I used to have a sign in my office that I wish I still had, it said “I feel so much better since I gave up hope.” I can’t remember where I got the sign, it was one of those things with sayings you find in shops and stores that are “cute.” I put it up on the wall behind my desk along with other mementos that cover the wall like a collage.
For a long time I didn’t realize how profound this saying was. It actually had a very very deep meaning once I “got” that meaning.
As long as we “hope” something is going to happen, expect it to happen, our expectations cause us to feel grief and sad when these expectations, this “hope” does not turn out to be true.
When I buy a lotto ticket, which is something I rarely do because I know the odds of being struck by lightening are better than winning the lotto, I do not expect to win, I hope of course, but expect? No, so when I do not win, I am not crushed or let down.
The hope I had, the expectation I had, that if I just did enough for my son (and other people who were not honest, kind, caring people) that if I just “supported” him, encouraged him, stood by him, loved him, that he would change and love me back. I truly believed, truly hoped, and truly expected that this would come true and I would have the loving son I always wanted. Well, my expectations turned to grief and pain time after time. Yet I still kept up this hope even when it had become “malignant” like a cancer, but spreading through my heart, mind and soul. Beating me to the ground because I hung on tightly to this false hope, this expectation that was not going to come true.
Where do you draw the line between good expectations, realistic hope, and malignant hope and unrealistic expectations? Well, of course it varies from situation to situation, and no one else can tell you where you should “draw the line.” In my case, I held on to this malignant hope for over 20 years, from the time my son was 15 or so until he was nearly 40. He committed crime after crime, broke parole and probation over and over, with his crimes becoming worse and worse, and him feeling no remorse for them. My “ah ha” moment came when during a visit he told me how his crime “was worse than even the cops knew” in such a way that he was actually proud of what he had done and how brutal it was.
I felt as if a bucket of cold ice water had been dashed into my face, but I finally realized that he had no remorse, that he indeed had no conscience, and that he was not about to change. That was the last time I saw him, and I gave up my hopes, my expectations that h e would change, that he even wanted to change. Of course I was crushed and as the denial was swept away that protected me from realizing what he really was, I grieved the “loss” of my expectation, the loss of my hope he would reform.
It is painful to come out of denial, to accept the truth that one we love is not going to change and that there is nothing we can do to effect a change in their attitudes and behaviors. As people who are offenders often do, they go back to prison over and over, don’t learn from their bad choices (they are not mistakes, they CHOSE to do those things.)