Reviewed by Nina Longfield

What is hope? This is the question that Karen Krett delves into in her book, The Dark Side of Hope: A Psychological Investigation and Cultural Commentary. Within the text, Krett discusses hope in all its forms from the positive to the negative. It is difficult to think of hope having a negative side. Hope is a virtue. Krett writes that hope can be the “vehicle for positive change” in our lives when “possibility is the medium through which we are hoping”. Meaning hope can be a goal to which we strive to achieve something, be it a better state of mind or accomplishing a task. Yet hope can also hinder achievement when it becomes wishful thinking. This is one of the negative sides of hope that Krett investigates.

I’ve never really thought about hope before other than as a force of optimism. However, in reading Krett’s The Dark Side of Hope, I’ve realized that in most cases hope is a sort of wishfulness. A hope for a better day, or year. A hope for good health. A hope to win the lottery jackpot. Hope is a benevolent word, but what happens when everyday we hope for a better day tomorrow? Or hope every day to win the lottery thinking all our worries will disappear with a big windfall? Krett explains that there is a “fine line between positive thinking… and wishful or magical thinking”. When every day we are hoping for something better, we become stuck in the pattern of negative, wishful, hoping. We become complacent, and then hope prevents us from being the champions of our own destiny.

In the process of investigating where hope lies, one can focus on the positive and push forward to create the change one is hoping for. As Krett explains in The Dark Side of Hope, the change is not easy, nor is it always fulfilled.  Sometimes what we hope for is wishfulness, and it must be accepted as such; fantasy will remain a part of life. However, through an internal investigation into one’s self, and moving towards one’s goal, Krett writes that a person can create a stronger sense of strength in shedding the unnecessarily negative side of hope.

Karen Krett’s writing is clear and concise. The Dark Side of Hope is written as a clinical analysis from a psychotherapist’s point of view, yet the book is understandable for the layman and not weighed down with professional jargon. The Dark Side of Hope is not necessarily a self-help book, but Krett ends the book with a section of exercises for interpreting hope and releasing negative patterns of hope. This is an interesting section that could possibly be of help to some, particularly in a clinical setting. Despite a few dry places, The Dark Side of Hope is a thought-provoking read for anyone interested in psychological studies, cultural studies, or personal enrichment.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Kelley and Hall Publicity. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received