Hope, Wishes, and Self-deception . . .


“Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope” ~ anonymous

“If one truly has lost hope, one would not be on hand to say so.”  ~Eric Bentley

Think about it for a moment and I believe you will agree, Hope is a necessity for life. Hope is not really an emotion, it is more like part of our foundation for life. If you are a cup half-full type of person, you have a very hopeful outlook on life and are aware of it … if you are the cup half-empty type of person, you are probably just not as aware of it, however, you still must have some hope to continue on your life path. Hope gives us a reason to live, a purpose and direction in life … it is that inner drive that makes us take the next step in our walk.

Like most people, I openly and casually hope for many things every day. Sometimes my hope is in the form of a spiritual grace/prayer to get me through the day and sometimes just a little passing thought like: “I hope we get there on time”. “I hope to see you soon”. “I hope things work out”. Hope for me is an optimistic outlook on life, a belief that there will be a positive outcome. Whether they are expressed as a little prayer, deep contemplative thought, or something as simple as an expression of desire … my hopes are with me at all times. The things we hope for are usually achievable dreams … plausible, positive results … given patience and a little work, they are likely to occur. Hopes come from a deep, graceful place inside of us. They are a natural vision of positive outcomes, not forced, and when expressed are much meeker than that of wishes.
Our hopes give us life.


(defined as: to feel or express a strong desire for something that is not easily attainable; want something that cannot or probably will not happen)

Wishes are very similar to hopes as they also express desire, but generally, they tend to be much more demanding, harder (if not impossible) to achieve, and have some type of supernatural or assumed power behind them. For example, think back to all the “wishes” made in the fictional stories we read as kids or the superstitions we grew up with such as: wishing on shooting stars, birthday cake candles, wishing wells, etc … wishes were magical answers to our desires.

As we mature, although we may harbor some secret hopes that wishes have some power to come true, most of us do not tend to believe in a magical solution any more. When I find myself wishing as an adult, it is mostly an expression of frustration and/or exhaustion about things out of my control. The wishes are also not tangible or things in my control to attain. For example: “I wish summer was here.”, “I wish you wouldn’t do that.”, “I wish the weekend was longer.” We know that we can not control things like the weather, time or someone else’s behavior .. yet, we wish that we could.

The difference between hoping and wishing can be very subtle and I bet not too many people have even given it much thought … me either until I started following the emotional roller coaster of the missing bear cub Hope. (I have several posts about Hope and her mother Lily .. if you have not been following the story, you can get updates on the recent abandonment saga at: Bear.org, Lily’s facebook page, Fox21online, and Duluth News Tribune). (picture of Hope sleeping from bear.org)

Naming this cub Hope has turned out to be very appropriate as all of her fans are currently “hoping” she survives the hazards of nature on her own. The thoughts, hopes and wishes of the close to 100,000 facebook fans over the past two weeks have run the gamut from grim, to realistic, to hopeful, to imaginative, to very sad, to impossible, to desperate. Most of the hopes and wishes of everyone watching her life unfold are grounded in reality because, as a group, there is a type of balance of thought going on .. an anchor to truths. If someone extremely emotionally involved in this evolving story makes a rather selfish and demanding wish for something not feasible or in the best interest of the cub – the others in the group respond with “reality”. It made me think about how easy it can be sometimes to fool ourselves into believing things that are not true. How our hopes and wishes can gain such a strong foothold on our thoughts that we can start living our lives not in reality but, instead, in our dreams of reality.


A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true. ~ Demosthenes

There is a lot of research into the psychology of self-deception and some disagreements about whether it is something we do intentionally to ourselves and how it is even possible that we can know/believe contradictory truths. I am not qualified to puzzle out all the paradoxes self-deception presents, I just know it is a real mental affliction and I have witnessed it’s destructive effects to the individual and the people that care about them.

Self-deception (denial or rationalizing away reality) can occur in many different ways. In relation to my topic, it can definitely occur when we take our wishes to extremes in our minds and/or we shape our reality with magical, wishful thinking. Mind games, playing in our heads with reality, is one of the most dangerous things we can do to ourselves. I do believe that some of the self-inflicted mind games that can infect us sneak into our thoughts without us realizing it right away … probably because the illusion is much easier to handle than the truth. I find it amazing how our minds can distort the truth, hide reality, and manipulate our lives when the right circumstances present themselves. Our most passionate wishes can actually become self-defined illusions to avoid reality. Our desires can become so strong that we live a lie, a fantasy and deny very evident truths.

Wishes, themselves, are not the problem. Many people have fulfilled their life dreams because they chased their dreams and worked to achieve their tangible wishes. And, the wishes we make for others are probably the healthiest wishes we can make. The problem comes when our wishes become so far-reaching that they form fictional beliefs in our minds and we make our decisions according to what is pleasing to imagine instead of focusing on reality. When we convince ourselves of a truth (or lack of truth) and attempt to live that lie by hiding the truth from ourselves. Self-deception is a very self-centered way to live .. it is complicated mind game and can destroy a person, as well as, hurt the people that care about them.
“Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Return to HOPE

Stop the habit of wishful thinking and start the habit of thoughtful wishes.” ~ Mary Martin

The way we deal with our hopes, wishes, dreams and realities can make us our own best ally or our own worst enemy.
I hope that we all have the anchors in our life necessary to believe reality and not self-created illusions, to dwell in a transparent state of truth (especially an honest relationship with ourselves), to work for our realistic hopes and dreams, to not lose ourselves to wishful or magical thinking, to not create a fantasy to explain away the things in our lives that are not working out for us the way we would like. Be real. Live truth.

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.” ~ Pope John XXIII

~ by bearyweather on June 5, 2010.

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