“Hope” Emily Dickinson Style

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”  – Emily Dickinson

The concept of hope connects to optimism and anticipation, right?  It’s about playfulness, desire, and possibility. 

As a child, I was trained to pray regularly as a part of my formal conversation with God.  I was raised in a religiously and politically conservative patriarchal community where I was also taught to look outside of myself for answers.  Adults expected me to cede my authority to the men (including God) and their chosen women who were in charge of my life.  

Adults taught me to pray and wait for God to determine my worth before answering my prayer.  I practically prayed with my fingers crossed.  This was the hardwiring that connected my worth based on a perfectionist fantasy with my potential for happiness.  I hoped that if I was good enough for the people in charge, they would help, save, and guide me.  

I hoped my prayers would be answered.  

I hoped that someone would help me.  

I hoped that being perfect would help.  

Ultimately, timidity and fear replaced hope.  This is a familiar tale of patriarchal co-optation of hope for humans socialized as women.  It is one of the many lessons designed to keep us in line.  Remember that saying about well-behaved women?

None of this is our fault.  We inherited these norms and beliefs.  When insecurity fuels our hope, we enter a holding pattern of helplessness.  When fear fuels our hope, we expect someone else to have the answers.  Those were the old rules that linger in our brains and nervous systems.

On the other hand, when we experience the hope that Emily Dickinson penned so famously, we fly, inspire, sing, and persevere.  When was the last time you felt that kind of hope?  When was the last time you felt a glimmer of it?  I’m here to tell you that all of this is available to us when we disrupt the patriarchy from our lives by noticing when these old beliefs show up.  Awareness is the crucial first step followed by allowance which is when we take the time to experience the full range potentially uncomfortable nervous system responses to cultivating new thoughts and possibilities.  The final step is to appreciate your savvy and strength over all the years that helped you survive the patriarchy’s efforts to keep you small.  It hasn’t been easy and here you are ready to take flight. 

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