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Hope Is Scary

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"Hope? Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."

Despair has its advantages. Your expectations are gone, so you can't be disappointed. Your feelings are dead, so you can't feel any pain. And you have nothing to lose, so you don't need to worry about your future. You can find peace there, because you have passed safely out of reach of anything that could trouble you.

But if, in that state, someone inspires you with even a fragment of hope, all of your peace is gone. Now that you've started to feel again, you can feel pain again. Now that you have someone or something that you care about, you're afraid of losing them. And now that you've let yourself hope again, you risk being disappointed again. You used to take comfort from knowing that the worst was over, but now you are afraid that the worst is yet to come...

Characters who feel this mood (usually) haven't actually crossed the Despair Event Horizon: they have perhaps just hit a Heroic BSoD or worn stronger-than-usual Jade-Colored Glasses. This moment, when they start to feel hope again, and try to reject it, is usually just a blip on the road to recovery from the despairing state. Common for the Broken Bird to feel it.

Compare Safety in Indifference, the emotional state of most characters who feel that Hope is Scary, and Love Hurts.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, Lord Ezelcant claims that this is the way the entire nation of Vagan feels; it's too painful to love others and have relationships when there's a very good chance that either you or those you care about will die young due to an incurable disease.
  • Mazinger Z: In the Shin Mazinger Zero spin-off, Humongous Mecha Fem Bot turned Robot Girl Minerva-X is locked into a Groundhog Peggy Sue loop where she sends Kouji Kabuto back in time to save the world, he fails and she ends him back again. Until now she has failed 2,798 times into averting the End of the World as We Know It. She does as much as stating all of those times she hoped, and her hope was in vain. However, in the current timeline, she is stuck in, she is seeing signs of maybe -maybe- things will finally be different this time around. So she feels a glimmer of hope... and she is afraid of being hopeful only for getting disappointed and heartbroken again.
  • Gendo Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion. He chose Safety in Indifference due to his inability to relate to others and feared hurting his son, leading him to abandon him entirely. His overall goal is to force an Assimilation Plot on all of mankind because he felt that returning to the primordial soup is preferable to the strife of living and he was desperate to be reunited with his late wife. In Rebuild of Evangelion he takes it even further and throws away his humanity to become the embodiment of despair for the sake of his plans while his son Shinji who went through the same struggles he did chooses to embody mankind's hope.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Anthy's love-hate feelings towards Utena are commonly interpreted as her seeing Utena's attempts at rescue as just setting her up for disappointment.
  • Jeremy struggles with this for much of the latter half of A Cruel God Reigns. After being systematically abused for months, he falls into the life of a Hooker with a Heart of Gold and Functional Addict but is afraid to go back to living a "normal" life when Ian offers to help him get back on his feet.
  • In the beginning, Haruka of Kotoura-san was broken under the belief that her telepathic powers would doom any living being that she cares about. So Manabe got a lot of resistance to convincing her for the last quarter of episode 1 that she should try and make friends with him. This trope also underlies why she vanished temporarily at the end of episode 3, as Manabe, by the time already her boyfriend, was attacked and seriously injured by a plan of Hiyori's, his Childhood Friend-turned-Hopeless Suitor. She regressed to her previous thinking and decided to leave.
  • This is presumably the reason why most of the characters in Attack on Titan are content to just sit back behind the walls, or after Wall Maria is breached, to wait for humanity's doom, despite Eren yelling at them. Repeatedly.
  • In Berserk, the Skull Knight tells Guts that Casca may be cured of her insanity once and for all if Guts can get her to the land of Elfhelm. Guts is so happy over the possibility that he actually gives a real smile over the revelation. However, Guts is thrown into anxiety once again, not because he is afraid that Casca's condition won't be curable, but because the Skull Knights went on to cryptically tell Guts that being cured might not be what Casca truly wants, something that Guts is still trying to decipher as he awaits for Casca to be healed after his party finally arrived on Elfhelm.
  • While he's not quite as bad as other examples, Gray seems to fall victim to this in Fairy Tail as it's implied that his constantly losing people he loves in the past is why he's always so willing to enact a suicide move in his major fights such as with Lyon, Silver, the dragon-spawn, Invel and Zeref. It also seems to be in part why he keeps brushing off his Stalker with a Crush Juvia, as either definitively accepting or rejecting her feelings is going to have emotional consequences for one or both of them that he'd rather avoid; he's fine with being platonic but anything deeper seems to worry him for risk of losing them like he did his teacher and family before her.
  • In One Piece, Nico Robin witnessed the destruction of her homeland at the age of eight and was declared too dangerous to live. Over the course of twenty years, she was betrayed time and time again by everyone she trusted. By the time she joined the Strawhats, she had stopped forming any connections and deliberately tried to keep them at arm's length. The fact that they started to view her as a friend, and the fact that she started to feel the same, scared her. When CP-9 cornered her, she chose to abandon the Strawhats so she could at least die while they still viewed her as a friend. Their storming of Enies Lobby and choosing to fight the World Government itself for her sake finally convinced her life was worth living.

