Hi REBT Mates!
I wrote this yesterday for someone who struggles with depression. The holidays and tragic events in the news are not making it any easier. I am re-posting it here, pretty much unedited. While I reckon no one would ever accuse me of being Pollyanna, this is a message of hope, albeit expressed in a cynical and dark way. Please share your thoughts and feelings.
|It takes courage to be happy in a sad world!|
A Religious Science minister I used to watch on teevee in Hawaii from time to time was fond of saying “It takes courage to be happy in a sad world!” It is a homily that rings true for me, especially these days.
Even in more placid times, there is never a shortage of tragic, shocking, immoral events and situations for (some) people to dwell on and become depressed over. On the other hand, even under very stressful, chaotic, dangerous periods such as World War II, (clinical) depression was not a typical reaction. Although WW II was before my time, I suspect that people who became immobilized by depression were regarded as self-indulgent, shirking the responsibility to rise to the occasion and do their share in the war effort. If the ancient Dr. Gunars still tunes in here, perhaps he can comment as someone who was in Europe during the war and survived and went on to prosper.
Of course, that is not all there is to the story, but if you choose not to kill yourself (and I am glad that you have chosen to live and hope that you continue to choose to live), the first and vital step is to begin to come to grips with the idea that you largely (although not entirely) upset yourself by your theories, pre-conceived notions, irrational core beliefs, distorted thinking, and negative automatic self-talk (NAT) about the events of your life. It is important to “buy into” the major premise of REBT that events do not upset us, but rather we (largely) upset ourselves by the way we think about those events.
I highly recommend that you read, if you haven’t already, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. It is one of the very best gifts of gratitude you can give yourself and your loved ones. You can get it in paperback and on kindle =>
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Man’s Search for Meaning
Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
At the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, Man’s Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life” found Man’s Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.
From a kind of cynical perspective, we are all sort of “victims.” We are not God. We didn’t create the world we find ourselves in and were not even consulted on how things should be organized. We just found ourselves here like “strangers in a strange land.” I sometimes joke that if were God, I would have set the place up be a lot like Disneyland, where everyone was kind and loving, cute and polite, where everything was spotlessly clean, and where every story had a happy ending. But I was not consulted, nor were you, and there is a LOT of stuff I could permanently upset myself over IF I CHOSE TO. Let’s start with the pillow that you sleep on at night. Inside there about a bzillion dust mites eating one another! Looking at magnified images of that microscopic world, reveals scenes of carnage that make Stephen King seem unimaginative! The entire evo lution o f life on this planet seems based upon predation, and extends all the way up the food chain through human society. Sooner or later, we all get eaten! . . . if you want to look at it that way! And don’t get me started on Fox News!
|Is it “Star Dust Memories” or “Annie Hall”? I forget. Anyway, Mother takes little Woody to the doctor because Little Woody has come upon the theory of “entropy” (loosely, that point when all the stars will have exhausted all their fuel and “gone out,” and when all the cold dark matter in the universe has dispersed infinitely).
Doctor: You won’t do your homework?
Little Woody: What’s the point?
This short scene is very funny because of the absurd juxtaposition. One the one hand, we have entropy which is a plausible enough theory, I suppose, but occurring at such an impossibly distant time that it has little relevance (except to depress ourselves if we are Swedish). Then we have a precocious 10 year old boy giving up on life because of this highfalutin idea or belief. And we want to cry out with every fiber of our being, “No! A 10 year old boy cannot give up on life!” It is the most absurd thing we can imagine. But why should it be any less absurd for someone older?
Look, sometimes happiness (or whatever you want to call it) is gratuitous, just as is misery. It may not be fair (Who said life was fair?) but if you want to be happy, or at least to stop hurting, you need to make peace with the idea that you are going to have to work at it even while all the other slobs “seem” to have it naturally. Paraphrasing Ellis, stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable, and you will stop feeling so miserable. I promise.
It takes courage to be happy in a sad world.
Start by taking a few minutes to appreciate a few things in life you are grateful for, just for today.
Everyone Happy Thanksgiving from Northeast Thailand!