Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Thursday, November 23, 2023

How to Maintain Hope in an Age of Catastrophe

Masha Gessen
The Atlantic
Originally posted 12 Nov 23

Gessen interviews psychoanalyst and author Robert Jay Lifton.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article/interview:

Lifton is fascinated by the range and plasticity of the human mind, its ability to contort to the demands of totalitarian control, to find justification for the unimaginable—the Holocaust, war crimes, the atomic bomb—and yet recover, and reconjure hope. In a century when humanity discovered its capacity for mass destruction, Lifton studied the psychology of both the victims and the perpetrators of horror. “We are all survivors of Hiroshima, and, in our imaginations, of future nuclear holocaust,” he wrote at the end of “Death in Life.” How do we live with such knowledge? When does it lead to more atrocities and when does it result in what Lifton called, in a later book, “species-wide agreement”?

Lifton’s big books, though based on rigorous research, were written for popular audiences. He writes, essentially, by lecturing into a Dictaphone, giving even his most ambitious works a distinctive spoken quality. In between his five large studies, Lifton published academic books, papers and essays, and two books of cartoons, “Birds” and “PsychoBirds.” (Every cartoon features two bird heads with dialogue bubbles, such as, “ ‘All of a sudden I had this wonderful feeling: I am me!’ ” “You were wrong.”) Lifton’s impact on the study and treatment of trauma is unparalleled. In a 2020 tribute to Lifton in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, his former colleague Charles Strozier wrote that a chapter in “Death in Life” on the psychology of survivors “has never been surpassed, only repeated many times and frequently diluted in its power. All those working with survivors of trauma, personal or sociohistorical, must immerse themselves in his work.”

Here is my summary of the article and helpful tips.  Happy (hopeful) Thanksgiving!!

Hope is not blind optimism or wishful thinking, but rather a conscious decision to act in the face of uncertainty and to believe in the possibility of a better future. The article/interview identifies several key strategies for cultivating hope, including:
  • Nurturing a sense of purpose: Having a clear sense of purpose can provide direction and motivation, even in the darkest of times. This purpose can be rooted in personal goals, relationships, or a commitment to a larger cause.
  • Engaging in meaningful action: Taking concrete steps, no matter how small, can help to combat feelings of helplessness and despair. Action can range from individual acts of kindness to participation in collective efforts for social change.
  • Cultivating a sense of community: Connecting with others who share our concerns can provide a sense of belonging and support. Shared experiences and collective action can amplify our efforts and strengthen our resolve.
  • Maintaining a critical perspective: While it is important to hold onto hope, it is also crucial to avoid complacency or denial. We need to recognize the severity of the challenges we face and to remain vigilant in our efforts to address them.
  • Embracing resilience: Hope is not about denying hardship or expecting a quick and easy resolution to our problems. Rather, it is about cultivating the resilience to persevere through difficult times and to believe in the possibility of positive change.

The article concludes by emphasizing the importance of hope as a driving force for positive change. Hope is not a luxury, but a necessity for survival and for building a better future. By nurturing hope, we can empower ourselves and others to confront the challenges we face and to work towards a more just and equitable world.