It is All About Hope

By Casey Gwinn

I was saddened to read about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. He was a passionate and thoughtful writer and storyteller. There was clearly deep pain there that most did not fully see or know about.

As you all reflect today on his death and the recent death of Kate Spade, don’t forget this truth. We all need hope in our lives. Hope is about goal setting and strategic thinking to achieve goals in your life — who you want to be and what you want to do. We are born with hope. It is the essence of being human. But there are enemies of hope. Direct and vicarious trauma and often pain, illness, and the adversity of life rob us of hope. Children always get robbed first. Sometimes the loss of hope expresses itself as rage, sometimes as despair and ultimately as apathy when people say “nothing will ever change” and “I don’t care about anything anymore.”

As someone who has struggled with depression and darkness at times in my life, I know that hope is not linear. Sometimes we find it rising in our lives and sometimes we cannot find it at all. But we all need it and we all can work to increase it. Hope is the single best predictor of well-being in the lives of human beings. We need it and everyone around us needs it to thrive in life.

We all should aspire to be hope givers in our lives but we cannot give what we do not have. So, we need to be constantly connecting honestly with people that can know us and encourage us in our journeys. We thrive with high hope in our lives, we struggle with low hope, and we die without hope. We simply lose our will to live without hope in our lives. Chan Hellman (OU Hope Research Center, Director) and I said in our new book Hope Rising: How the Science of HOPE Can Change Your Life that: “Hope is the belief that your future can be better than your past and that you play a role in making it happen.” You play a key role in your own hope story.

Don’t forget though that hope is never a solo journey. Hope comes from transparency, friendship, and surrounding yourself with people that encourage and support you. In fact, “agency” which is the motivation to pursue your goals is always about relationships with people you care about and people that care about you. But you have to make a choice to find and build those relationships too.

Most people don’t want to commit suicide. They want the pain to stop. It sometimes plays out as mental illness or a chemical imbalance, often with childhood trauma or other major life pain connected to it. But there are other ways to deal with the pain and find joy and meaning in your life even when it seems like there is no way forward. Even when you find yourself without hope, you can still choose to believe that hope can exist in your life again and then start setting very small goals and achieving them one moment at a time, one day at a time.

Hope Rising closes with these words about the lifesaving power of hope:

“When we feel trapped in the pain of today, hope reminds us we need not be there forever
When we feel stuck in looking back, hope calls us to look forward
When we lose our way, hope can give us back a roadmap for our lives
When we are hurting from the actions of others, hope is a pathway to resilience
When the diagnosis is grim, hope calls us to the battle for survival
When we feel bound in the darkness of despair, hope reminds us there is a way to the light
When a dream does not come true, hope lights the fire to dream again
When we must say goodbye to those we love, hope reminds us the best is yet to come.”

“It’s a national problem of wide scope that we need comprehensive approaches for.”