“Cheer up; it might never happen.”
“A smile costs nothing.”
“Just think happy thoughts.”
Are phrases like these not the single most annoying thing to hear when you’re feeling down about something? It seems to me that there are people out there waging a war on negative emotions and those who experience them. Don’t get me wrong; pessimists are annoying. People who moan about everything and play the victim in every situation grate on me so bad. I dislike optimists all the more!
There’s something about eternal optimists who see the good in absolutely everything that really gets under my skin. I find it astounding that there are people out there who just smile through everything, especially in a world where bad things happen daily. What pisses me off the most is the fact that the smile is fake. They’re using the smile to cover up what they truly feel, plastering it on for two reasons: firstly, they’re desperate to hide their true feelings; secondly, they want to make people who are in touch with their negative emotions feel bad. The latter is where phrases like the ones at the start of the post come from.
Very little evokes unease like somebody telling me to smile or cheer up when I feel down. Like smiling will magically make all my troubles fade away. The optimist is comfortable in the art of repression and uncomfortable around those who are dealing with their unhappiness and letting it flow. The optimist feels compelled to tell the realist to feign happiness. Why? Because if they don’t feign happiness then it’ll remind the optimist of the bad feelings they themselves are trying desperately to repress.
I’ve known so many people over the years who’ll skirt around a bunch of issues they have, giving very little detail about what ails them emotionally, just to reach the optimistic conclusion: “But I’ll be fine. I’ll just plod on as ever.” They don’t give the details of their issues because they don’t want to deal with said issues nor the unhappiness they’re causing. They’d sooner ignore both of those things and hope that the fake smile they put on will, somehow, fix all their problems itself.
Repression is dangerous. I don’t think there’s a factor worse when it comes to the mental health game. Of course, I can only speak of what I feel. I’m not a psychologist so my opinion is certainly not verbatim. However, just applying a little common sense, I can deduce that swallowing bad emotions and feelings is extremely unhealthy for the mind. I imagine the mind as being a place where thoughts never go away. They get stored somewhere ready to be called upon when needed.
Repression, to me, works thus: you have a bad feeling or thought that you desperately don’t want so you push it into a certain part of your brain. A mental waste bin if you will. The waste bin receives more and more bad mental garbage, filling up along the way. Eventually the bin is full. At this point your realist empties the bin and lets the badness flow. Your realist deals with the rubbish. Your realist takes the rubbish out for the dustbin men to collect. The waste bin is empty and ready to go again.
Here’s what your optimist does. At the point when the bin is full, he or she optimistically thinks “Nah, I can get more in there,” and proceeds to push down and compress the rubbish within. It works for a while. Only for a while though. Despite knowing the bin needs to be emptied your optimist persists to put the mental rubbish in there. They take the lid off so all the rubbish can pile up, still optimistically telling themselves that the bin has more space. The rubbish at the bottom is starting to rot and decompose causing a disgusting smell. The smell won’t disperse no matter how much air freshener your optimist sprays. That smell is depression. Depression is the stench of a million bad thoughts all compressed into a space that simply can’t fit them all.
Your optimist has two options here. They can:
- realise that the mental bin is beyond full and take it out so that they can begin to fumigate the brain of the stench of depression;
- continue to leave it and simply stop caring that the mental rubbish, that no longer fits in the mental bin, is all over their brain and the brain permanently reeks of depression.
The second option is probably the point where a person has gone into full mental meltdown. The first option isn’t a great one either as to clear a brain of the stench of depression is no easy process. In fact it’s probably the hardest task one is ever likely to undertake in their lifetime.
Optimism used sparingly is a good thing. We all need to be happy and see the good in things. Realism is something that should be used at all times. Setting your heart on and being optimistic about winning the lottery is not exactly the best idea for mental wellbeing. Taking the realistic stance, “It would be nice if I win the lottery, but the chances of it happening are remote,” is likely the right one. Sparing use of pessimism is also a good idea. Murphy’s Law is apt: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Sometimes you just need to accept defeat. It’s more likely that pessimism and realism will align than will optimism and realism. Maybe that’s just me being pessimistic though.
Dealing with bad thoughts and feelings, to me, is the right way to do things. Vent in whatever way you can. Moan to friends and family. Go to the gym and batter a punching bag. Play a videogame and take your frustration out on the enemies therein. Whatever your method, just get your mental garbage out of your system. Don’t bin it and leave it, thinking your storage space is infinite. It isn’t.
If you’re an optimist and feel the binning method works best for you then my advice is not to expect everybody to be as fake-happy as you are. Just because you’re cool with the future depression or meltdown that awaits you doesn’t mean everyone else should think the same way. If a person dealing with bad emotions makes you feel uncomfortable then just leave them alone. If leaving them alone isn’t possible just say nothing. You aren’t a ray of sunshine, Mr. or Mrs. Optimist. You’re annoying!
Smiling isn’t a remedy for sadness. Smiling doesn’t solve problems. Dealing with problems solves problems. Don’t dismiss a person’s bad times by telling them to cheer up. Be helpful and offer support or just keep your false happy-go-lucky attitude to yourself.