Happy, Shmappy

This entertaining illustrated post by graphic artist Matthew Inman explores happiness fascism, a subject I have addressed once or twice myself. He pillories the vague definition of “happiness,” and compares and contrasts it with meaningfulness, proposing creative flow as a variant of happiness, or at least as a modifier of unhappiness.
An enormous ugly monster chases a small, horned human, saying "I just want you to be happy"
I nodded my head all the way through this, but in the end, I don’t entirely agree. Continue reading

Take Me Away From All This Death

An empty cicada husk on the palm of a handOver the past few months, my life has been touched by death repeatedly. Cultural icons of my youth are dropping left and right, and I’ve learned a new hesitation to track down old friends and acquaintances. I’ve known elders who commented that everyone they knew was dead or dying, but I hadn’t expected to experience that in middle age. It has suddenly become difficult to ignore the inevitability of my own death, which I had fully expected to go on denying for another two or three decades, at minimum.
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The Nonharmonious Mind in the First Person

Cartoon by Dan Meth of a woman carrying a boulder twice her sizeHere’s a multimedia article with video first person accounts, and great cartoons by Dan Meth. Mental Illness Awareness Week was in October for some people. For others, every week is a mental illness awareness week.


The (Over)Thinker

An outdoor casting of Rodi's famous bronze statue, "The Thinker"This article proposes an adjustment to a widely used theory in psychology, shifting the definition of “neuroticism” from overly reactive to highly reactive, and concluding that such reactivity offers benefits in the form of foresight, creativity and drive, not just the costs of anxiety and depression. Do I see subtle signs that HSP and introvert advocates are making a dent?

Those who have wrestled with depression and/or anxiety will immediately recognize the references to “Self Generated Thought.” There’s actually an acronym for that, SGT. Who knew? It’s more judgmentally known as “brooding” by those who never do it.

Just because everything’s been said doesn’t mean everybody’s heard it.

I thought for most of my early life that I had very little imagination. In fact, I despaired over it in my twenties, around the same time I realized that everything profound had probably already been said. (I later realized this doesn’t really matter, since wisdom needs a constant stream of carriers across the generations to keep it alive and relevant. Just because everything’s been said doesn’t mean everybody’s heard it).

Twenty years later, when I became conscious of “negative self-talk” and other fantasies of doom that fueled the ouroboros loop of depression, I was ROFL at the notion that I had no imagination. Au, so contraire! In reality, I was constructing scenarios in my mind non-stop. Almost all of my energy went into it. Maybe the content needed a little tweaking, but it had been irrefutably established over decades that I was not only creative, I was extremely focused and prolific!

Picturing Depression & Anxiety

Just wanted to share Nick Seluk’s great comic strip, inspired by Sarah Flanigan’s story of what it’s like to live with depression and anxiety. Here’s a frame a lot of us will recognize, but definitely check out the whole thing.
Comic of a standing adult saying You were so happy and energetic yesterday, you got so much done, to a child lying on her back

A Sensitive Subject

That would be me. Sensitive: The Untold Story was fine. I would buy it and show it to people, which I think is what it’s for. I am still processing it (naturally!) and will have more to say about it later.

Photo of an inspirational wall plaque with the message "Don't let anyone EVER dull your sparkle."As for the premiere, nobody paid any attention to the dress code, as far as I could see. Guests arrived in everything from jeans to red carpet attire. I dressed for comfort more than display, and was glad I did. Several times during the discussion that followed the film, Elaine Aron advised HSPs to “do what you need to do” to take care of yourself, regardless of what people say, so that’s all good.

I’m still disgruntled that we were told how to dress. A reminder not to wear scents would’ve been a lot more useful. I had to change my seat due to a woman doused in so much perfume that it gave me an instant headache from 4 rows away. And then I felt bad about doing so, because she was also there alone, looking uncomfortable, and I didn’t want her to feel rejected!

I surveyed the crowd and tried to determine if there was anything different about it. This was hampered by the fact that I don’t have much basis for comparison, as I avoid crowds assiduously. Maybe there was a little more automatic consideration of others. Conversations were animated, but not loud. And only a very small handful of people came alone. Other than that, I couldn’t really tell I was in a roomful of HSPs. I’ll have to work on my sensitividar.

I recognize my fear was exacerbated by being an HSP. I knew it while I was I writing my last post, but that didn’t reduce my anxiety one iota!

As someone who has benefited so greatly from Elaine Aron’s work, I felt I was not being entirely nice to raise class issues in that post. I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings. Yet, the issue is a valid one, so would it be fair to myself not to raise it, out of fear of offending or swimming against the tide? Fair vs. nice, always a challenge!

Ultimately, I let the critique stand, along with the fear, as an example of HSP thinking. Aron knows this thinking all too well, so I think she will understand. She is, after all, a psychologist!

There are a couple of other things going on with me lately that I haven’t written about yet due to the impending premiere. I’ll talk about them in upcoming posts.

Are You Happy Now?

Four exactly alike smiling faces made from a banana mouth, orange slice eyes and a strawberry noseI view the “happiness movement” with skepticism. If you aren’t familiar with it, it argues that unhappiness comes from framing our experiences “negatively,” and if only we reframe them “positively,” we can be happy. Here’s a TED talk from one of its most visible proponents.

Note that our speaker, cruising on the silken waters of Harvard cachet, is marketing a service to large corporations. If your boss sent you to happiness school, would you dare to test less happy at the conclusion of the class? No wonder this guy is happy. He’s found himself a sure thing! Continue reading