Where in heaven does hope come from? What Brené Brown Says

May 8, 2024 ◊ By Elisa Everts ◊

Where in heaven does hope come from? What Brené Brown Says

Is Hope Something We Pull Out of Our . . . Hats?
Hope is something we need like we need air. Wouldn't it be sweet if, like oxygen, it were a biproduct of photosynthesis or a substance you could order by the tank and stream in through the nose?!

Unfortunately, hope is also not something you achieve by squeezing your eyes shut and wishing with all your might that some deus ex machina (machine from the gods) will fall out of the ceiling to solve your problems as if your life were a stage play (dramatic as it may be).

So what in the world is hope and where does it come from?

Hope is not just a wish for some force outside of yourself to rescue you. Hoping is not merely wishing. In fact, hope is not even an emotion! Hope is a cognitive process—in which emotions do play a role, but which involve decisions that you make. That means there is a whole lot of responsibility on your part--and this is, in fact, wonderful news! It means you are neither hopeless nor helpless. You can do something to bring hope into force!

Positive psychology focuses on the role of your own effort in producing hope, which Brené Brown observes (in Atlas of the Heart and elsewhere) involves optimism, willpower, and a confidence in your ability to effect change (we can call that agency or a “can do attitude”). In essence, hope is the belief that your future will be better than circumstances suggest and that you have the power to make this happen. The key here is that hope is a power within you to expect and effect positive change and it evolves both mental and emotional activity. Hope is not merely a wish; it’s a course of action that you choose.

Hope Is Learned and I Learned It from My Community
Besides having parents who presented adversity as adventure, my mother joined a Pentecostal church when I was about eight. Statistically I think the majority of Pentecostals around the world live on the "wrong side of the tracks," and yet they are the most joyful people I have ever met, and they believe that God has a beautiful plan for everyone.

Thus, while I did grow up in that demographic, I grew up believing that I was absolutely being called into a wonderful future. Pentecostals generally believe that anyone can become anything if they collaborate with God in creating their lives. In a way, they are the spiritualized version of the American dream on steroids. (I will note that classic Pentecostals embrace suffering along with blessing, unlike some of their ecumenical cousins and I think that speaks to the resilience aspect of hope).

Although self-fulfilling prophecy is not one of their sponsored products, I think the trajectory of my life might be viewed through that lens. Brené Brown also observes that hope is learned. I learned it from the Pentecostals and am forever grateful. Even though I hurt desperately from a cluster bomb of trauma, I always believed that my wounds would one day be healed, and my needs would be met. And indeed, I am so pleased to report, with no little effort on my part, they have been! I never lost hope and eventually that hope was fulfilled.

If hope is learned, who are you learning it from? If you are not learning it from your community, is there a hope-generating community you can join? Can you teach it to yourself? Are you helping others learn hope? Learning how to generate hope is fundamental to managing it. If you are struggling to find hope, please be encouraged that you can learn, generate, and manage hope!

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About the author

Dr. Elisa Everts is the founder of Evertree Hope Management and is a dynamic public speaker, author and trainer. Dr Everts is passionate about helping cancer patients and bereaved people in their quest to survive and live a full life during and after cancer and grief. She has the personal experience of surviving Stage IV cancer and the loss of many loved ones. She understands the challenges inherent in these experiences and the importance of cultivating hope through the stories we tell others, and even more importantly, to ourselves.

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Elisa Everts, phd

Speaker | Author | Educator

Finding Hope in Cancer & Grief

Elisa Everts, phd

Speaker | Author | Educator

Finding Hope in Cancer & Grief

I speak to medical professionals and patients, helping them provide hope when there seems to be none. If you or your organization need someone to help process the difficult topics of cancer and grief, let's set up a complimentary call, 703-656-6691, ee@elisaeverts.com.

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