Hope is necessary for our health. Without it, we become moribund, unmotivated, stagnant; in fact, hopeless.
I have been accused of offering “false hope” to those who read my books, participate in my courses or see me as patients. This begs the question, can hope be false?
Hope is a feeling, emotion, a thought but, most importantly, a chemical process. Every thought, feeling or emotion we experience results in production of chemicals that can have significant influences on our physical wellbeing.
If we feel fear, we increase production of fight/flight/freeze chemicals from the adrenals (adrenaline/epinephrine, cortisol and others) which increase heart rate, blood pressure and inflammation while reducing production of “peaceful” chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and anandamide.
When we feel hopeful, we reduce adrenal production and can increase production of dopamine, serotonin and anandamide. A hopeful state allows us to more easily repair gut dysfunction (see my blog “Levodopa and your gut”), reduce constipation, so decreasing the likelihood of misfolded alpha-synuclein (Lewy Bodies), and absorb vitamins and mineral that can improve our health status.
It is possible to base our hope on false information or a misunderstanding, but the hope involved is always real and helpful.
Psychosomatic Medicine, VOL. xix, NO. 3, 1957, published a horrible experiment on rats (Curt P. Richter PhD). Rats were placed in jars of water and had to tread water or swim to survive. They started to give up and sink after 15 minutes. They were then taken out, dried and rested for a short time, then placed back in the water again. The expectation was that the rats would swim for a shorter time but they actually survived, treading water, for 60 HOURS.
That is not a typographical error. During the first swim, the rats gave up after 15 minutes. But then they were given hope by being plucked from the water and rested. Despite the expectation of a second rescue being false, their hope was real and allowed them to exceed their first effort by a factor of 240!
If we have hope, we, too, can exceed all expectations. We can make changes to our lifestyle that we may otherwise find too difficult. We can persist with our efforts towards recovery for years when we might otherwise give up.
During my dark years of walking the journey with very advanced Parkinson’s symptoms, I often came close to giving up until someone (friend, teacher, practitioner) would mention a tiny improvement they observed, and my hope would soar. It was only this hope that kept me alive and trying during the days and nights of pain, loneliness, crushing fatigue and negative pronouncements by “experts”.
Many thought my hope was based on a false premise, but the hope was real. The result was complete reversal of my terrible symptoms and developing a healthy lifestyle that I have maintained.
Hope can never be false. Hope is strengthening, stimulating, inspiring and healthy.
Be strong, be patient and BE HOPEFUL.