    Comic Books 
  • In one issue of Detective Comics, The Joker helps Batman save a child whose abduction the Joker himself orchestrated. Why? Because if even the Joker doesn't always kill his victims, Batman will be forced to hold out hope in every case and will therefore suffer more for each future victim he fails to save.
  • A major theme of Princess Ugg, with the war between the tribes. It's also the final line of the series.
    Chief of the Other Tribe: (after Ulga offers peace) I don't know why, girl, but you're the scariest person I've ever met.
    Ulga: Haven't you heard? It's hope that makes you fear.

    Fan Works 
  • The Child of Love: Shinji had loved Asuka as soon as he met her and after a while, they got together, but he thought he could not protect her and he broke up. Misato asked him if he was afraid of his dreams and hopes becoming real, and replied maybe he was.
    Misato: I know you, Shinji-kun. I know that you wanted Asuka's love from the very beginning of all this. Maybe even before. I'll bet that, from the first time you saw her, you knew that you had to live with her forever. My question is, why are you leaving your hopes and dreams behind when they've come true now? Are you afraid of them?
  • A Crown of Stars:
    • At the beginning of the fic, Asuka had given up on the idea of becoming ever happy, having a loving relationship with someone, or being loved. She was so wrecked and disillusioned and felt so unworthy and undeserving that she did not want to try anymore and refused to consider that things might be different. And then she met her future self who was Happily Married to Shinji and pregnant with his child, and she met a bunch of people assuring she was not a bad person and she deserved to be happy… and she was incredibly frightened because she did not dare to hope.
    • On the other hand, Shinji had come to believe that an empty shell of a loveless relationship was everything that he and Asuka would have. Then he began to see signs that maybe they could have a happy end after all… and he freaked out because he was afraid of hoping in vain or ruining his chance.
      Asuka refused to meet his eyes. The naked hope in them was too much to look at. After sixteen years of keeping that pain under lock and key, the things she’d talked about with Daniel had left her feelings too raw to withstand seeing that. After sixteen years of keeping it suppressed, and four years of living in nightmarish barbarity past the end of the world, hope hurt.
  • In the Dangerverse, after Luna tells Draco of a vision where he dies at the age of 18, Draco realizes that he is trying to convince himself that it's true. He then lampshades this trope and resolves to keep having hope for the future.
    Draco: I am a Marauder, and a Warrior. Maybe I have to die on 5 June 1997 - maybe - but I'm sure as hell not going down without a fight!
  • In crossover fanfic Echoes of Yesterday, Taylor had become extremely wary and reluctant to open up to someone again after being betrayed and bullied by her former best friend. Hence, when she's rescued and befriended by Kara, Taylor has trouble coping with the idea that she has met someone genuinely nice and honest who wants to be her friend.
    Why were all of her actions so nice? I had no issue with people who were naturally nice, but Kara took it to an extreme, she didn't seem to have a mean bone in her body. The Trio had turned most of the school against me; any act of kindness or attempt at befriending me had to be watched and analyzed closely or else I'd leave myself open for another hit. I had just met Kara and already she was pushing them aside. After being alone for so long, this sudden shift practically gave me whiplash. How was I supposed to deal with this?
  • Ghosts of Evangelion: After Misato admits to Asuka that she failed her and swears that she'll atone for her mistakes, Asuka is frightened of trusting Misato again.
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters: The entire concept of Carhaiz, giving the smallfolk a place free of Phobos' rule without having to fight his regime, scared the Rebellion's leadership, which feared losing support for their cause. So they destroyed the town and claimed that it was the site of a weapon Phobos was building.
  • In Infinity Train: Seeker of Crocus, Chloe Cerise is a ten-year-old Broken Bird with thoughts of suicide and has no reason to hope after the bullying from her classmates, apathetic teachers, oblivious adults, and the childhood friend who focuses more on his dream (and that she doesn't have one). She is afraid of hoping because every time she tries to get it, as Gloria notes, no one seems to care about giving her anything to hope for and dismiss her feelings as nothing while carrying on with their lives.
  • In Karma in Retrograde, Touya is reluctant to latch onto any feelings of hope because he's just so used to getting it dashed, especially after learning that he ended up becoming a horrible villain for reasons he can't remember.
    He couldn’t afford to have any hope. He couldn’t handle the disappointment that would sink in when that hope was proven false. He’d been hopeful a handful of times before. It had always been a mistake.
  • The Hunter from The Night Unfurls considers hope to be "the most fatal of poisons". Doesn't stop him from prosecuting his duty.
  • In Of Quirks and Magic, Inko is initially skeptical of Dr. Strange's offer to teach her son magic, wondering how much more false hope Izuku can take before he snaps.
    Inko: Just how much more hope can you stand to endure, Izuku...?
  • In old light still slants through, Izuku is torn between excitement, shock, and fear after being told that he apparently froze the Sludge Villain attacking him solid with an ice Quirk despite being Quirkless all his life. He's left with countless questions about how this could have happened as well as the burning fear of disappointment if this was somehow a one-time fluke.
