H.O.P.E’s History

Green SquareThe History, Itself:

H.O.P.E’s founder, Ken Hamilton, MD, would like you to know H.O.P.E’s history. It will help you to understand that H.O.P.E. is a living process… a story. To start, he grew up in a healing family environment of medical doctors, social scientists, and Christian Science practitioners. From his earliest years, he knew that health was somehow related to love and the Source of all things, and the relationship fascinated him. At eleven years of age, he began a painful struggle to understand this. It became his life’s goal. At fifteen, he committed himself to becoming a physician, and would later specialize in general surgery.

In the opening lecture of a major course in his second year in the McGill University Faculty of Medicine (Montréal) the professor advised the American students that they would not be taught prognosis “because you do not have the right to limit your patient’s lives. Rather, if they have a serious illness it is your responsibility to advise them to get their affairs in order and get on with their lives. Then promise them that you will do everything in your power to help them get on with their lives.” To Hamilton, that instruction contained all of the essential elements of the Hippocratic Oath. He held to that belief through his entire career and into the formation of H.O.P.E, where it comprises the essential integrating principle behind all of H.O.P.E.’s supportive group work of creating communities of caring people helping each other get through tough crossroads in their lives.

In 1975, when he was 42, Doctor Hamilton met the person-centered practices of Earl Nightingale’s organization, Nightingale-Conant Corporation of Wheeling, IL. (To get to know more about Earl’s work, go here.) Their monthly INSIGHT audiotapes gave him insights into attitudes and behaviors that he found to be of great benefit to his patients. He perceived that this was a psychology of success that was directed toward identifying a person’s “core passion” and coaching or guiding the person toward the development of and achievement of that “worthy ideal”. Here was a business enterprise that was doing the same thing with “ordinary” people that Lawrence LeShan, Ph.D. was doing with patients (described in his book, Cancer as a Turning Point, Plume, 1994)!

The upshot of all this led to Hamilton making the key decision to learn more about psychology. With the help of a close acquaintance in his hospital, he was led to the Portland (Maine) office of the psychiatrist, Reverend Barry Wood, MD, for tutoring in a range of psychologies. In 1985, Barry encouraged Ken to attend a 12-step Al-Anon program to help him deal with familial control issues, thus introducing him to the most effective of all self-help support groups. When Barry developed a cancer in the summer of 1986, he met Bernie Siegel, MD, whom he then introduced to Ken. Ken attended a workshop given by Bernie in November, 1986, where he found out about Bernie’s unique Exceptional Cancer Patients support groups.

One month later, he participated in a workshop given by Jerry Jampolsky, MD, founder of the first Center for Attitudinal Healing, and who introduced Ken to the concepts of Attitudinal Healing, and their applications in support group settings as “Principles of Attitudinal Healing”. What Ken had learned from Earl Nightingale acquired a spiritual context from Jerry’s work that came from his study of A Course in Miracles (Viking Press; 2nd edition [March 1996]) Ken now saw how everything he had been experiencing since 1975 could work in support groups.

Shortly thereafter, Sharon Williams, RN, director of the American Cancer Society’s “I can Cope” series of meetings for cancer patients at Ken’s hospital asked Ken if he would consider running a support group for several of her people with cancer. He said he would and found the opportunity to ask five of his own patients with cancers if they would be interested in starting a weekly support group using all of the models that he had been using in his own practice since 1975. They agreed eagerly. The group first met on Thursday, February 12, 1987, and when Ken challenged them with finding the words to fit the acronym, H.O.P.E, Sharon brought “Healing Of Persons Exceptional” to the next meeting, and the group eagerly accepted it.

They have met weekly ever since then, becoming the start of a multi-group service to over 1500 people in 6000+ H.O.P.E. Group meetings in the next twenty-eight years. The growth began in October of 1987 when Doctor Christiane Northrup invited Ken to start a group in Portland for several of her patients with cancer. The Bangor group started seven months later, followed soon by the first Lewiston group. By this time the groups were beginning to include people with other disabling chronic conditions, such as MS, AIDS, depression, RSDS, DLE, and heart disease. At that time it was clear to Ken that he faced a career choice. Though leaving surgery for H.O.P.E. would take him and his wife out of the security of a surgeon’s income, he knew that his experience of the preceding years provided an extremely powerful adjunct to all medical therapies. He also knew that he was comfortable with and excited by the impending career change, so he accepted it. His wonderfully supportive wife made the change ever so much more easy.

Blue SquareThe History of H.O.P.E’s Helping:

More than fifteen hundred individuals and their families have been helped by H.O.P.E. Groups, H.O.P.E. Guides, and the lasting relationships that they formed with other H.O.P.E. group participants. H.O.P.E. has now or has previously established Maine groups in Alfred, Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Boothbay, Caribou, Camden, Eastport, Ellsworth, Farmington, Hallowell, Lewiston, Portland, South Paris, Wells, and Windham; and New Hampshire groups in Rochester, Lebanon, and New London. Many wonderful and fascinating things happen in H.O.P.E. Groups.

The experience of one group in a Maine coastal town is typical. It was started by two women, one of whom had recurrent cancer and the other was a retired teacher. The group stayed active for five years. It served thirty people. Ten got better, as would be expected, given the nature of their illnesses. Ten died, as would be expected, given the nature of their illnesses. Ten lived who would not have been expected to live, given the nature of their illnesses.

