Reason to believe

Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells a StoryIf I listen long enough to you
I find a way to believe that it’s all true
Knowing that you lied, straight-faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Though others had recorded Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” earlier, Rod Stewart made those words famous in 1971. It’s a great song because it talks about the very real kind of accommodations we make to try and keep hope alive — in this case, hope to continue what sounds like a pretty bad, co-dependent relationship — by overlooking or explaining away evidence to the contrary. It’s human. We all do it.

Disappointment is one of those things you feel like you should be able to avoid just by having realistic expectations. But the mind is a powerful thing, and it’s pretty amazing to note how it deceives us sometimes.

I have — I suppose most of us do — a tendency to look for the best in any situation. I want to be happy. I want things to work out. I want to be in love. I want to believe my dreams can come true.

And so, I latch onto and amplify positive indicators that support the outcome I want while overlooking the negative. It’s not that I ignore reality, but it can become seriously skewed by my selective screening process. I get my hopes up. I get ahead of myself, projecting sometimes shaky expectations into the future…which has gotten me into trouble.

It’s not a bad thing to be an optimist or a romantic or whatever you’d call this positivity, within reason. The cultivation of positive emotions has been shown to have a lot of physical and mental health benefits. Positive emotion can also influence events. You are more likely to get the outcome you want if you believe in it. As long as you’ve got some grip on the consensus view of reality, I’d say the benefits of emotionally investing in positive outcomes outweigh the potential risks.

But when you’ve fought for a long Homer Simpson disappointedtime to build up an idea of some aspect of life heading in the right direction, when you so want something to work out, it can be hard — and  disorienting and terribly disappointing — to turn that around when reality intrudes to suggest you need to make an adjustment, curb your enthusiasm, reassess the situation. Sometimes the reality creeps in slowly; other times, it comes and smacks you in the face.

Usually the adjustment is just that: a reality check puts you back on track, and you continue in the same direction, perhaps with lowered expectations. Disappointing, yes, but generally not so bad. Other times, you may find you need to do a 180 and totally change course.

Whether it’s about a friend that you’ve stuck with for a long time, but have slowly come to wonder why; a career that you want to succeed at, but which just isn’t right for you; the president you had such high hopes for; god; or a relationship like the one Rod Stewart sings about that may have its charms, but is just not working (that could apply equally to the flip side of that 45, actually, though Maggie sounds more fun), we have all been there.

Billie Burke Estate: Let Your Heart BreakAny situation in life that involves hope and caring and emotional investment in the outcome — that is, any that matters — holds the potential for disappointment. The more you hope and care and invest, the harder you may fall. Some people (most, probably) avoid the emotional turmoil by keeping some distance, especially if they’ve been badly hurt by disappointment in the past.

I understand that. Really, I do.

But who wants to go through life without hope, caring, and deep emotion? Be vulnerable. Hope. Feel. Let your heart break. You’ll be fine.


6 thoughts on “Reason to believe

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