    It hurts so much to hope. He doesn’t want to.
    He doesn’t want to hope, in case it turns out that he’s wrong, that they’re all wrong.
    It hurts.
  • Once More with Feeling: Thanks to Shinji, Asuka is considering that, for the first time in one decade, maybe she has met someone she can trust, open up to, and rely on. She thinks maybe she does not need to push Shinji away, and she can lower her walls around him... and the thought scares her more than any Angel.
  • Scar Tissue: Due to her severe emotional and psychological trauma caused by the Angel War and the end of the world, Asuka had become tremendously unstable, paranoid, and unable to control her temper, and she abused Shinji for several months until she went too far and was so horrified at the result of her actions that she snapped out of it and promised herself that she would change and earn Shinji's forgiveness. However, Shinji is so convinced that she loathes him and he deserves her hatred and violence (because he defiled her and abandoned her when she was getting murdered) that when she tries to treat him kindly and gently or looks at him with caring and guilt he is frightened because he does not dare to hope that she does not hate him.
  • Temporal Anomaly: The reason Zero is such a ruthless and sociopathic individual who was willing to murder her own "sisters" without even looking for a better solution for the whole Flower situation is due to having a very, very Dark and Troubled Past that shaped the person she is now. However, when Sougo/Oma Zi-O entered her life and has shown her a real way to deal with the Flower without having to resort to killing the other Intoners, he brought back genuine hope in her life, when its been cruelly torn away from her many times over in the past...and that scares her more than anything at this point.
    How could she even process such a stupid concept at this point?
    How and why did such a small word fill her with such fear?
  • Thousand Shinji: After she and Shinji got together, Asuka was happy because she had found someone who loved her unconditionally, understood her, and took her pain away... but she was frightened because she feared losing him.
  • In The Ultimate Hope, Junko doesn't like hope because it means no one is despairing; it is a threat to her Evil Plan rather than anything in itself.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Shawshank Redemption, Red is characterized this way (the result of being an aging, cynical con who seems likely to spend the rest of his life in prison), and at one point when his best friend Andy is talking about the importance of hope, Red responds by essentially saying that hope is usually just a case of Yank the Dog's Chain, especially in a Crapsack World-like prison. The last lines of the movie are about Red starting to hope again.
    Red: Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It's got no use on the inside, you better get used to that idea.
    Andy: Like Brooks did?
  • Part of the sadistic design of the Pit, the prison from The Dark Knight Rises — it gives its prisoners a small chance of (very dangerous) escape. "There is no despair without hope." This is also what inspires Bane's plans for Gotham: he plans to trap everyone in the city under the threat of nuclear annihilation, then convinces the released criminals and poor majority to hold mass executions of the rich, powerful, and corrupt to give them and everyone on the outside the impression that he is helping to straighten the crookedness of the city. Then, at the end of this all, he plans to detonate the nuke anyway as a message to the world that everyone in Gotham is too corrupt to be salvaged.
  • John Cleese's endlessly beleaguered character in Clockwise expresses this sentiment at one point: "It's not the despair, Laura. I can stand the despair, it's the hope!"
  • President Snow muses about this in the film adaptation of The Hunger Games, saying the Games are an effective way to control the Districts because each game tortures them with hope:
    Snow: Hope — it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is useful — too much is dangerous. A spark is fine... as long as it's contained.
  • In the famous scene in Jaws where Quint talks of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, he says that the worst time was not being attacked by sharks, but when the survivors had been located and were waiting to be picked up, terrified that they might be picked off at the last moment.
  • Sarah Packard from The Hustler (1961), who has been scorned and rejected so many times that she holds herself back when she starts falling for Eddie.
  • In Mad Max: Fury Road, Max haltingly advises Furiosa to abandon hope.
    Max: You know, hope is a mistake. If you can't fix what's broken, you'll go insane.
  • From Finding Neverland:
    Peter: I'm sick of grown-ups lying to me! [...] "Father might take us fishing" — that's what she said — "in just a few weeks," and he died the next morning!
    Barrie: That wasn't a lie, Peter. That was your mother's hope.
    Peter: He barely moved for a week, but I started planning our fishing trip.
  • This is a major theme in Avengers: Endgame. After the traumatic events of the previous film, many of the Avengers are terrified by the possibility that they might be able to reverse them since they know that they won't be able to live with themselves if they fail. This is highlighted when Natasha tries to recruit Clint, who lost all hope after his entire family died in the Decimation.
    Clint: [choked up] Don't give me hope.
    Natasha: I'm sorry I couldn't give it to you sooner.

