It’s the hope that kills you

“It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair.  It’s the hope I can’t stand. ~ John Cleese (as Brian Stimpson in the film Clockwise)

Those who know me well will know that I am a long-suffering Scotland football fan. I have followed the national team for more years than I care to remember. Anyone who knows anything about sport in general, and perhaps football in particular, will recognise the dilemma that most football fans face. That is, they cannot always ‘choose’ their team.  As a professional coach and a psychologist who spends most of his life spreading the message that we all have choice, this does not sit well with ‘what I know’.  Why don’t I simply support Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Argentina or whatever team is top of the division on any given week?  That would be easy. It would take away a lot of the pain and disappointment that inevitably occurs when you follow Scotland’s world cup and euro championship qualification ambitions.scots fan in despair

But, I think that is to miss the point.

 If your aspiration is simply to avoid the pain of disappointment, then by all means find a team or a passion that will provide less of that. However, adopting a strategy of finding an ’emotionally safer’ team to support, is effectively surrendering control of your emotions to external forces. I also suspect that the joy of success (when it eventually does happen!), or even the emotional high of hope (It’s the hope that kills you!), will not be so heady when success is ‘selected’ as easily as choosing a different brand of toothpaste from the supermarket shelf.

Facing disappointment, having hope shattered, and feeling let down are all natural trials and tribulations of normal life. If we can’t reconcile them, embrace them and grow stronger from them, when we are dealing with ‘just a game’, then we will struggle even more with ‘real life’.

I write this today, on the morning after yet another failed Scotland qualifying campaign. A campaign that both raised hope and caused pain. I suspect you will have seen through the real purpose of this piece for what it is; ‘personal therapy’.

We always have choice. We can always choose another route, another job, another life.  Sometimes loyalty blinds us.  But, the promise it offers still feels greater and tastes richer than any joy that could cheaply be found elsewhere.


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