The birth and death of Hope: The 2021 BPF Annual Lecture, in memory of Lionel Monteith presented by Dr Jean KnoxBook tickets
British Psychotherapy Foundation
We all need hope at the moment, especially when it feels as though Pandora’s box has been opened and unleashed a series of catastrophes on the world. Hope is born when, in Winnicott’s words, the mother’s love, displayed as human reliability, gives the baby a sense of trust, or of confidence in the environmental factor.
This capacity to hope can be destroyed in a number of ways, throughout life. The death of hope can lie disguised and hidden beneath a range of emotions and attitudes- despair, shame, masochism and a sadistic coercive control of others and of one’s own mind and emotions. Anything hopeful is immediately killed off, even leading to attempts to control time itself and retreat into a fantasy world where nothing new can ever happen. In the consulting room, the therapist may feel under increasing pressure to be effective, as though their therapeutic credibility depends on proving their potency by rescuing the patient from hopeless despair.
Psychotherapists also need to take into account the powerful socio-economic and cultural factors that contribute to the long-term and insidious loss of hope in disadvantaged groups in society and also be able to think about loss of hope in the face of a range of potential catastrophes that affect us all.