  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Return of the King, when Éomer asks why Éowyn is not lying in state like Théoden, he's told she's alive — and he feels both hope and fear.
    "Then hope unlooked-for came so suddenly to Éomer's heart, and with it the bite of care and fear renewed."
  • At one point in Labyrinths of Echo, Sir Max remarks that the worst situation of all is not a complete hopelessness (because you have nothing to lose then, anyway) but one where there is only a tiny glimmer of hope because you are paralyzed with fear of losing it, as well.
  • When Marianne's dangerous fever abates in Sense and Sensibility, Elinor tries not to be optimistic in case it gets worse again, but she can't stop herself.
    "Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious flutter, she bent over her sister to watch—she hardly knew for what."
  • In Jane Austen's Persuasion, after realizing that Anne might still love him, Wentworth writes to her of his being in hope and pain.
    "I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope."
  • In Angie Sage's Septimus Heap book Magyk, Boy 412 tallies up Good things about his situation and Bad ones—and is surprised by the Good things outnumbering the Bad for the first time in his life. But the Bad thing feels much worse because now he has something to lose.
  • In Poul Anderson's After Doomsday, the alien Ramri tries to calm Donnan as the plan to escape comes to fruition; he admits that he never understood why humans find hope more terrifying than despair.
  • The characters in Chaos Walking can't help but be wary of hope.
    "Hope may be the thing that pulls you forward, may be the thing that keeps you going, but that it's dangerous, that it's painful and risky, that it's making a dare in the world and when has the world ever let us win a dare?"
  • In The Dresden Files novel White Night, Marcone tells Harry that he cannot tell Demeter that her daughter is still alive but comatose because giving her hope again would essentially destroy her after what happened to her in the first place.
  • Les Misérables: Javert has lived all his life obeying the law, and he feels very strange when he let Jean Valjean go instead of arresting him:
    "All sorts of interrogation points flashed before his eyes. He put questions to himself and made replies to himself, and his replies frightened him. He asked himself: "What has that convict done, that desperate fellow, whom I have pursued even to persecution, and who has had me under his foot, and who could have avenged himself, and who owed it both to his rancor and to his safety, in leaving me my life, in showing mercy upon me? His duty? No. Something more. And I in showing mercy upon him in my turn — What Have I Done? My duty? No. Something more. So there is something beyond duty?" Here he took fright; his balance became disjointed; one of the scales fell into the abyss, the other rose heavenward, and Javert was no less terrified by the one which was on high than by the one which was below.
    • Importantly, this means that Javert has a somewhat different problem than a lot of the other examples. Rather than being crushed in despair before, Javert is now forced to look at his actions without the leverage of duty and law, recognizing his good for what it is, and his crimes for what they are.
  • Exploited in The Art of War, where Sun Tzu encourages generals to always give their enemies a path to retreat. The reasoning behind this is that soldiers with no hope of escape will fight much harder. In essence, he says, No Hope Is Scarier — at least, from the attacker's point of view.
  • Bree Pym's initial reaction to the news of her great-grand aunts' actual existence at the end of Aunt Dimity Down Under is best summed up this way. She is a Broken Bird after years of living with her abusive alcoholic father and recently losing her beloved grandfather, as well as feeling rejected by her mother (who had remarried and started another family after her own sufferings at Ed Pym's hands). She learns from the aunts' attorney that they have revised their will and she will inherit everything they own, including the trust fund set up by their black sheep brother nearly a century before. She is reluctant at first to go along with the idea, but Lori and Cameron convince her to go to England and meet Ruth and Louise.
  • During Galaxy of Fear, Tash Arranda meets a Jedi ghost who was killed by Darth Vader, who then burned the library he was guarding. In the time since, someone else has put up a new library, booby-trapped to suck away Life Energy, and he can't warn anyone because he is Invisible to Normals. After years of this, the ghost is willing to help Tash a little when he thinks he can scare her away from the danger but backs down when she wants his help to put a stop to the whole scheme and is cornered. She does manage to talk him around.
  • In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Satan alludes to this, reversing it: "So farwel Hope, and with Hope farwel Fear,"
  • In Seanan McGuire's October Daye novel Rosemary and Rue, Toby thinks that hope is not easy in Faerie, but still wishes it for Manuel.
  • The Way Of Kings (first book of The Stormlight Archive): Kaladin feels this way, as he keeps trying to save people and they all wind up dead. He becomes increasingly reluctant to involve himself with others, but his heroic nature drags him back into it.
  • Several characters note that the fear of hope can lead people to cling to despair in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, especially if they have already embarked on a self-destructive course for vengeance.
  • Used extensively in Anne Bishop's Ephemera series. A large portion of the second book is devoted to the main character puzzling over why places of darkness always have a sliver of light in them. Then it's brutally exploited when Belladonna decides to use this trope to torture the World Eater relentlessly.
