Thursday, October 8, 2015

DwD Depression's antidotes part 2

On top of everything, I got a nasty cold this week and between the achy muscles and the head-full-of-wool feeling, I mainly just sat on the couch and read Betty Neels. Who, if you are unfamiliar with the name, is the author of cookie cutter British romance novels that I adore, sexist stereotypes and all. They are the book equivalent of frosted strawberry pop-tarts.

Now that I'm coming out of it, I'm so happy to be feeling better that I'm having a hard time remembering why I need to finish this series of posts. But I said I would, so here you go.

As someone who is naturally a bit of a cynic and a cranky old bat, I have a hard time with the whole think positive, put on a happy face, whenever God closes a door somewhere he opens a window, when life hands you lemons make lemonade thing. We live in a world of positive people, and as a culture we are absolutely sure that positive thinking is better than being negative.

So I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about this. But here's what I learned a few months ago while (for some reason I no longer remember) perusing the endless remakes of Pharrell's song "Happy" on YouTube: people who are naturally happy and positive feel the same way. They feel persecuted, and like the world is against them.

Everyone is so negative, they are apt to say. The media always concentrate on the bad things. I love that Pharrell song because finally somebody is saying it's OK to be happy. "Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth." (I have to insert here that I find it very odd that that song is in a minor key.)

So what is our great wisdom here? That all of us feel persecuted and misunderstood? That would take us off on an entirely different tangent, so let's stick with today's message which is: you're only feeding your depression if you concentrate on all the bad stuff to the exclusion of the good. The world's a mess, but there's plenty of good news, too.

In fact, while googling around for this post I found out that there are several websites (or sections of websites) that are exclusively devoted to positive, good news stories. For every sociopath who is responsible for a mass shooting, there's someone who is throwing his body in front of the door to save lives. For every rabid Facebook meltdown over some issue, there's someone who's quietly changing the world.

Much was made in social media a few months ago of a Cherokee myth of a fight between two wolves, one representing self-pity, bitterness, and hatred, the other love and belief in the basic goodness of all. Which one will win? Ah, the wise old Indian said, the one that will win is the one you feed. As with all viral internet ideas, someone immediately came along and said it wasn't really a Cherokee myth it was some other thing and this is really an example of how indigenous cultures are co-opted by .... you know.

But wherever the story came from, or even if somebody just made it up, the point is well taken. There's being honest about how crappy you feel, and then there's grabbing your negativity and clutching it to you tightly like a security blanket, heatedly arguing against any attempt to balance the scales. When I hit that point, I'm just feeding my depression.

To be entirely honest, which is what I said I wanted in the previous post, at least sometimes there is as much reason to be positive as there is to be negative. You can't exclude one and concentrate on the other. To do so is to be dishonest.

When my brain recoils from the whole Pollyanna thing, maybe the answer is to remember Andrew Solomon's words from his TED Talk: the opposite of depression isn't happiness, it's vitality. It's engagement, wanting to live, to be involved, to have a part in what's happening around you. It's not happiness we need to cultivate, but the will to live.

I have this sneaking suspicion that I didn't quite say what I meant to say in this post, so maybe I will revisit this at a future date. Or maybe one of you can straighten it out. This is possibly the bitchiest post ever written about being positive.

p.s. it seriously did not occur to me until I was two-thirds of the way through writing this post that Betty Neels is the ultimate example of treacly-positive happily-ever-after fiction. So, yeah.

No comments: