hope beyond hope

I'm thinking about the difference between the presence or absence of fundamental ('ontological') states of (human) being - of states which constitute us in our humanity as such - and the ('ontical') presence or absence of such feelings as are only possible when the fundamental states already obtain.


To feel love for, or be annoyed with, someone presupposes an ability to be in relationship with them. To be in relationship with them involves being open to being touched by them. It means offering them a place in your life. We meet all the time with love (and anger), but this love presupposes a deeper love - a love beyond love - which is the condition of possibility of love (and anger). From the point of view of this deeper love, anger could be said to be one of its forms. Ontological open-heartedness is a condition of possibility of ontical love and anger. Ontological closed-heartedness is a condition of impossibility of both love and anger.


Sometimes I am delighted or disappointed - when my hopes are met or dashed. Yet there is a kind of hope in which I take out a mortgage on the happening of what I hope for, and when my hopes are not met then I am not disappointed but crushed. When I am delighted or disappointed I am able to reside in hopeful relations to the world. I am open to love and opportunity. Yet when I am crushed I become depressed; I am hopeless and have no future. 'Hope beyond hope' is ontological hope. It is an attitude of accepting openness to whatever will be. It does not hold the world to account but aims to take whatever is offered in good faith. Job saw that his complaints were, despite his terrible sufferings, vapid. We can be happy, yet vulnerable, when we awaken to hope beyond hope.


Ordinary loneliness is an ache. In this state one knows that love and friendship are possible - this much is shown in the way in which one misses them: one is aware of what one is missing. Their love, the living meaning of their companionship, can still be felt in its absence. Yet loneliness beyond loneliness - ontological loneliness - is something else. This state of unmooring and hollowed-out bereftness makes it impossible to stay in touch with what one is missing. One is now no longer being in the mode of a companion.


Psychotherapy aims at the restoration of the capacity to feel ontically lonely, disappointed and angry. The capacity to feel thus is constituted by our ability to hope beyond hope, to love beyond love, to have companionship beyond companionship. Psychotherapists talk about their patients 'internalising' their therapists' care for them. This means staying in a mode of open-hearted relatedness to others, imagining oneself as the object of their care, and keeping them in mind too, even when alone. This is the whole task of therapy. It won't do to describe it in terms of 'affect regulation' or 'mindfulness'; what we are aiming at is, instead, an ontological transformation.


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