  • In Cameron Dokey's The World Above, when they meet the outlaws, Steel sees something of Gen and demands more light. Robin demands to know what he's afraid of; Steel says he has abandoned fear but is now troubled by hope. (Gen closely resembles her mother, the long-vanished Duchess.)
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, Sola tells John Carter that because of this, and Love Hurts, she has wished to be like the other women of her race, without hope or love.
    • In The Master Mind of Mars, Ulysses tries to urge hope of regaining her body on Valla Dia. She rejects it; she can be happy in an old woman's body without hope but hoping, she would always be unhappy.
  • The residents of the Fortress of the Damned in Of Fear and Faith believe in this and they at first refuse to try and escape from the fortress when the party offers to help them. This being the Stray Dogs though, they don't give up that easily.
  • In Search the Seven Hills Marcus feels it would be a relief to give way to despair over his kidnapped love interest as 'hope is exhausting'.
  • Amber Brown feels this way for a while in Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit. She's hopeful about the possibility of her mother's boyfriend Max becoming part of their family, but worried that he's just going to leave them in a few months like her father did.
  • The Riddle Master Trilogy: Morgon thinks this way for a while.
    Aloil: You do not promise hope.
    Morgon: No. Truth, if I can find it.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when Harry first wakes on the morning of his birthday after being told by Hagrid that he's a wizard, he mentally insists to himself that it was just a dream and that when he opens his eyes he'll be in his cupboard. He's so used to his awful life that he's too scared to hope that this new reality could actually be true, so it's easier to pretend that it's not. At least, until he actually does open his eyes.
  • Master Adam, a counterfeiter from The Divine Comedy infected with dropsy in Hell, is tortured less by his extreme thirst than by his memory of the river Arno and luscious, well-hydrated fields that he knew in life. His ability to remember these great goods and his longing to return to them makes his actual torture all the more unbearable.
  • The Wheel of Time: Asmodean is framed for betraying the Dark One, who's known for inflicting a Fate Worse than Death on traitors, so he joins forces with The Chosen One Rand in the faint hope that Rand will actually find a way to defeat the Dark One. He describes it as a man slipping off the edge of a cliff, grasping desperately at a tuft of grass, knowing it won't be enough.
  • Wayward Children is about kids who were Trapped in Another World and returned, even though they wish they could have stayed. Most live for the faint hope that their Door will open again and let them go home; Sumi believes that this is much harder than giving up entirely because it keeps them from readjusting to life on Earth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • How I Met Your Mother had Ted admit that he wasn't into that "Fall in love" feeling again. He had lost a certain amount of faith and was losing more every day and he resorted to scientifically figuring out what the right woman was instead of following his heart. This was after he witnessed most of his friends getting into marriages, having babies, and progressing in their lives.
  • One episode of Criminal Minds has a bit where the brother of a disappeared girl is angry with the agents for telling his mother that her daughter might still be alive because even though grief is terrible, you can get past it and move on, but hope keeps you paralyzed.
  • Season 1 of Prison Break has shades of this, as death row inmate Lincoln Burrows (initially) repeatedly tells his would-be saviours that he's accepted his fate. Giving him false hope of release/escape is, to him, more cruel than letting him die.
  • This is one of the reasons Mitsuzane goes evil in Kamen Rider Gaim. After being told an Awful Truth and seeing how it effects others, he gets upset that Kouta is telling people these awful truths and trying the more idealistic approaches instead of conforming to his brother's more cynical options that he is convinced that all he's doing is ruining everything. It isn't until he talks with Mai after he's full-on convinced that there's no hope for humanity that he finds out that the reason he hates Kouta is this trope and it becomes the theme of his Motive Rant when it finally comes time to reveal what's Beneath the Mask to him.
  • House, M.D. simply believes there is no way he can be an effective doctor without being a miserable Jerkass; he will deliberately sabotage any good thing in his life because he cannot stand the possibility of being happy.
  • Firefly: This is the lesson that Serenity Valley taught Mal Reynolds. He claims to have no desires beyond "keep flying", and that hope is for fools. However, Miranda is more than enough to bring back the idealist he once was.
  • In a flashback scene in the final episode of The Casual Vacancy, while at Krystal Weedon's place, Barry asks her to come and stay at his and wife's house for the night. She rejects the offer, noting "I'd just have to come back here."
  • Ted Lasso: When it seems that Richmond is all but guaranteed to lose their last match to Manchester City and get relegated, most of the team's fans resign themselves to it and assure Ted they know he did his best as manager. When Ted calls them out on acting like they already lost and asks why they don't have a little hope, Mae the bartender explains to Ted that "it's the hope that kills you". Indeed when it seems that Richmond has pulled off a Miracle Rally to achieve a draw and avoid relegation and everyone celebrates, they wind up losing at the last second and everyone feels worse than they did earlier.

