“Help! I’m stuck in the fog!” What I mean by this is you’re feeling so stuck, so mired down with negativity or bittness or some other negative emotion that you can’t see clearly. You can’t get in touch with that distant thing called happiness.
Maybe you are feeling so unhappy or so miserable in your life that you’re having difficulty even thinking of things that would make you happy. This is a special post I am adding just for you, to help you work through this.
First of all, the fact that you are even here reading this is a great sign. Because to me it indicates that you are motivated, invested in yourself, and willing to make an effort. It also means that you are recognizing that you could be happier and want to be happier. This may not seem like a huge distinction, but believe me, there are people who just embrace their misery, take their negative emotions out on others, and aren’t interested in making changes.
Another useful thing that Rubin writes in her book is her realization that the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, not depression. [if you are feeling very depressed, please see the end of the post stat!]. When I work with clients, I often try to help them distinguish between situational sadness and actual clinical depression. Then, of course, there is also dysthymia which is sort of a mixture of all of these things, but typically goes on for a much longer period of time. I would like you to think about (or maybe you already have) what is the case for you. Have you always been a sad/negative/pessimistic type person? Or is this something new? Are there circumstances, events or situations in your life—either currently or recently—that have led to these emotions you’re having now? For example, did you recently suffer a break-up or divorce and now find that you’re down on yourself?
I think that dysthymia can sometimes be more about our mind-sets. When you go around life in this constant state, it can put a damper on your whole world. You know the saying ‘seeing the world with rose colored glasses’? Well there are some of us who see the world with black colored glasses, so to speak. And it can be really difficult to change this outlook. There is research which attests that pessimists actually have a more realistic, practical view of the world and that this type of mind set can make it easier to cope with the things that happen in our lives. But living like this on a day to day basis…it’s a drag!
Can you imagine what it might be like to go through your day feeling lucky, or waiting for something wonderful to happen, or feeling on top of the world??? Maybe not…especially if you came here to read this because you feel like you’re stuck in the fog. But there are really (seriously) people who do go through life this way! I have a cousin who is constantly saying that she is “blessed.” When you are the negative person in the room, people like this can be really annoying! But let me tell you this—this same cousin of mine is one of the luckiest people I know. One of those people who just always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Coincidence? Maybe… but maybe it isn’t that she’s “lucky,” but that her positive manner and embracing of the world present these opportunities to her. Let me explain that more… Because she’s always so happy and positive, people want to be around her. She has tons of friends. She’s social and involved in many things. She’s also generous, and kind, and the type of person you can’t hate even though she seems annoyingly perfect in every way (i.e. smart and beautiful). Some people might describe this as karma—she’s getting back what she’s given, or possibly more, in a positive way. But what I’m trying to explain is that perhaps the way she has lived, the way she is viewing her world, has opened doors for her that might have seemed closed, non-existent or unavailable to others.
However, if you’re a really negative person, you might also say “Well, maybe she’s happy because she is so lucky!” Like ‘the chicken or the egg’ kind of thing. And this is a valid point. BUT… the whole point of these posts is that we’re trying to change the way we think. Ok, I’m inserting a funny joke for you here, to make you smile and keep you going here…..
(if you are a vegetarian…let’s not even go there right now!!!! just laugh anyway…)
So, here is our plan for working on this—some things I want you to think about….
(1) What is preventing you from being happy? Generate a list of some of the obstacles that are blocking your perceived path to happiness. You can do this in the bubble-and-stick form that I demonstrated in the last post. (e.g. can’t go on vacation because you don’t have enough money)
(2) Look through this list:. What are static things versus permanent things? What are things that can be more easily changed, versus things that would much harder to change?
(3) If you were to make some changes in your life, where would you begin? Or, in other words, what aspects of your life would you be able or willing to change? (e.g. if you hate your long work commute, or are miserable at your job, can you find a different one or one closer to home?)
(4) When looking at your list, are there things that bother you more than others? When you look at your list, are there certain things that stick out more, that you think you’d be more invested in working on? (e.g. perhaps you’re really sick of a boyfriend who puts you down, and this is a prominent concern for you right now)
(5) And finally…just sit and look at this original list you made. Once again review those things that you are identifying as being obstacles in your path to happiness.
(6) A question often used in therapy, called the miracle question is this: If you could wake up tomorrow and everything would be perfect, what would your life be like? What would be different? What would have changed? Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine this. Think about this. Once you have envisioned what this scenario would be for you, compare it with your “now.” This can further help you to identify your obstacles and your desires/wishes/wants.
But what if your perfect vision is just that—too perfect, too impossible? What if thinking about that in itself just gets you more bummed? Let me share with you some of my own “dream life”: I wake up in a huge mansion filled with designer furniture, that is sparkling clean because my maid was just there to scrub and organize the whole place, and my husband is just finishing making me a 4-course breakfast which he would then deliver me in bed on a silver tray with fresh flowers, and I wouldn’t have to worry about being late for work because—oh yes!—I’d be a famous author with beaucoup money and never had to work a regular job again.
RIGHT…Keep dreaming, right??? So, as you can imagine, there is a huge contrast between what I desire and what I perceive that I have. And herein lies the catch. The contrast is just so vast that it becomes difficult to bridge that gap. This is where many of us may struggle. And notice the word I used—perceive. We may be so caught up in the things we don’t have to focus on what we really do.
As a final step here, if needed, I want you to process that last statement and think about how it fits for you. You can even include the most basic things you have.
I could probably go on and on….but I will add more another day!!! Plus, I think you have a bit of homework here already to work through. 🙂
*****these posts are not meant to be a replacement for therapy! If you are seriously depressed, and/or suicidal, please call 911, a national suicide hotline, or your local crisis line for immediate help!*****