“Are hope and stress the same? Hope- wanting things to be different than they are. Stress- wanting something in your life to be different.”
They're different things.
Imagine you're standing on a mountain, and you see another mountain that is lush and green and beautiful.
- Desire is wanting to go live on that mountain.
- Stress is NOT wanting to be on the mountain you're currently on.
- Hope is the belief that doing so will be possible someday.
- Despair is believing that it will NEVER be possible.
Like all emotions, these different drives often happen simultaneously, so it's easy to mix them together. It's rare to see red or blue, sometimes everything is shades of purple.
But the 4 emotions in that list are different.
Why these differences matter
Desire and stress are very basic emotions- any reptile feels these. They are more or less reactions to a situation. Even a single-celled organism has a crude version of these drivers, or it would starve and die quickly.
However hope and despair are perspectives.
They rely on higher brain functions that involve prediction. Hope and despair are about an imagined future, not a real one.
Other animals can have hope, but they're bad at prediction. Your dog will be hopeful every night that you might share your steak dinner with him- even if you've never done it before, ever.
How uncontrolled imagination disrupts us
Humans devote a LOT of attention to prediction, but most of us use those predictions badly. Instead of using our brain to create the future we want, we use it to analyze the possibilities, and then we focus in on the ones that create the strongest emotional reactions.
All of this affects us because our emotions and our thoughts interact with each other constantly. If you give a lot of attention to "what can go wrong", you'll feel anxiety, because your emotions always see risk in your future. If you give a lot of attention to "what sucks now", you'll feel depression, because your rational mind is specifically picking up those ugly bits, and holding them in front of your emotional mind.
Stop and think hard about that.
Choose your reaction intentionally
Are those feelings you're feeling based on reality, or an imagined future?
Whatever you're thinking and feeling, it's just information. You can choose to use that information to lead you towards a better future. Or you can just sit back and feel unhappy things.
If you choose to "sit back" and let you basic emotions direct your life, they will. You'll make decisions based on fear & anxiety & desire.
The experience will be like riding a horse, without holding the reins. A horse has little prediction ability, so it can only react to in-the-moment circumstances and emotions. It will go... wherever its emotions direct it.
So what's the result of this approach to life?
If you ride your horse that way, you probably won't die, because the horse is a survival machine. It will prioritize safety and comfort over everything else.
But you also will never get anywhere you want to go.
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