True Hope will always resonate well with the receiver: it comes from the heart and has been around for ages as a word of support and comfort. 

The words that we speak have an immense influence over our bodies and subconscious minds.

Hoping is coping – is a maxim used by the Cancer Association in their strategy.  Hope is a very useful tool: when we hope we infuse ourselves with positive energies that stimulate our neurotransmitters to secrete those hormones that are beneficial to the healing process. 

There is also an opposite side to hope: a seldom-acknowledged fear that is present in the unconscious mind when we express a hope or desire.

As supporters we must always ensure that the words we speak are sending the correct message to the person, family or group being supported:

Supporter: “I hope you feel better today, you sure have more colour.”

Survivor: “Yes, I feel just fine.”

The overt message in the above example is a positive one, phrased in such a way that the survivor will respond in a positive tone.

In many cases however the supporter’s words show that they harbour unconscious fears and uncertainties and, should responses not be positive, they may not be able to handle the situation at that moment in time.

Supporter: “I hope to see you at the tea party next week”.

Survivor: “I hope so too.”

In this example the supporter is expressing hope in the presence of uncertainty – I am not sure that I shall see you next week. This allows a gap for fear to sneak in and the response from the survivor, having little emotional space, has the same underlying and unspoken fears.

Using the word hope sometimes leaves the survivor without the opportunity to express their current emotions. In conversations with survivors hope should not become a term of convenience or a substitute when the supporter fears engaging fully with the survivor in an open and honest dialogue of the heart. Take care not to lean too heavily on hope in conversations with survivors and rather make use of more affirmative expressions such as: “I look forward to seeing you at the tea party next week”.

Written by Dr Magda Rall

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