Preamble to a Catalog of Woe

I just read this item on the Huffington Post written by a researcher specializing in the study of “positive psychology.”  He enumerates a bunch of stuff happy people do differently than the rest of us.  You can read all 10 of these differences here: unless the link has been taken down, in which case I am certain other platitudinous rubbish of this nature will be easily findable elsewhere on the Internet.

The one smiley-person commonality that struck home the most with me was that “happy people embrace the suck,” by which they are able to see the good side of the bad side–you know, personal growth opportunity, chance to exercise coping skills, knowledge that misery is a foil without which happiness can never truly be felt, and all the other positive blather that optimists ooze like sweat and pessimists like me secretly don’t believe actually exists outside the mind of liars and sociopaths who, in point of fact, feel nothing at all beyond the quartet of essential hungers males of our species goads and tortures ourselves with.

hunger one hunger 2 hunger 3


hunger 4

A non-drug-addicted, heterosexual, atheist male’s main reptilian-brain-based life hungers, three of which have a pronounced connection to the color red and one of which is more of a green kind of proposition.  The connection of all four to lasting happiness is tentative at best.

I have never embraced the suck.  I hate the suck, and my hatred is such that it takes a relatively small suck and escalates it, step by step, into the kind of Black Hole vortex that can swallow light itself.  I do not like doing this kind of exaggeration of trivial travail into the territory of clinical depression and substance abuse.  But the more I try to avoid my penchant for catastrophizing things, the more stubbornly does said penchant sink its spurs into my sides and yell, “Yeee Haaaawww!  Giddy up, you fool!

There is, of course, an opposite school of thought in psychological circles about the best way to banish ones miseries.  While the positive psychology movement seems to advocate we try to become, well, more positive, the deviant psychology world, or offshoots of this, seems to recommend a paradoxical cure.

The easiest example of this I can come up with is how to treat insomnia.  Positive psychologists, I suspect, will preach no shortage of “sleep hygiene” techniques designed to slowly get your circadian rhythms back in a better groove and the like.  My deviant psychologist practitioners (and I am certain there are some of these, I am not making them up, not exactly) argue that the best way to fall asleep is to try to stay awake.

After a week of all-nighters, you almost certainly will fall asleep.

A codicil to this actually further commends this approach to yours truly: the discovery by depression researchers that insomnia actually helps improve a depressed mood, at least the next day.  If you believe that not getting any sleep will intensify your misery, then you are likely to be doubly intent on getting sleep.  If, however, you realize, as I have, that your mind is your enemy and can never be trusted when the mood takes a pronounced dip, it is absolutely wonderful to discover that the best things you can do for insomnia are:

A) try to stay wake for the rest of your life

B) understand that insomnia, at least temporarily, will improve your depressed mood

C) if this doesn’t really work, and frankly, my experience with any condition you truly don’t want to suffer tells me that nothing ever really works, then take cheer from the famous quote usually attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: “Things are going to get unbelievably worse and never get better.”

Have a nice day!

weekend 5



2 thoughts on “Preamble to a Catalog of Woe

  1. Susan, your point is taken and skillfully made! I am actually going to post a blog in the not too distant future on techniques people use to let depressing thoughts simply drift through–noticed but not catastrophized–the mental chatter. But first I will be posting a depressing blog on a recent travesty of swimming justice suffered by none other than your humble narrator! Check back periodically, though I suppose you can rely on me to let you know on Facebook when the next outrage appears.

  2. Hey, Jim, I love your blogs. But I have to say this one would depress me, if I weren’t such a smiley-person. I read the article you referred to, and didn’t see at all the same things that you saw, especially your version of what “embrace the suck” means. (Which, for the record, I think was a stupid phrase for that author to use.)

    BTW, I passed by you today, but since you didn’t respond to my “Jim!”, I figured you were deep in thought about your next blog (which I am awaiting)! And as suck-y as that was, I embraced the fact that life will go on until the next time I see you, optimistically believing that next time you will see me!

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