DISCOURAGEMENT

Discouragement is an affliction of the well-fed and free, and thus not due much sympathy in the grand scheme of things. It’s not quite as frivolous as mere annoyance, and not nearly as grave as hopelessness. It’s just something that happens now and then.

But, it is a reality, and it is something to be taken seriously. Today, despite being relatively well off (and by ‘relatively’ I mean of course ‘better off than 99% of the world’s population’), and what one might even dare to call “happy”, I am discouraged.

I know it will pass, and probably, by the time you read this, it will be gone. But you can’t be too careful. Discouragement, for me at least, has the potential to fester and grow if left unchecked. Those who have had problems with depression know what I’m talking about. Anything negative can turn into a serious and heinous depressive episode – the kind that make you feel like you’ve fallen into a well, while no one’s around to hear your cries for help.

You know the old cartoon cliche’ about the tiny snowball that starts rolling downhill until it becomes a mammoth sphere of destruction?

Yeah, it’s like that.

So, what to do? Sometimes my solution is the same one I use on moderately cold days when I’ve forgotten a jacket. On those days, I make a conscious effort to snub the cold. Just snub it. Like an ex-lover at a restaurant. Just acknowledge the presence, but pay it no mind. It works, too. Unless it gets a little too close to freezing, and the wind’s blowing strong out of the North (which it always is, around here). But it’s a good strategy for mild cases. Just realize your discouragement, maybe give it, if anything, a brief non-committal nod, and ignore it. Sometimes, it’ll go away.

The second, and most likely solution (in my life anyway), is one I prefer as a solution to most problems of the negatively psychological sort. Nap it away. There’s not too many problems that can’t be dealt with initially by taking a good nap. It gives your mind time to wander while you’re falling asleep, and then gives your brain and body a little rest, so you can deal with things better when you awake. Naps are highly underrated in our culture, I find. The Spanish custom of siesta is a hallmark of a truly civilized society. When I’m elected king of the world, it’ll be one of my first acts.

If neither of those methods work, it may be time to get serious and do some work. That’s where the good old cognitive therapy approach is helpful. Here, you write down all those negative thoughts that discouragement is causing to course through your consciousness. Then, once you’ve committed them to paper, give them a cold-blooded, honest, non-emotional assessment, giving yourself the benefit of the doubt. Then ask yourself a simple question: “Are these thoughts true?”

They almost never are. The theory goes: your thoughts give rise to your emotions, not vice-versa. If you can put those thoughts to the test, and recognize them for the lies they are, you mood almost always will come around. It has to. We’re rational animals. We can control our thoughts, even if emotions are a bit more elusive at times. The trick is being neutral with yourself – seeing yourself as you are. Most of us either give ourselves way too much credit, or, like me, are way too hard on ourselves. Honest self-analysis can work miracles. If you can pull it off.

Or you can just blog about it. Worked for me. Thanks for listening.

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