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Keeping positive about our darker edges

Posted Apr 18 2014 4:32pm

“Life’s just much too hard today / I hear ev’ry mother say / The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore / And if you take more of those / you will get an overdose / No more running for the shelter / of a mother’s little helper” “Mother’s Little Helper” by The Rolling Stones, 1966.

With so much cultural pressure to be upbeat and cheerful, including drug ads about pharmaceuticals to vanquish our unacceptable moods, it can be hard to see many so-called dark experiences like depression and anxiety as anything but negative. But those experiences are part of the inner lives of most creative people.

Alanis MorissetteMusician Alanis Morissette once noted, “We’re taught to be ashamed of confusion, anger, fear and sadness, and to me they’re of equal value as happiness, excitement and inspiration.” [from the page Positive Psychology .]

In his book The Survivor Personality , Al Siebert, Ph.D. writes, “Life’s best survivors can be both positive and negative, both optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. The ability to think negatively helps minimize the disadvantages of being overly optimistic.

“The ability to think positively helps to overcome discouragement and generate renewed energy. Each benefits the other. In contrast, many people expend lots of energy trying to think and feel as trained by their parents. They try to think only in positive ways and work to avoid negative thoughts and feelings.”

Mandy MooreReferring to her song “Wild Hope” on her album of the same name, Mandy Moore answered an interviewer’s question about it having a ‘dark’ tone: “I think that song is still hopeful. It’s a little bit grayer. I think of colors a lot when I listen to songs and that song has definitely an end-of-fall, winter vibe to me.

“And that’s kind of where I was when I was writing it. It was a gray day and I was bumming about something and I just went there. But I still feel like it has a hopeful edge. I don’t think that deep down inside I can necessarily have that pessimistic attitude, so there’s always that fighting like, ‘It’s alright. I may be down today, I may be down for the count today, but don’t completely count me out.’

“I think that’s always fighting to get to the top inside me somewhere.” [Venice mag. July/Aug 2007]

In an earlier post [ Mandy Moore on depression and sensitivity ], she talked about asking herself “life-altering questions, like Who am I? Where do I fit in this world? What am I doing, what do I want to do? Am I living to my full potential?”

Talented people may be more likely to ask those kinds of questions, and experience anxiety, even existential depression, about them.

Moore expresses a very healthy and accepting attitude about her feelings and changes in mood.

Even some people who have experienced clinical depression write about its potential positive side, such as Tom Wootton in his article The Art of Seeing Depression , and Kay Redfield Jamison (a professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine) in her article The Benefits of Restlessness and Jagged Edges .

Originally posted 2008-02-25 17:40:48.

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