What got you interested in looking into hope?
A big part of it was just things I’ve seen working with clients in my private practice. I have a few clients who have had life issues that didn’t look positive; they had cancer or terminal diagnoses. Whether this is coincidence or not (and I think not), the people I’ve seen who ended up in remission had social anchors, which are a big part of hope. That idea of really remaining hopeful is something I’ve seen that’s so important.
Conversely, in the pandemic, people did feel a sense of hopelessness about certain things, and that started to percolate. The American Psychological Association recently observed that just over half of surveyed American adults did not think they became healthier during the pandemic, with many citing weight gain and increased alcohol consumption as a couple of consequences.
Explain what is meant by the biology of hope.
There are researchers looking into how hope positively affects biology — helping wounds heal faster, preventing infections, enhancing cure rates and sending cancer into remission. Harvard-trained brain surgeon Dr. Allan Hamilton believes that hope works on our biology, even in the smaller things like proteins, peptides and hormones. He believes hope can create an enhanced internal state.
He is actually doing research now to see if hope is “allocated” somewhere in the brain.
Does that biology affect our psychology? Is there a “psychology of hope”?
There may be. With psychology, we’re talking about the potential for enhancing resilience. And when people have hope, we do tend to pair that with a higher level of resilience.