Hope: Overview and the Story of A People
In a study published in the journal Social Indicators Research, Cheavens and her colleagues tested a hope therapy treatment with a sample of 32 people recruited through newspaper ads and flyers. The ads asked for participants willing to attend weekly group meetings designed to increase participants’ abilities to reach goals. The researchers specifically looked for people who were not diagnosed with depression or other mental illnesses, but who felt dissatisfied with where they were in life. The assumption was that since that which we focus on, tends to grow, if we focus on the negative and what is wrong, we will cause that to increase but if we focus on the positive potential, we can grow that. Hope therapy borrows from standard cognitive therapy but it includes new twists. Unlike usual therapy which focuses on what went wrong, it tends to focus on what goes right, in the client and in other people.
In this study, about half the participants took part in eight, two-hour group sessions led by trained leaders. As part of these sessions, they were taught new hope-related skills, including identifying goals, ways to achieve them, and how to motivate themselves.
Results showed that those who participated in the hope therapy had reduced depressive symptoms compared to the control group that did not participate. The group therapy participants had significant change in measures of self-esteem, life meaning, and anxiety than those not in the group therapy. There was a decrease in depression symptoms, but it didn’t reach statistical significance. The therapy group was taught skills that researchers believe are related to hope, and hopeful people have goals, the inspiration to go after those goals, and the skills to make them happen.
People with high hope, according to researchers writing in background information published with the results, possess these “components of hope”:
• Goals: They have long- and short-term meaningful goals.
• Ways to reach those goals: A plan or pathway to get there and the ability to seek alternative routes, if needed.
• Positive self-talk like “I think I can.”
Researchers add that these three traits are related to each other and can be taught. For instance, you set a goal that can create motivation to follow through, which can ignite inspiration and action to take the steps to get moving. It is still hard to determine how to teach people not to backslide into self-destructive behaviors after completing the hope “workshops” and training, but there is hope.
These kinds of studies can shed light further, for example on future care for trauma patients on one hand and during therapy on the other. People use the word “hope” very loosely and if we listen to it, we can find the little moments of hopefulness, then help catch those moments and amplify them, supporting others in developing the hope into realistic goals and a constant in life.
The issue of hope might be especially interesting when we explore not only individuals but also groups and nations. Can the study of hope be applied to areas in political psychology? How do traits we think of as belonging to individuals appear – or vice versa, are lacking – in the national arena? Is hope a trait of an individual or can it also be a trait of a nation?