I recently attended an event at the Southbank Centre, Bonnie Greer was interviewing the feminist US author Rebecca Solnit. Rebecca has written on a variety of subjects, including the environment, politics, place, and art.
I must confess that I have not read any of Rebecca's work yet, so I didn't have the depth of experience of her work that some in the audience did.
One statement Rebecca made stood out. She said that the 'weapon used against oppressed people is despair.' There seemed to be despair thick in the room amongst the audience, whether about the current US President or the plethora of sexual harassment claims being made in the media, and perhaps some had personal despair they were dealing with.
As a result, a member of the audience asked how we then find 'hope in the dark?' I found this a helpful question to understand how we could counteract this despair.
I think a definition of hope is helpful at this point. Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation."
So when we are not hopeful we do not expect a positive outcome, our expectations are unsure or low and we do not have anticipation of the future.
My observation is that a growing number of people seem hopeless rather than hopeful in society: those exhausted from activism that is not producing the change they hoped for, young people with mental health issues and those who absorb the consistently negative news stories of disaster, terrorism and war.
So how do we find hope in the dark? The answer isn't simple, but here are three ideas that might help:
Limit your intake of news
Over-saturation with news is detrimental to our emotional health. If you read the newspaper or check Twitter in the morning, let that be enough. You don't need to turn on the TV or radio too, especially before bed. Anything you missed will be there tomorrow. Be very careful with how much news you let your children absorb also.
Look for role models who have found solutions
Spend time with hopeful people so that they can show you the reality of remaining hopeful and share their strategies and lessons with you. There are many, many people who have overcome tremendous adversity. Reading their stories and surrounding yourself with supportive messages can help.
Get involved with a cause
Getting involved in a cause in your community can be a great way to cultivate hope towards the future. This can be in your local community or even an online community, but either way the important aspect is building relationships with others over common goals or projects. Involving yourself with other people who share your interests can help you to overcome alienation, which can cause a feeling of hopelessness.
These all work for me. What are your strategies for remaining hopeful in tough and changing times?