  • "The bravest thing of all is hope" - Arc Words throughout Reese Roper's Brave Saint Saturn album trilogy.
  • Showbread's "Precursor" ends with the stanza:
    Believing in love, believing in hope
    surrendering all of my will.
    Believing in nothing is scary.
    Believing in something is scarier still.
  • The idea is touched upon in Within Temptation's song 'Lost':
    Hope plays a wicked
    Game with the mind
  • Touched upon in the Architects song "Gone With The Wind", where Tom Searle wrote the following lyrics regarding his fight with cancer:
    Do you remember when you said to me
    My friend, hope is a prison

    Myths & Religion 
  • Greek Mythology: Some versions of the myth of Pandora's Box have Hope as the last and worst of all the evils in the box since it causes people to live in suffering where they would otherwise give up and end their pain.
  • This was how C. S. Lewis read Jesus' suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane before being crucified—with the idea that the hope of his being spared was in fact a part of his passion.
    It is clear from many of His sayings that Our Lord had long foreseen His death. ... But it is clear that this knowledge must somehow have been withdrawn from Him before He prayed in Gethsemane. He could not, with whatever reservation about the Father’s will, have prayed that the cup might pass and simultaneously known that it would not. That is both a logical and a psychological impossibility. You see what this involves? Lest any trial incident to humanity should be lacking, the torments of hope - of suspense, anxiety - were at the last moment loosed upon Him - the supposed possibility that, after all, He might, He just conceivably might, be spared the supreme horror. There was precedent. Isaac had been spared: he too at the last moment, he also against all apparent probability. It was not quite impossible … But for this last (and erroneous) hope against hope, and the consequent tumult of the soul, the sweat of blood, perhaps He would not have been very Man. To live in a fully predictable world is not to be a man. (Letters to Malcolm)

    Tabletop Games 

  • In Jasper in Deadland, Gretchen initially revels in the fact that she's dead, has nothing left to lose, and doesn't even remember any of the bad things that've happened to her. She starts to lose this mindset while helping Jasper to locate his dead "friend" Agnes, as she becomes jealous of Agnes and Jasper's love for her. When Jasper suggests that he might be able to get both Agnes and Gretchen out of the Underworld, it actually discourages her from accompanying him, as she finally admits that she was hoping Jasper would choose to stay with her in the Underworld.

    Video Games 
  • In Legacy of Kain: Defiance, Kain ends the game by expressing this very sentiment:
    Most ironic of all, was the last gift that Raziel had given me. More powerful than the sword that now held his soul, more acute even than the vision that his sacrifice had accorded me. The first, bitter taste of that terrible illusion: hope.
  • In Mass Effect 2, if Shepard romances Thane, the scene before the Omega-4 Relay begins with him coming to see her and talking about how ashamed he is that he is no longer resigned to his inevitable death because now he has someone to live for.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • This is how Squall Leonhart feels throughout a good portion of Final Fantasy VIII.
      Squall: Everything doesn't work out the way you want it to. That's why... As long as you don’t get your hopes up, you can take anything... You feel less pain.
    • In Final Fantasy XIII, the incredibly ironically-named Hope Estheim was glad to throw himself into a nigh-pointless revenge vendetta he called "Operation Nora" so that he wouldn't have to process the horrors he'd seen, including his mother's death. He didn't take Lightning's urges to abandon this slow suicide for something more hopeful well.
      Hope: When I was fighting, there... there was no time to think about it. It felt good just to give in. But now... you start talking about hope!
    • Judging from her narration, this is Lightning's state in Final Fantasy XIII-2.
      Lightning: Each reunion is a twist of the knife. The joy is ephemeral; it leaves fear in its wake. A fear that all too soon the time will come when you must bid farewell again. Yet you cannot help but long for the next encounter.
    • Final Fantasy XIV: A good portion of the Stormblood expansion is spent trying to rally the peoples of Ala Mhigo and Doma out of this mindset to rise up against the empire oppressing them. Most reject any suggestion of rebellion out of fear of imperial reprisal, some even going so far as to try and run you out of town.
  • In Hogwarts Legacy, Token Evil Teammate Sebastian Sallow's sister Anne was cursed by Black Magic and is slowly dying. Sebastian is hellbent on finding a cure, while Anne and their uncle Solomon are convinced You Can't Fight Fate with Solomon angrily telling Sebastian not to give her false hope.
  • In Persona 5, certain palaces revolve around the idea of hope being a much worse punishment than where the owners were before. They believe it's easier to give up and live imprisoned than to risk hoping they can amount to something or make a difference in the world.
  • Prayer of the Faithless: When confronting Vanessa, Mia tries to propose a plan that could work in both their interests. She wants to move the Asalans to the island Kakuri, allowing them to save the population from the Fog without turning them into Infused. Unfortunately, Vanessa refuses because the offer sounds too good to be true and because it doesn't solve the problem of the Fog spreading in the long term and because all she is too used to having her own plans to save Asala go awry. In the Resolve route, when she learns that Mia was telling the truth, she falls into despair because this meant all of her actions were for nothing. The Tired ending also reveals that she didn't want to believe it because it would render her Infused experiments meaningless.
  • This is the reason for the Benevolent Architecture and other tools available to Survivors in Dead by Daylight. The Entity needs them to try to escape, and if every test were hopeless, they'd just shut down.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, this trope effectively kicks the "Heaven's Feel" scenario into gear in two major degrees. First off, having Shirou pay attention to Sakura means she begins wondering if it's possible they might end up together, even after she's consigned herself to her one-sided unrequited love. However, it gets taken to a whole other level when Shirou discovers and provides her sanctuary from the endless physical, mental, and sexual torture she had been receiving from the hands of Zouken and Shinji for the past 11 years, as well as a chance at freeing her body from the painful curses placed on her through the Crest Worm. The fear she feels from the ensuing Hope Is Scary moment allows Zouken to open her up to possession, something he had been unable to do earlier (or in the other two scenarios).
  • Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star's final chapter has this showing with Ryouta. He's afraid that his best friend since childhood is growing apart from him, to the point where the stasis offered in the titular Holiday Star is very tempting. Yuuya comes to him, realizes that he's in love with that best friend, and outlines how change is inevitable. The future may mean growing apart from her, or living with and having a family with her. The future is always uncertain and painful but it must be lived, and this is very hard for Ryouta to accept.
  • Danganronpa has the struggle between hope and despair as its main theme:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc does this from the perspective of the villain. Monokuma's absolute devotion to despair causes him to despise and misinterpret hope on a fundamental level, believing it's delusional and unnatural, to the point of fearing it enough to try and destroy it absolutely in anyone and everyone he comes across.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair features this as well. In a literal sense, Nagito Komeada is the poster boy for Hope among the class, and wants to spread hope. He is also an Ax-Crazy Psycho Supporter willing to resort to murder for the sake of hope. In the last trial, the students must choose to either keep living in the simulation and have their friends revived to live with them, or wake up and go into the now apocalyptic world with only themselves and the Future Foundation to rely on.
    • Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls also does this in a literal sense in that the antagonists are a team of murderous kids called the Warriors of Hope. From a more abstract perspective, the Adult Resistance hears that the Future Foundation is coming to help rescue them- but because they have lived in despair for so long, Haiji and many of the adults refuse to believe that they are coming to help, instead convincing themselves that the Foundation is in league with the Warriors and plotting against them. When Haiji discovers that Toko is from the Foundation shortly after a brutal attack on the Resistance, he accuses her and Komaru of being spies and has them jailed.
    • In Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School, Chairman Kazuo Tengan is revealed to have the goal of brainwashing the whole world into feeling nothing but hope, and this is portrayed as scary as it can be.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony takes it to even higher extremes. This whole Killing Game is a "Truman Show" Plot based on the fictional Danganronpa franchise, and discovering this leads the cast into a Despair Event Horizon. Keebo tries to rally the students with hope, but Shuichi refutes him. After all, the audience watches because they want to see hope triumph over despair. So voting for hope over despair would be giving the audience what they want, leading to more killing games. On the other hand, voting for despair over hope would only make for the best Sequel Hook a Danganronpa game could ever ask for, and would also lead to more killing games. Instead, he convinces his friends to reject both hope and despair and abstain from voting, which is punishable by death. Thus they engineer an Audience-Alienating Ending pisses off the audience and makes them stop watching the show for good, preventing further killing games since the show would no longer be making money and would thus get cancelled.
  • Katawa Shoujo has Emi Ibarazaki, who is scared to let Hisao get closer to her due to the fact that she lost her father in the same accident that cost her her legs, and she can't bear the thought of developing feelings for someone, only to lose that person. As Hisao has a heart condition that could very well kill him at a young age, this causes some issues.


