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But then I met a boy who made me feel not so worthless. . . like maybe there's hope for me. . . and it terrifies me.
Fuchsia, Sinfest

The Despair Event Horizon has its advantages. Your expectations are no longer dashed. You feel numb -- if not comfortably, at least not uncomfortably. And what, after all, can you lose?

But if, in that state, someone inspires you with even a fragment of hope -- it is terrifying and often painful. You might start to feel again. You might be in danger of losing something you care about, because you might start to care. Perhaps it was just a Heroic BSOD or a case of having your Jade-Colored Glasses on, after all. But then, there is the peril that this might prove to be the Hope Spot.

Usually just a blip on the road to recovery from the despairing state. Common for the Broken Bird to feel it.

Examples of Hope Is Scary include:

Anime and Manga

  • Bleach: After Rukia resigns to her fate, Gin tells her he can bust her out. Then he tells her he's joking. Her resignation evaporates.

Comic Books

  • In one issue of Detective Comics, The Joker deliberately invokes this trope when he helps Batman save a child whose abduction the Joker himself recently orchestrated. 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.


  • 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?

    • This mentality is not helped by the fact that some cons who are let out after decades can't handle the lack of orders and regimentation and end up Driven to Suicide even when they're finally free.


  • In JRR 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.
  • 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 because giving her hope again would essentially destroy her after what happened to her in the first place.

Live Action TV

  • How I Met Your Mother had Ted admit that he wasn't into that "Fall in love" feeling again. 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 paralysed.


  • 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.

Myth and Legend

  • Some versions of the tale of Pandoras 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.

Video Games

  • In Legacy of Kain: Defiance, Kain ends the game by expressing this very sentiment: "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.

Visual Novels

  • In Fate/stay night, this trope effectively kicks the "Heaven's Feel" scenario into gear. 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. 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).


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