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Hope Can Be a Hindrance

By Debbie Mandel

Too much of even a good thing can be harmful. For example, too many vitamins or too much exercise can be toxic. This principal also applies to the most beneficial of human emotions – hope.

Hope is the feeling that we can have what we want. Grief is the feeling that you almost held it in your fingertips or had it for awhile, but then it was taken from you. So, you mourn the loss. Which emotion will help you become the best version of yourself? Did you ever consider that hope might get in the way of your coping and adapting to what is? How do you adapt to reality if you are wishing and hoping for a different outcome? How many men and women hope to change the person they marry? Have you ever hoped that something that wasn’t good for you would suddenly be healthy? If you hope to live or hope to be happy, you might be missing out on what is going on now.

A new study by the University of Michigan Health researchers reveals the shadow side of hope. “Hope is an important part of happiness,” said Peter A. Ubel, M.D., one of the authors of the happily hopeless study, “but there’s a dark side of hope. Sometimes, if hope makes people put off getting on with their life, it can get in the way of happiness.” The research study involved patients who had colostomies - their colons were removed and bowel movements happened in a pouch outside their body. Some patients learned this condition was temporary, for in several months a second surgery would reverse the colostomy. Other patients learned it was irreversible. Surprisingly, the patients who believed their condition to be irreversible were happier than those who knew it was temporary! The researchers concluded that the irreversible group accepted, adapted and started living again while the other group was living in the interim, waiting for the second surgery.

You can clearly see the analogy to other losses and disappointments. Often people who divorce have a more difficult time getting over it than when a spouse dies. According to the reasoning in this study it is because death is final; people move on to adapt. However, with a breakup in many cases there is hope of reconciliation which puts up a road block to moving on.

Currently many physicians have been criticized for giving a patient a poor prognosis without much hope. In fact, most doctors prefer giving a more optimistic diagnosis, not wishing to take away hope. However, this might not be the best option for the patient. Hope might impede a patient’s coping with reality, decision making process and the right to finish up unfinished business. Some patients may have been given a death sentence, but make up their mind to really live during the time they have and guess what? They have forgotten about dying and survived the odds.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: