Hopelessness Is Internal
There is a widespread fallacy that hopelessness has to do with external variables, that if this or that factor in the environment were different then everything would be okay. But hopelessness is primarily an internal phenomenon. What it comes down to at the deepest levels of being is giving up on personality integration, giving up on self-actualization.
We think there are two main reasons why people commonly attribute hopelessness to variables in the environment rather than variables in the personality structure. The first is that external variables usually are a manifestation of the inner process of self-actualization. Those in the process of self-actualization set up their lives in ways that further their self-actualization, those in the process of giving up set up their lives in ways that further that giving up. The second is the decisive role that projection plays in all our lives. In this case it’s easier to project internal struggles with personality integration onto the external environment, blaming things out there for problems so as not to have to look inwards.
We’re certainly not saying that the external environment has no bearing. It’s pretty obvious that bad environments exacerbate problems while good environments further self-actualization, and that certain stressors, if taken away, really would improve things dramatically. But hopelessness and suicide occur at every socioeconomic level, under conditions that seem objectively terrible and also under conditions that seem objectively great. Conversely hope and perseverance exist at every socioeconomic level, under conditions that seem objectively terrible and also under conditions that seem objectively great.
Our point is that when addressing hopelessness the external environment matters a lot, but hopelessness is first and foremost the internal feeling that self-actualization hasn’t occurred, that personality integration will never happen, that the life being lived is one that is foreign, alien, inauthentic. External variables are often a reflection of those inner feelings. When the feelings start to change the behaviors start to change, and when the behaviors start to change factors in the immediate environment start to change.