We all get our fair (and sometimes, unfair) share of trouble and disappointment in life. Living is not always smooth sailing, and those stormy days can leave us in pain. However, we can’t allow the pain and fear to stay with us any longer than they should; because we risk forming a habit of despair and unhappiness.
The mistakes and misfortunes of the past have the power to cloud the future, such that we fail to enjoy the blessings of the present. And it is this condition that forces us to take mental abode in sadness. Sometimes, this is the natural response to pain, and can even be cleansing if we show the right attitude. Nonetheless, if we linger too much in the bubble of sorrow, it can become an addiction. And, like most addictions, it can even be pleasurable, albeit destructive. Most times, we fuel our feeling of despair by wallowing in self-guilt. Guilt, which is suppose to be a regenerative thought for the repentant heart, then turns into a tool to encourage our gloom. It is similar to what we see with other common addictions; guilt has been found to abet them. It is the thought of what might have been; and can be cancerous. Melody Beattie was right when she wrote that “guilt can stop us from taking healthy care of ourselves”.
Other times, we make a habit of sadness, not because of guilt, but because we’ve been hurt so many times. Somewhere within us, we know we deserve some happiness, but we’ve been served sorrow upon sorrow. So, we give up, put on pessimism as a garment, and construct some sort of comfort for ourselves. Then we begin to reject every notion of happiness, even when they’re real. We doubt the goodwill of others towards us, to the continuous hurt of ourselves and everyone around us. In a contribution to HuffPost website, Anna Anderson wrote that “every emotion, either positive or negative, is a blend of chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) that our brain instantly produces in response to thoughts. This cocktail circulates throughout the body producing corresponding sensations that are felt at both the psychological and physical levels. The chemistry of emotion is very addictive, if repeated frequently over a long period of time — just like the chemistry of nicotine, alcohol and drugs. This is most noticeable in the case of negative emotions, as they produce stress hormones that our body, in a twisted, self-destructive way, can easily start craving like a drug.”
These all culminate into fear. Against hope and happiness, we wrap ourselves in a blanket of despair. Because we are afraid to fight, we surrender to the feeling of perpetual loss. Sometimes we exhibit this in our actions and words. There are some who consciously avoid any prospect of joy, just as there are those who never cease to complain about life. These are things that blind us from seeing the beauty that’s in the world, and the joy that people can offer. It is like falling sick and giving our illness so much power and control over us. John Steinbeck conveys this thought in his novel “East of Eden”, when he wrote that: “some people think it’s an insult to the glory of their sickness to get well”. And when we lock ourselves up thus, it is not only us who suffer. The people around us suffer also, as they face the anguish of their inability to express and impart their joy unto us. This affects our relationships and work life.
Therefore, like every other addiction, we ought to fight it. We need to employ words and share our feelings in a productive manner. As Shakespeare suggests, “give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break”. We also need to make conscious—and proactive—attempts at happiness. Sometimes, it is as simple as taking in the beauty of the world, like the mountains, the rivers, blooming flowers, singing birds, starry nights, and the abounding splendor about us; it is as easy as beholding the smile on the face of our loved ones and showing gratitude for all the many blessings we enjoy. Others times, though, it requires more effort; as we strive to create a better life for ourselves. It may take time, but it will be an effort worth the investment. We can find solace in prayer and meditation, as we rid ourselves of the anxiety and stress that we carry. Then our being can come alive again, receiving and sharing the light that God has bestowed.