Episode 34: Fear of Hope w/Ross Ellenhorn PhD – Why People Don’t Change

Dr. Ross Ellenhorn comes on to share his understanding and research on the fear of hope – a powerful psychological construct that can frustrate our every attempt to change.

Here’s his author’s description from one of his books:
Ross Ellenhorn, PhD, is an eminent thought leader on innovative methods and programs aimed at helping individuals diagnosed with psychiatric and substance-use issues recover in their own communities, outside of hospital or residential settings. He is the founder, owner, and CEO of ellenhorn, the most robust community integration program in the United States, with offices in Boston, New York City, and Raleigh-Durham. Dr. Ellenhorn is also the cofounder and president of the Association for Community Integration Programs, and the founder of two lecture series that aim to shift current behavioral health paradigms. He gives talks and seminars throughout the country, and is an in-demand consultant to mental health agencies, psychiatric hospitals, and addiction programs in the United States and Europe. Dr. Ellenhorn is the first person to receive a joint PhD from Brandeis University’s Florence Heller School for Social Welfare Policy and Management and the Brandeis Department of Sociology.

Dr. Ellenhorn can be found at Ellenhorn.com or Cardea.net

This episode was edited by DamJankostovski.


  • How We Change – Ross Ellenhorn’s Book (Amazing, check it out)
  • 10 Reasons Not to Change
  • Counterfactual Thinking – a concept in psychology that involves the human tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred; something that is contrary to what actually happened. Counterfactual thinking is, as it states: “counter to the facts”.
  • R. D. Lang (Psychologist) – a Scottish psychiatrist who wrote extensively on mental illness – in particular, the experience of psychosis. Laing’s views on the causes and treatment of psychopathological phenomena were influenced by his study of existential philosophy and ran counter to the chemical and electroshock methods that had become psychiatric orthodoxy.
  • Fleabag (TV Show)
  • Terror Management Theory (Psych) – It proposes that a basic psychological conflict results from having a self-preservation instinct while realizing that death is inevitable and to some extent unpredictable. This conflict produces terror, which is managed through a combination of escapism and cultural beliefs that act to counter biological reality with more significant and enduring forms of meaning and value.
  • Erich FrommEscape from Freedom
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon (Wiki)
  • Bad Faith (Sartre Philosophy) – bad faith (mauvaise foi) is the psychological phenomenon whereby individuals act inauthentically, by yielding to the external pressures of society to adopt false values and disown their innate freedom as sentient human beings. Bad faith also derives from the related concepts of self-deception and ressentiment.
  • The Major Events of 1955 
  • Transcendentalism – a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in New England. A core belief is in the inherent goodness of people and nature, and while society and its institutions have corrupted the purity of the individual, people are at their best when truly “self-reliant” and independent.
  • Individualism: the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology and social outlook that emphasizes the intrinsic worth of the individual.
  • Collectivism: a value that is characterized by emphasis on cohesiveness among individuals and prioritization of the group over the self. Individuals or groups that subscribe to a collectivist worldview tend to find common values and goals as particularly salient and demonstrate greater orientation toward in-group than toward out-group.
  • Unconditional Positive Regard (Carl Rogers) – a concept initially developed by Stanley Standal in 1954, later expanded and popularized by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers in 1956, is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does, especially in the context of client-centred therapy
  • Common Factors Theory – a theory guiding some research in clinical psychology and counseling psychology, proposes that different approaches and evidence-based practices in psychotherapy and counseling share common factors that account for much of the effectiveness of a psychological treatment.
  • Alan Watts – Phil heard it in a talk, he said “The mark of the intelligent man is to be paid to play”, but the best he can find to quote is “The mark of an intelligent and educated man is one who does not really accept the idea of ‘work’.”
  • Aristotle Quote (Attributed to him often, at least): “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation”
  • Episode 25 – Ikigai
  • Liminality – the physical spaces between one destination and the next.
  • Parasuicidality – some suicidology researchers regard many suicide attempts as parasuicide (para=near)
  • Munchausen Syndrome (AKA Factitious disorder imposed on self) – a factitious disorder where those affected feign or induce disease, illness, injury, abuse, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.
  • The Borg (Star Trek) – an alien group that appear as recurring antagonists in the Star Trek fictional universe. The Borg are cybernetic organisms (cyborgs) linked in a hive mind called “the Collective”. The Borg co-opt the technology and knowledge of other alien species to the Collective through the process of “assimilation“: forcibly transforming individual beings into “drones” by injecting nanoprobes into their bodies and surgically augmenting them with cybernetic components.
  • Carl Jung’s Shadow – Phil’s use is about how “the things we dislike in others are the things we dislike in ourselves”
  • Capitalism – an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.

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