Freedom Freed by Hope

A Conversation with Johann B. Metz and William F. Lynch on the ‘Identity Crisis’ in the West

by Alberto Dominguez Munaiz (Author)
©2021 Monographs 186 Pages


A hopeless individual is more vulnerable and is threatened with indifference, meaninglessness, apathy, anxiety, stress, and despair. Are there symptoms of this in the West? Is it an individual phenomenon or has it been historically-culturally transmitted?
This book analyzes, from an interdisciplinary perspective (psychology, sociology, neuroscience, philosophy, theology), how hope contributes to forming a mentally healthy and mature identity. But what hope? Is this just for moments of despair? Can hope free imagination, enlarge desires and rehabilitate the zest for life? Is there a phenomenology of hope?

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface by Pope Francis
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Thesis
  • Prior Considerations
  • Methodology
  • Chapter 1: Status Quaestionis: On Identity, Modernity, and Postmodernity
  • 1.1 What We Assume by Identity
  • 1.1.1 Psychoanalysis Perspective
  • 1.1.2 Psychosocial Perspective: Erik H. Erikson
  • 1.1.3 Cognitive Psychological Perspective: Lawrence Kohlberg
  • 1.1.4 Philosophical Perspective: Mary Warnock
  • Theory of Knowledge: Imagination
  • The Nature of Human Identity: Memory and Autobiography
  • 1.1.5 Evaluation
  • 1.2 On Modern and Postmodern Identity
  • 1.2.1 Status of the Individual Identity: Bauman, Taylor, Lipovetsky
  • 1.2.2 The Place of Weakness: M. P. Gallagher, N. Boyle
  • 1.3 Conclusion
  • Chapter 2: The Role of Hope in Metz and Lynch’s Theological Anthropology
  • 2.1 Johann B. Metz: The Place of Hope in His Theological Anthropology
  • 2.1.1 Mystical-Political Theology or Practically-Oriented Fundamental Theology
  • 2.1.2 Theological Anthropology: Memory, Narratives, and Compassio in Hope
  • Human Beings and Creation: World, History, and Rationality in the World
  • Human Beings and Their Mystical Character: Rationality, Language, and Prayer
  • The Human Being and Others: Political Character of the Subject (Ethics of Compassio and the Homo Peccator)
  • 2.2 William F. Lynch: Imagination as Grace to Go through the Human Valley
  • 2.2.1 Christian Realism: A New Sensibility and Spirituality to Build the Human City
  • 2.2.2 Anthropological Theology: Imagination to Go through the Human Valley
  • The Individual as a Hoping Being: On Hope, Hopelessness, and the Absolutizing Instinct
  • A Hopeful Sensibility: Imagination as Grace to Go Through
  • Chapter 3: Rethinking Identity in Hope
  • 3.1 Hope Constitutes a Fundamental Element of a Vulnerable Human Being: Disposition to Trust and the Communitarian Dimension of Hope
  • 3.1.1 Conversation with Metz and Lynch
  • On the Symptoms
  • On the Internal Process of Identity Devaluation
  • Pedagogy of Hope: Hope Sweet Hope
  • 3.1.2 Contrast with the Results of Chapter One
  • 3.2 Hope a Dynamism to Endure in Life (and History): Through Hopelessness to Hope
  • 3.2.1 Conversation with Metz and Lynch
  • On Truth and its Relationship with Anamnestic Rationality: Unjust Suffering
  • On Just Suffering and its Value: Sensibility, Pathos and True Humanness
  • Hope as a Criterion of Discernment
  • 3.2.2 Contrast with the Results of Chapter One
  • 3.3 Hope Invites the Person to Integrate Time and History
  • 3.3.1 Conversation with Metz and Lynch
  • 3.3.2 Contrast with the Results of Chapter One
  • 3.4 Balance and Conclusion
  • Epilogue: Images of Hope
  • i The Photo Album: Identity Is Memory and Autobiography
  • ii The Graft: Continuity in Discontinuity
  • iii R. Nadal vs. R. Federer: Friendship and Beauty in a Competitive World: The Ideal Desire in Hope
  • iv Patch Adams (Tom Shadyac, 1998): Doctor-Patient, Disposition toward Hope
  • v Madrid, January 5, 2016: “Mum, Gaspar’s Clothes Are Not Real”: The Energy within Imagination of Hope
  • vi The Spiral: In the Time of Aeschylus, One Never Goes Back to the Same Place: Time in the Inner Mentality of Hope
  • vii The Immune System: Epigenetic Creativity of Hope
  • viii Investment Plan: From the 2007 Crisis to the 2020 Crisis: Hope Means Human Nature and Society with Plans
  • ix The Glass of Water: Drop by Drop It Overflows until You Fully Perceive Grace
  • x Covid-19: #WeStopThisVirusTogether: Communitarian Responsibility of Hope
  • xi Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019): We Are a Society, Hope Is Not Faceless
  • xii Dangerous Memories, Rwanda 1994: “Do This in Memory of Me”: Hope, Unjustly Suffering, Incarnation, and Anamnestic Reason
  • xiii #BlackLivesMatter: Past as a Principle of Reconciliation if It Is a Source of Hope
  • xiv Mt 25: Feeding, Material Need and Hope Transfer
  • xv Saved by the Bell: On a Pilgrimage to the Xavier Castle: Hope Guides and Saves on the Way
  • xvi The Test of Gratitude: Take, Lord, and Receive from Ignatius of Loyola
  • Bibliography
  • List of Tables and Figures

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Human beings take for granted the continuity and sequentiality of days and seasons: Spring follows Winter, Summer follows Spring, and Autumn follows Summer.2 Likewise, we expect the sun to rise every morning, for light to appear, and the sun to set at night to make room for darkness. We accept and believe in the axioms of geometry and logic on which mathematics and physics depend, and experimentation and scientific observation seem to prove that they work. As children, we learn to walk by exploring our “disbeliefs” (“unbeliefs”), insecurities and fears, until at last, we believe in ourselves enough to put one foot in front of the other, a process that will become so automatic as to be unconscious. Similarly, when driving a car, adults confidently assume and expect the continuity of the road. Even when the car climbs a mountain and encounters a bend which does not allow us to see round the other side, the driver expects a certain result.

It seems that humans need to believe in the regularity of nature and in the regularity (i.e., stability) of relationships. Otherwise, a person would live in permanent tension, characterized by latent insecurity and/or confusion that could be exaggerated to the point of neurotic disease. That is what Freud and Erikson highlight from infancy and childhood: infants have to learn to believe and trust in relationships through being loved and protected by their parents, relatives, or community. This attachment forms their first identity or the basic substratum where identity will take root. In fact, the absence of such an attachment, the absence of basic trust in a friendly environment—fundamentally parents and family—will problematize the future integration of any child into society.

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Therefore, it is worth asking whether or not this capacity for trusting, hoping, and believing in the regularity of nature, in the stability of relationships, or in the progress of society, is something which is merely circumstantial? The evidence suggests that this is not the case, and there must be an inner disposition towards trusting-in, hoping-from the living world. The absence of it can result to a failed personhood, whether that person be apathetic, indifferent, depressed or isolated from communitarian joy.

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But what is broken in an apathetic person? And what about a person with depression? How does hope contribute to the configuration of human identity? Is hope a simple idea or abstract knowledge? Is it only for a time of despair? Only for Christians as a theological virtue?3 I propose that hope plays a crucial role not only to overcome challenges or difficult moments in life but also to raise, train, and grow as mature, (mentally) healthy and (morally) good people.

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Indeed, I want to explore what, from the perspectives of social psychology and sociology, some authors (Charles Taylor, Michael Paul Gallagher, Zygmunt Bauman, or Gille Lipovetsky) call soft, weak identity or the false confident subject.4 However, I do not only want to articulate how things stand at the moment, particularly in the West, but also to propose a way of rethinking human identity in hope. That is why I intend to study the theological anthropology of Johann B. Metz and William F. Lynch, which is grounded on the virtue of hope.

In this study, I argue that a proper understanding of the notion of hope and its activation as a habit contribute to rehabilitating the disposition of the person, both subjectively and communally, whether in periods of identity crisis (existential or psycho-evolutionary) or in intermediate periods of ordinary life. And this leads to healing of the taste for life, imagination, and desires, as well as purpose, freedom, passion, and gratitude (to God and others).

Prior Considerations

The research focuses on the Western world. To be specific, what Charles Taylor understood as the term the “West” in his acclaimed book, A Secular Age: “Almost everyone would agree that in some sense we do: by this, I mean the ‘we’ who live in the West, or perhaps Northwest, or in other words, the North Atlantic world.”5

On the other hand, one of the key terms we will analyze is the concept of identity. This complex concept has long been studied from different perspectives. From now onwards, it should be emphasized that identity is related to the individual’s formation and his or her behavior. It is not something which is simply “discovered” but formed, forged, and even built over time. In this book, the term will be approached from a humanistic perspective, particularly Christian humanism.

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With regard to identity crisis, it should be pointed out that is a technical term which was coined by Erik H. Erikson and directly associated with Developmental Psychology. Erikson’s study on completing the cycle of life suggests that the development of human beings goes through gradual stages.6 In each stage the person encounters a discussion, tension or internal conflict that involves epistemological, psychosexual, and social-adaptive aspects which must be resolved in order to achieve a human capacity (fidelity, industry, autonomy, etc.) allowing them to peacefully progress in the vital task. Although this is true, it is still possible to be more precise with Erikson, since identity crisis describes the resolution of the conflict between the confused identity and the (achieved) identity which appeared in adolescence. Erikson will also use the term completed (life cycle completed) but this does not mean either a mathematical perfect cycle or a complete human being. He is aware that human beings, although they reach important milestones and close cycles, are always on a path and can never complete the life cycle until the end of their lives.7

Another prior consideration corresponds to the category of hope. I will talk about the need to rehabilitate hope but is there hopelessness nowadays? How is hope understood? How are hope and hopelessness integrated? I must indeed confirm that there is such a thing as hopelessness or some sort of confusion; otherwise, there would be no need for this study. Authors such as William F. Lynch have suggested that some behaviors, some cultural patterns, if they belong to the sociological imagination, can be fairly considered to be symptoms of hopelessness.8 With this perspective, let us have a look at official data on drug addiction, alcoholism, increasing rates of addiction to social media, and an increase in depression, the suicide rate, and the divorce rate, declining birth rates, and ever-increasing consumerism, and individualism.

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On October 27, 2017 the White House made public the battle against the now-blazing opioid crisis that affects the U.S.9 In 2016 around 64,000 people died because of an opioid overdose.10 There is an increase of 4 % in the mortality rate from 2010. Similarly, in Spain, the government has grown alarmed at the silent increase of opioid overdose among its own people. (One needs to bear in mind the ravages wrought by this drug in the 1980s generation.)11 Moreover, the state of Massachusetts has recently legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, principally as an antidote to anxiety.12 This raises the question: is there really a social problem with anxiety? Anxiety is related to minor fears and to the perception of immediate future time.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that more than 264 million people in the world suffer from depression.13 And there has been an increase of 18 % between 2005 and 2015. It accounts for 4.3 % of global morbidity. In addition, it is inferred that in 2030, one out of four people could suffer from a mental illness. Therefore, the WHO stressed the need for a global action plan.14

Likewise, a recent study in the U.S. linked depression and anxiety with risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, obesity, and stress. The data reveal that 8.7 % of the population suffer from depression in the U.S.15 When the data is broken down according to certain key indicators, such as profession, the percentage of people suffering from anxiety is even higher in some categories. In Europe, 40 million people suffer from depression, which is around 4.3 % of the population according to the WHO.16

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Another mental health concern is suicide. The suicide rate in the US has increased by more than 30 % in half the states since 1999.17 More than half (54 %) of the people who committed suicide did not have any previously known mental health condition. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is a global phenomenon which constitutes the seventeenth highest cause of mortality. “Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds globally.” The report continues, “there are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than twenty others attempting suicide.”18

Europe had the worst average suicide rate in 2015.19 It is remarkable that there were 22.3 suicides per 100,000 population in Poland; 15.4 and 15.2 per 100,000 population in Sweden and Switzerland respectively; 13.1 in Germany. In North America, the data are similar: 14.3 per 100,000 population in the U.S., and 12.3 per 100,000 population in Canada.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (May)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 186 pp., 20 fig. col., 2 fig. b/w, 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Alberto Dominguez Munaiz (Author)

Alberto Domínguez Munáiz is a Jesuit priest natural from Pontevedra (Spain, 1980). He holds a master’s degree in engineering from Vigo University (Spain, 2007), studied philosophy at the Pontifical University of Salamanca (2009–11), he holds a master’s degree in pedagogy from the University of Salamanca (2011), a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Pontifical University Comillas (Madrid, 2016), a diploma in pastoral psychology from UNINPSI (Psychosocial Intervention Unit, Madrid, 2014), an STL master’s degree in systematic theology from Boston College University (USA, 2018), and a diploma in practicum of spiritual direction (Berkeley, California, 2018).


Title: Freedom Freed by Hope
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188 pages