Friday, September 21, 2012

The Paralysis of Hope

The myth of Pandora's box always confused me.  It made no sense.  After all, Hope was in the box filled with all of the evils and ailments of men-- famine, disease, death, jealousy, anger-- and in order to get the benefit of Hope, it was kept in the box, not let out to infect the world.

Even as a kid, I thought that didn't make sense.  Why Hope included in a list of evils?  If the evils could only affect the world by being released, how could Hope help anyone by being caged?  Dumb.

But maybe not.

As long as I'm cataloging some dark thoughts...

In a drawn-out violent episode, the threat wants to keep the victim from effectively fighting.  In a true blitz, that's not much of a problem.  Close distance, distract, flurry attack.  The victim tends to freeze.  In a longer, drawn out, ugly scenario (think secondary crime scene and all that implies) an unconscious victim doesn't supply the necessary 'fun'  but a conscious victim might well fight.  And so the threat has to get control of the brain.

Not always, and don't take anything I'm writing here as absolute.  I'm trying to set up a specific type of event to examine here..

Teja described it best (and I think we captured her little talk in the "Logic of Violence" DVD coming out soon.)  The threat does a mix of savagery and niceness, making the victim think her only hope is in being nice and keeping the threat nice...and so the victim doesn't fight.

Her hope keeps her from fighting.

And it makes me wonder how many people over the millennia died without fighting when they desperately needed to fight.  How many waited for rescue or prayed for intervention, and let themselves die?  And how many prevailed when they realized there was no hope and fought with everything they had?

Were the Greeks saying that hope is the one evil you must lock up in order to fight the others?


Maija said...

That's how I've always thought of it

Anonymous said...

As an old Taiji master once said... "Hope is dope." It can keep you complacent and deter you from taking action.

Klemens Dombrowski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Klemens Dombrowski said...

something similar is in the idea the japanese samurai held: before going into battle accept that you are already dead.
helps focusing on the deed when you don't think of the outcome and waste energy on that.

Kai Jones said...

Hope is a tool and a perspective. It can be applied helpfully or not, depends on the person. It's ambiguous by nature.

Anonymous said...

My Dad always used to say
" a man who lives in hope, dies in despair"

Klemens Dombrowski said...

Sunzi in "the art of war" tells us that it is wiser to not totally surround the enemy, so he won't be fully comitted to fighting you, but look for his escape. marc and others find it best to leave the potential threat a facesaving way out as a deescalation technique.
so yes it can be a tool ;-)

hope tends to lean towards magical thinking i guess... or is a remnant of it. if i just hold on things will become better by themselves, which in fact they often do. thats where the conditioning towards this behavior might come from. problem is: it rarely works in serious situations. and you see it all the time: from bancrupcy (where the guy thought things would get better by themselve instead of changing the way he does business) to crime victims that don't fight back, to the probably most common sort: not changing bad live/work/relationship conditions.
and then there are numerous "spiritual/religious" movements that prey in the hopes and fears of people...
thinking of it, hope seems to be a bad, reality distorting fear management tool and not much more.

Tiff said...

Sounds like the carrot-stick headgames a violent spouse plays to keep the victim "trapped."

Anonymous said...

I see this idea appear in Art Spiegelman's "Maus" and Elie Wiesel's "Night". In both works, captured Jews in Auschwitz abandon plans of sabotage, fighting back, or escape because they hope that if they wait just a little while the Russians will rescue them or make their plans safer to execute. I was shocked to read in both cases that the resistance efforts within the camps only occurred late in the 11th hour.

In both books, there's also the "This can't get any worse, so I'll just wait it out" mentality as Europe is deteriorating in the late 30s and 40s. A conscious decision to ignore facts that don't agree with the hope that the situation will improve.


Charles James said...

Quote "how many prevailed when they realized there was no hope and fought with everything they had?"

Isn't it actually hope found within vs. reliance on hope found without?

Jake said...

Interesting take. Never thought of it that way, but I like it.

Brandon said...

Hope is just like anything else, it can be used for good to inspire people to do great things, but that does take a large component of determination and follow-through once hope has provided the initial fuel to get moving.

I read the post and instantly thought about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedish movie adaptation). The killer actually used hope to take the fight out of his victims. He'd inspire hope by giving them a human kindness.

In that instance he got perverse pleasure from seeing the hope as he killed.

Josh Kruschke said...

If you flip the coin of hope over you get disapointment.

Josh Kruschke said...

The flip side of the coin of hope is despair.

This concept of, or understanding of, hope only works if you are focused or looking outside of yourself for answers.

Hope without action is just waitting for a miracle.

You have to have hope or at lest have a belief that you can survive lifes mishaps or why carry on. Why train? Why do anything?

There are no garanties in life but one.

Josh Kruschke said...


Is it hope or misplaced trust in the goodness of all mankind? If I'm nice then others will be nice to me.

Is it hope or this sheeple mentality that we must rely on others police/government to protect us?

Is it hope or fear that keeps us from committing to a course of action?

Josh Kruschke said...

Hope/despair is just an expectation of what you want or expect the future to be, but it's up to the individual to make it a reality or not.

Hope/despair can be an excuse to motivate you to action or hold you in check.

How well our perceptions meet/reflect the realities around us will help determine if we are successful.


Josh Kruschke said...

I think the the key word in the title is paralyses and hope is or can be just one of many excuses we can use as a reason not to act.


Justthisguy said...

I think that there is a "boy and girl" thing involved, too. Historically, the wimminz have gone to "tend and befriend" the conquering bad boys, their own husbands having been killed.

As the Gamers will tell you, the average woman is attracted to the biggest badass in the room. Whether he is considered virtuous by the guys or not, does not even show up on her radar.

Bill Kortenbach said...

Love this post... There is a time when circumstances dictate committment to a seemingly foolish course of action and then-- caution becomes your enemy.

tpk said...

In the version of the myth I remember each evil that emerged from the box was worse than the one before-and hope was last. Someone else said hope was the thing with feathers. Arrows have feathers. Without hope there's no reason to do anything at all. And arrows don't mean much without archers.

RXian said...

In this context, hope is negative and akin to wishing. It's what leads a man to dig his own grave at gun point.

Today, the word hope is also used to mean something between being wishful and being optimistic.

It's fine to hope for something as long as you're willing to be the catalyst that brings about the desired result.

Hunter Thompson put it best: "Call upon God, but row away from the rocks."