The Most Desired Emotion Is…

By Florence Rosiello, PhD

Our emotions motivate us to anticipate a desire. 

Our emotions move us to want to create what we desire. 

Our desire is fueled by many emotions, but the most crucial and the most progressive is the emotion of hope.

There are two types of patients who come to therapy, those who want to change, but who want the therapist to make the changes for them; and those who want to actively make changes and this type of patient feels that hope is as equally important as breathing, in that they cannot live without either.

For both these types of people, hope is experienced in relation to time.

But, let’s look more closely at each type, because if we fall into the first group, if we hope that someone will change us, rather than hope to change ourselves, then our day-to-day life becomes entirely focused on the future. 

We become stuck in time by wanting and waiting to be changed by something or someone else.

This first type of hope leaves us feeling empty; hope becomes deadened; hope has no meaning. 

For the second meaning of hope, for the second group, hope is based in realness and in activity, and in this way hope is maintained in the present, in the current time. 

Hope becomes intertwined with the activity of creating what we hope for; we create the process to make it happen.

One of my patients (who has consented to my writing about her) has been in treatment with me for many years. 

She is a beauty, actually she is stunning, with olive skin, black eyes and black hair and a slender body that has never betrayed her. 

She has worked for a major corporation for a long time and her job has allowed her time to follow her passion of painting.

She is moderately successful as a painter and her job provides her with time and money to follow her other passion of travel.

In her travels, she meets many men and while she had been married, her divorce left her only wanting to date men, typically European men.

Her husband had been a nice man, a dreamer and perhaps that is why she married him, but his dreams led to an affair and to an end of their marriage. 

She was devastated and for a long time could not recover from her divorce.

It wasn’t long before she met a man with whom she fell in love and remained in this relationship for nearly five years. 

She didn’t want to marry him. 

She was content with the limitations of their relationship because he could become quite verbally abusive. 

As with all such relationships, over time, the verbal abuse morphed into physical abuse.

One day, she walked into my office with a swollen face and a busted lip and a broken nose. 

Her boyfriend had smashed her face into a wall and damaged her.

What she spoke of in this session devastated me, as I heard her say she hoped they could make up after her faced healed. 

It had been difficult to sit week after week and year after year with a woman who is so strikingly exquisite and now watch her beauty become destroyed by the relationship she hoped to maintain with her lover. 

Prior to her broken nose incident, I began to realize that in the moments before she entered my office I hoped to hear her tell me that she had ended the relationship with her abusive boyfriend.

I hoped in the way that becomes painful, because each session felt harder to listen to, mostly because she defended him, she defended his abusive as she told me her stories.  Still, it was a sense of hope that I found myself creating and longing for in the time before her sessions.

I’d almost hold my breath as she entered the room waiting to see if she looked upset or not, because her upset expressions meant they had once again, broken up. 

Each break-up led to the next leg of their relationship and to the next abuse he doled out. 

In a sense, I was hoping for a time in the future, in the next session, in the next argument they had, that they would finalize the relationship.

Still, within this time, I worked very hard to help her and used every technique I knew.

I left no area unexplored, no stone unturned, no intervention unused on helping her see or understand or feel what and with whom she was involved.

My hope was steadfast; but it was a hope maintained in the future for her to leave him.

Yet, when I saw her seated in front of me, swollen and bruised, I found it nearly impossible to hold back my own tears.

I was now broken-hearted in her hope to stay with this man.

In that moment, my hope ended; or so I thought, or with hindsight I now know, that it was at this particular time that my hope became action. 

“I cannot work with you,” I said, almost shocked to hear myself say this out loud.

“I can’t watch you do this to yourself.” 

She was further destroyed, but now by me, and she dissolved into tears and sobbing that I would not work with her if she stayed with him. 

To my amazement, she left him. 

She walked out of my office and ended that relationship.

To recover from their breakup, she went to Europe for a few weeks. 

She met a man. 

She tells me about him each week in her sessions, and he seems to be a prize, a jewel, who has asked her to move to France and live with him and she is going to France, she is going to be with him, to marry him.

My hope for her has been realized after all these years, but it wasn’t until I lost my hope that she chose to pick it up and carry it herself.

Sometimes hope comes into being when we feel utter disappointment and discouragement, and when we share this feeling with another person, then the humanness of two people sharing just one feeling, together, in that moment in time, can heal hope for both.

It is the realness of feeling and expressing emotion that leads to hope and then to activity and change within who we really are.