Depressingly Optimistic   2 comments

For the last few days I have been reading a book that is overbearingly optimistic.  There is very little room in the author’s world for emotions that don’t feel good: sadness is something to be cured, not indulged.  When I feel that some part of my life is unwelcome to another, I feel devalued, invalidated.  I don’t feel safe around someone who needs me to disguise my true feelings to make him or her comfortable. 

I realize, of course, that the same can be said for a melancholic who tries to suppress the cheerful, but the American culture, including the church, weighs in heavily on the side of optimism.  Although some forms of Christianity through history have more quickly associated spirituality with melancholy, this is not the American way. 

It seems to me a dangerous assumption to equate faith with pleasant feelings, leaving unpleasant feelings to be associated with doubt.  I have discovered in my own life that it takes a great deal of faith to allow myself to fully experience, acknowledge, and even welcome my own “negative” feelings and that those experiences often bring about greater growth than the pleasant ones.

So why do I read this oppressively optimistic book?  Because I need the encouragement of sunny thoughts… as long as I can receive them in the amount and with the emphasis that builds up my soul.  If optimism is excessive (for me), far from helping, it depresses me more.  I feel isolated, I feel the other person cannot understand or appreciate my experience.  However, if I value and validate my own experience of melancholy first, I can then welcome cheerful words to encourage me rather than shame me.  It is confusing for the optimist to hear, but I find more comfort when folks accept my melancholy than when they try to cheer me up.  I think we all have a long way to grow in learning to embrace our differences.

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Posted April 30, 2010 by janathangrace in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Depressingly Optimistic

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  1. There is a book I read many years ago where the author talks about the sacred experience of depression and how it is a place where the spirit can become aware of a different truth, open to a new reality that is unavailable to the cheerful mind. It is a space with its own unique nourishment for the soul. The book is “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore. It has meant a lot to me in my periods of great depression.loveMardi

  2. @Mardi – I’ll have to check it out.  Thanks.

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