When suffering through intense or prolonged (Or, in very unfortunate cases, both) bouts of depression, we find ourselves re-evaluating our definition of happiness to match our current situation, rather than changing our current situation to match our definition of happiness. In doing so, a life, previously seen as one of hardships and struggles, becomes the norm. It changes from “This is the worst possible life ever” to “This is what life is like.” Eventually, we become content with the pains we are forced to endure, and amid them, we find premature happiness.
This is wrong.
Every time we rethink life, every time we stop fighting for what we desire and simply decide that “I can be happy with this,” we are cheating ourselves out of more and more levels of true bliss. If we take, for example, the pursuit of true love (known as a very commonplace dream to achieve pure happiness), we have very high standards for being content with life. As we all know, true love is not a common occurrence. Many people go their whole lives looking for it, only to find, at best, lust. True love is so incredibly elusive, yet we pursue it. Why? Because we know, or at least acknowledge the fact that we have no idea, how happy it can make us. Starting here, we set our standards of happiness in the clouds.
Then, something happens. We catch a glimpse of love, only to be rejected, betrayed, cheated, used, beaten. In the less extreme of cases, we become content that we at least caught that single glimpse. Already, without acknowledging any dizzying depths of depression, we have dropped our standards far lower than they were previously. In a worst case scenario, we give up on love. We stop pursuing our original concept of happiness, and replace it with a completely and entirely new one.
This is all fine and good, but our new standards for happiness will not be as pure. In this example, it can change to money, sex, fame. The words alone paint a more self-centered, apathetic, greedy image. Not only that, but the joys from these new goals will be fleeting, not lasting as long, or as powerfully, as the original desire.
The only way we are actually content with these lower standards is because we convince ourselves that nothing has changed, that nothing is different about life, that we are simply less naïve than before. We lie to ourselves until we no longer believe the truth. Some of what we tell ourselves could indeed be correct, but very pessimistic. Yes, it is true that it is naïve to think that there is no sorrow in the world. To think that there is only happiness and rainbows and butterflies and everything’s perfect is just foolish. However, to think that a depression earlier in life has made you wiser now is simply stupid. It is one thing to know the other extreme exists; it is quite another to think that you will never end up there.
So, where we are now is somewhere underneath where we started. We are still happy, but only because we convince ourselves that we were foolish beforehand, that this is the way life really is, and so on and so forth. We have not only lied to ourselves, but we have forgotten our dreams as well. Our new standard of happiness could be to simply “make it” in this world.
We are living a lie.
We end up in a very steep, downward spiral. We only believe our own lies. If our lies are exposed (which is stupendously easy to do, as they are lies), we doubt ourselves, and rightfully so. But this leads us to question what the truths are, and, since we have previously disregarded the truths as products of a childish and over-zealous mind, we will never think to look back in that direction for our true lives.
Without our lies to protect us, and arrogantly discarding the truth, we pursue something we cannot find, inevitably leading us deeper into depression. We re-evaluate our definition of happiness, time and time again, until there is essentially no reward for achieving our latest “goal.” Life becomes monotone, colorless, fake.
So all we need to do is realize that we were correct in the beginning, right?
The problem with that is that by time we realize such a thing, we have already fallen too far, and seeing the truth impossibly far away will plunge us farther into depression than our shattered lies ever could. Because we are so far gone already, we are likely pessimistic about the entire scenario (or simply “realistic,” as we tell ourselves), and so we dwell in our own misery of a wasted life, with no hope of getting back what was lost.
The solution? Stay optimistic.
As long as you can maintain a positive outlook on things, you will never sink so low that depression and pessimism overwhelm you. Stay focused on what truly makes you happy, and, although things may be clouded from time to time, you will always be able to get back on top. Even if you have fallen to an almost monotone level, a burst of insight can save you. With an optimistic mind and a good deal of willpower, you will be able to save yourself. Many people call this an “epiphany.”
Optimism stops you from falling. Focus brings you back up when you do fall. Keep this in mind, and you may not have to experience this spiral. Or, more likely, you’re currently in one, but you refuse to admit it. “I’m happy,” you tell yourself. You’ll keep telling yourself that until you realize that, at one point in your life, you had more. You’ll repeat the lie to yourself until you decide that you want more out of life.
So go get it.
To those who think this does not target you: This targets you. You won’t believe that it does until you doubt your own happiness, which, you are likely afraid to do. “What a load of crap,” you’ll think. To that, I have no response. I can’t convince you. That’s up to you. Such is the nature of the spiral.