Intrinsic Hope: A good Book for difficult times

Intrinsic Hope: Living Courageously in Troubled Times by Kate Davies, M.A., D. Phil.

Note: I highlighted some of my info in bold. es

Before reading this book, the word ”hope” was a stand-alone word for me with no adjectives, such as extrinsic or intrinsic. The author spends considerable time in Part 1 (“Uncovering Intrinsic Hope”), explaining the differences between these two important and divergent adjectives before moving onto the larger Part 11 (“Habits of Hope”). Davies also notes that, as a Buddhist and a Quaker, she has done considerable research and proposed this interesting idea of “intrinsic hope” in this book. This is Davis’ concept and unique contribution to the topic of hope!

Her basic distinction between “extrinsic hope” and “intrinsic hope” is explained in detail. Extrinsic hope “is based on the naïve expectation that life will give us whatever we hope for…..anticipating improvements in our external circumstances.” This expectation can result in disappointment, sadness and anger. In contrast, intrinsic hope does not come with feelings of disappointment, sadness, fear, grief, anger, etc. “because it doesn’t depend on the expectation that life will conform to our wishes.” This seems to be a huge difference to me, especially because the author explains that we don’t need to create intrinsic hope, since  it’s already inside us and also “inherent in all life.”

Additionally, the author’s experience is that by naming our feelings about the global eco-social crises, we can become more hopeful rather than feel more hopeless by denying our feelings. She explores some common feelings in the first chapter. After acknowledging these feelings, Davis explores developing a firm foundation for intrinsic hope instead of holding onto extrinsic hope, based only on wishful thinking. Thus, part two examines how we can nurture intrinsic hope. She proposes six “habits of hope”:

1. Being present

2.Expressing gratitude

3. Loving the world

4. Accepting what is

5. Taking action

6. Persevering over the long haul

Be assured these six steps are not “pie in the sky,” for at the end of each of the six sections are some practical suggestions on how to nurture a particular habit. Also, Davis provides a short list of three books or websites to take these six steps. (There are also eight pages of Notes that include additional reading sources.)

The concluding chapter draws on the myth of Pandora’s box, calling her final chapter “Pandora’s Gift.” In explaining Pandora’s box, she reminds us that when Pandora accidentally opened the box, what rushed out “was all the pain and suffering known to humankind including fear, sorrow, despair, grief, anger, and hatred…” But one thing had not escaped: HOPE.

Because Davis is a philosopher, this following information makes sense: “Just as hope stayed in Pandora’s box, so it can  live in our hearts….hopeful that we can work with life just as it is.” I found this uplifting, because what Davis has us believe is that, even though intrinsic hope accepts the facts of a situation, this doesn’t mean these facts are the whole truth. Rather, what it signifies is that while the future is uncertain, then perhaps our actions can actually influence the outcome of any situation. I find this very helpful, because it changed my mindset about the nature of hope.

To summarize, as she notes in her final chapter, Davis explains that our choices do matter. “We can choose to see the global eco-social crisis as a unique opportunity for transformation, as well as an unprecedented threat to human survival….Intrinsic hope is about choosing to see all the possibilities.”

I liked reading this book, even all the details, because Kate Davies helped me to see a sliver of light in the darkness of what has been happening to the planet and our lives, especially with COVID-19. Since intrinsic hope is within us, we can tap into it whenever we feel sad or angry or hopeless. What Davis is saying clearly is that we can choose how we view our lives and recognize that this crisis is about the “evolution of human consciousness.”

If we recognize the interdependence of our lives instead of feeling alone, and we choose to act from love and compassion, our actions will be focused on what we really care about, rather  than what we fear. Thus, intrinsic hope is a key concept that I can take from the book and apply it to the big or small actions I want to explore more concerning life on our only, precious home: Mother Earth.

Intrinsic Hope by Kate Davis is published by New Society Publishers, “an activist, solutions-oriented publisher focused on books for a world of change…positive solutions for troubled times.” They also publish with an environmental consciousness that saves trees, solid waste, water, electricity, etc. Thus, Intrinsic Hope at $18.99 is a great investment in information as well as a conscientious and earth conscious publisher. I like that!


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