

Stating, “Let’s live the way we should” infers that people aren’t currently living according to their interests and goals, and that if they want to improve future outcomes they should try a different approach to existence.

 

Further contemplating this matter, I think of Joseph Campbell who once stated, “Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time! Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out,” and, “If you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life.”

 

Quite often, people have told me about their supposed goals for the future. Since adolescence, when I began life coaching and through adulthood when I began practicing psychotherapy, I’ve been informed of practical and impractical ambitions which aren’t representative of actual goals.

 

Goals are aims with a plan for how to attain the objects of one’s desires. Rather than establishing goals, I’ve come to understand that people most often express to me their hopes for the future.

 

“I want to get married and have three children,” one person may say without any indication of how to go about accomplishing this aim. “I want to be a millionaire,” another individual will state while not having a plan in place to achieve success.

 

It’s as though some people irrationally believe that their future existence is inevitable – that they somehow or another remain confident that they will live to experience an 80th birthday – while wishing into the ether for a desired outcome. In Campbell-esque fashion, I think about how absurd their expressions are, because eternity is now.

 

There is no guarantee for the future. Rational people may maintain irrational hope in the future while flexibly planning to achieve a desired outcome in accordance with a goal. Nevertheless, there’s no indication that such goals will actually come to fruition.

 

Contemplating this matter even further, I consider what Alan Watts once stated:

 

When you say to yourself you must go on living, you put yourself in a double bind, because you said to a process which is essentially spontaneous that it must happen. And the basic form of the double bind which was imposed upon all children is you are required to do that which will be acceptable if you do it voluntarily. So when we say to ourselves, ‘You must go on,’ the reason is, you see, that we are not living in the eternal now – where reality is. We are always thinking that the satisfaction of life will be coming later. Don’t kid yourself; which is to say only suckers put hope in the future.

 

In agreement with Campbell, Watts regarded the present as eternal. Still, the latter went on to criticize irrational hope in the future. I cannot fully disagree with this proposition which is likely an odd point for a psychotherapist to advocate.

 

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that Albert Ellis, who developed REBT, once stated of Watts:

 

[M]any other Zen Buddhists along with their valuable insights into the intrinsic existence of a human being, include mystical mumbo-jumbo and impractical rituals. Alan Watts may not be of this group.

 

It would appear as though there was some degree of respect concerning Ellis’ perspective of Watt’s outlook. Placing a finer point on this matter, one REBT source states:

 

An Eastern philosopher, Alan Watts, once said, “The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” Breaking this down into REBT language, Watts is suggesting that rather than searching for happiness through unattainable, ill-defined goals, the key is to live within the present moment and striving for unconditional self-acceptance (USA). Through USA, an individual is able to all-inclusively acknowledge who they are. The acceptance of one’s strengths as well as their weaknesses does not require coercion of liking one’s flaws. Rather, USA is the process of recognizing shortcomings and accepting that they are as much a part of you as your strengths.

 

Recognition of one’s own fallibility is an integral component of REBT. USA is the mechanism that takes into consideration positive (strengths), neutral, and negative (weaknesses) aspects of one’s existence.

 

Irrational expression of hope in the future is merely a desire to improve upon what simply is in the here-and-now. It is the Solillaquists of Sound’s expression to “live the way we should, as if we existed.”

 

If the eternal experience of life can take place only in this moment – as each day you awake it’s always today, not yesterday or tomorrow – then in the strictest interpretation of the concept, instillation of hope is an unreasonable undertaking. And yet, I set goals and incorporate plans nonetheless.

 

This I do, because I maintain hope in the future – albeit irrational – as this practice improves my Campbell-esque eternity—right here and now, the function of life. Likewise, I assist people with similar aims.

 

As the instillation of hope concerns the belief that things can be better, I value one of the main objectives of REBT: helping people get better rather than merely feeling better. This is done in accordance of the irrationality of hope and through continued practice of REBT techniques.

 

I suppose an uncharitable interpretation of the current blogpost would conclude that I believe hope in the future is for suckers. However, I have an entire blog section dedicated to Hope, so I reject this imagined criticism.

 

Although hope is irrational, I use this flexible expectation of obtainment or fulfillment as fuel for plans when en route to an outcome regarding goal-attainment – with understanding that I could cease to exist at any moment. If you would like to begin your destination to a better life, while you still exist, I’m here to help fuel your hope in the future.

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


 

References:

 

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