That group did not stop meeting when its founder with cancer died, some 3 1/2 years later. having lived for several years more than was originally expected. However, when a much–loved woman, whose name was Hope, died tragically and suddenly 1 1/2 years later, no one tried to keep it going when its time to close had clearly come. And so it has been for some other H.O.P.E. Groups. In this way, H.O.P.E. has served so many people since its inception. Its way has been refined and developed into a living process that nurtures those who guide it as well as those whom they guide.

That refinement and development are summarized in the following four questions (each with its appropriate field of belief) that lead to “realizing your life’s intention”:

  • Who are you? (A call to life from Life, itself, a blessing of Life, and a gift of life to Life… including all your gifts and heartbreaks)
  • Why are you here? (To realize your core passion—your soul’s cry—Earl Nightingale’s “worthy ideal”.)
  • How are you going to get what you came for? (A list of those resources of time, place, people, and money that you need to do the work.)
  • What are you going to do with it when you get it? (Describe the nature of your service to others and to Life, Itself.)

H.O.P.E. has a promise that follows the four questions:

H.O.P.E. promises you that it will do everything in its power to help you get on with the life you’ve built out of the answers to those four questions.

Green SquareThe history of H.O.P.E’s Growth:

That first Portland group introduced Ken to the work of Viktor Frankl, MD, whose 1959 book, Man’s Search for Meaning (Boston: Beacon), is a remarkable story of the power of hope and love in helping humans survive the unbelievable hardships of Nazi concentration camps. Upon reading this profound reflection on the discovery of the meaning of life in its deepest suffering, and rising, like the Phoenix, out of the suffering, Ken realized he had met his “main man.” Frankl showed him how all the work he had done and would continue to do was helping people find their way out of the prisons of their bodies and their minds…and it fit perfectly into the work of Nightingale and LeShan.

Ken knew that these groups would not be a direct source income for him (replacing his income as a surgeon). He knew that this work, which follows Napoleon Hill’s law that the rewards in life are always in direct proportion to the level and degree of one’s service, would remunerate him in other ways. He knew that though it was inappropriate for him to charge a fee for his group work, he could accept their contributions that paid for the use of the meeting site and his gasoline expenses. Thus, he encourages all groups to financially support their guides according to their needs. While contributions from the participants always cover each group’s expenses, H.O.P.E. has grown through the support of voluntary contributions from both participants and an interested public.

What began in 1987 as a volunteer service remains “volunteer” to this day and for the foreseeable future. However, it is also appropriate for H.O.P.E. Groups to be a part of financially remunerative professional services. Health-care practice has undergone momentous change since H.O.P.E. began in 1987. In 2015, time is at a premium in healthcare, compromising the ability to provide care. The absence of care reflects itself in an increased incidence of malpractice suits and physician burnout. Today’s patient finds very little opportunity to participate in her or his own health-care decisions because of these time constraints, regardless of their cause. H.O.P.E. is in an excellent position to make it possible for those time constraints to fall away and encourage the return of caring to health care. H.O.P.E. as a “clinical service” would comprise H.O.P.E. Groups guided by professionals (physician assistants, nurses, and physicians). They would provide valuable clinical information to the health-care practice—information protected by the standards of confidentiality of those services. They would provide a confidential forum for patients to discuss their relationships to their therapies and with their health–care providers, out of which the perception of care develops.

Today, H.O.P.E. reaches out to people in other ways to help them find meaning, value and purpose in their lives—making sense out of life regardless of what has happened in that life in 1996, Ken and a group of friends who called themselves The Nurturers developed a workshop they called “Circling the Soul,” which concentrated the H.O.P.E. Group work into a rich two-day experience of self-discovery, which, today, is known as “SoulCircling”. H.O.P.E. has published a book about the process, SoulCircling: The Journey to the Who. H.O.P.E. has produced audiotapes of 24 of Ken’s excellent guided imageries that comprise a part of a significant number of H.O.P.E. Group meetings. The analog tapes have all been transcribed into digital form that can be custom-ordered on CDs. H.O.P.E. has the ability to produce DVD’s of its work. All of these products and services can be ordered on this web site.

Also in 1996, Ken was invited to have H.O.P.E. become a member of the Network for Attitudinal Healing International sponsored by the John E. Fetzer Foundation through its Fetzer Institute. In 2009 Attitudinal Healing International was incorporated and H.O.P.E. joined AHI in 2010, becoming a “Center for Attitudinal Healing”, maintaining that designation to this day. In May, 2015, H.O.P.E. and AHI agreed to bring their services closer together to nurture each other in supporting Attitudinal Healing throughout the world, “letting go of fear and conflict and coming to see life in a peaceful and loving way.”

Tomorrow, H.O.P.E. reaches out across the continent and the world teaching its methods and supporting H.O.P.E. Groups anywhere and everywhere through the Internet’s means of instant telephonic and video communication. As H.O.P.E’s mission is to help people find meaning, value, and purpose in their lives through the medium of communities of individuals supporting each other, we move into the future with the image of empowerment of such groups to come together as communities without a specific leader or guide, and using that simple document of ours that sets up the healthy context for the meeting—the GoldBook.