    Web Original 
  • In Worm, Weaver invokes this trope when talking to Phir Sē, a cynical old Indian supervillain who admits that he has lost his faith in humanity long ago, in order to convince him to give her a chance to salvage the defense against Behemoth long enough for Phir Sē to hit him with his Godzilla Threshold attack.
    Phir Sē: You are asking me to have faith.
    Weaver: Let me go, Phir Sē. You said you have to stake something that matters on a gamble. Stake your doubt.
    Phir Sē: I do not understand this. My English—
    Weaver: It's not your English; what I'm saying doesn't make a lot of sense. But your doubt, your lack of faith, it's something safe. No disappointments, no fear things won't work out. Risk that. Risk losing that. I did, when I became a hero.

    Web Videos 
  • The Nostalgia Chick finds having emotions uncomfortable and tries her best to push away anyone that would care and try to help her.

    Western Animation 
  • On Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot, this comes from Grumpy Bear in "Sad About You." He says that it's the bummer about being happy, that at some point it'll end and you'll just be sad.

    Real Life 
  • This happens to trauma survivors, and it is one of the reasons why PTSD exists: someone has been living with very little hope in a dangerous environment, like on a battlefield, as a captive, or with an abuser. They've learned to live in a world where constant danger is a given and one doesn't dare hope because disappointment is so painful. When they are finally safe, and the danger is gone, many people still can't deal with the frightening reality of hope realized.
    • Noted repeatedly in Band of Brothers, where references are made to a battlefield mindset. Before combat, a soldier is nervous but resolute. During combat, it's minute-to-minute existence, no thought of the past or future. After combat, the realization of what they've lived through (sometimes barely) turns their feelings of invincibility ("it can't happen to me") to feelings of inevitability ("it will happen to me") about getting injured or killed, and the only thing they can hope for is that it won't hurt too bad.
  • Discussed explicitly in the works of French philosopher Gabriel Marcel, suggesting that the very act of hoping (and the power it carries) is precisely dangerous if only because it runs the risk of being disappointed. Nevertheless, Marcel suggests that to carry on hoping anyway, despite the true (and possibly fatal) costs of hoping, is the only good way to live.
  • Chronic depression can work this way, which makes it difficult for someone suffering from it to seek treatment.
  • In the Army, being told "Finish all your tasks early and I'll dismiss you at lunch" on a Friday by a Troop WO or Sergeant will, without fail, get this kind of reaction every single time from troops who know such an offer is typically used to trick foolhardy troops into busting their asses off to crank out far more work than they normally would that day. Expect Clint's memetic "Don't give me hope" line from Avengers: Endgame to be quoted at least once behind the back of the higher-up who made the offer.


Video Example(s):


You Feel Less Pain

In "Final Fantasy VIII," Squall Leonhart expresses that it's better not to hope, that way you can take anything and feel less pain. However, because he only expresses his conclusion and not the thoughts that led to it, Rinoa Heartilly thinks him a "meany."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HopeIsScary

Media sources: