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Freedom Freed by Hope

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

Alberto Dominguez Munaiz

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?

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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...

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