You know that expression: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “we don’t know what we have until we lose something” or “failure is great because it teaches you something”….yes, i am horrible at expressions, the same as with song lyrics, but i think you get the gist of what i’m talking about. expressions created to make you feel better about your failures. i feel like i see these in self-help posters, books, ads, or strangers who find out i’m having a shitty day or am depressed. here’s the thing: i don’t agree.
when my dog died, did i appreciate how amazing she was and how amazing it is to have unconditional love? yes, i suppose so. but i knew that already when she was alive. i didn’t need her to die for me to get that.
what doesn’t kill me doesn’t actually make me stronger. a lot of times, it exhausts me and weakens me and sometimes it happens more than once and it sucks even more the second time
failure teaches you something? ok, i suppose so. but you know what would be awesome? to not fail. that would teach me something too. because you can still learn with imperfections but not necessarily failures.
my friend and i recently got in an argument about the idea of risk and reward: for him, an eternal optimist who’s cup is not only just half-full but overflowing from the rim of the cup, the greater the risk, the greater the reward. his thought process is that if you want something a lot and you don’t get it, you learn even more because it was something you really wanted. the more you want it (i.e. the higher the risk,) the more you learn when you don’t get it (i.e. “the reward).
Yeaaaah…no. The more I want something, the more it hurts when I don’t get it. In fact, i often find myself purposefully not doing something to the best of my ability so that if i do fail, i can know inside that i didn’t really try my hardest and so maybe i would have gotten it. I do this often with men. for example, i will not try to look as pretty as possible so that if someone didn’t find me attractive, i could say to myself, well i COULD look better than this, so maybe he would have found me attractive had i tried harder.
also, the higher the risk, the more potentially disappointing the reward. let’s say, we’ll stick with guys, that i really really think this guy is great. we have texted and talked on the phone and i think he’s attractive. wow, he’s the one. finally, someone who understands me and still likes me and wants me…and then i meet him and maybe he isn’t very witty or he doesn’t understand my sarcasm, or he’s oddly sexual. whatever it is – the reward (wah-wah) was not worth the risk of hope.
i suppose they should refine that expression more. perhaps: “the higher the risk, if you actually get what you want or it’s better than you want, the greater the reward.” but i suppose that’s a bit too technical for a saccharine expression invented to make you feel better when you lose.
i’ve spent my life dispelling positive thoughts. all that chin up, it’ll pass, just keep moving – and the depression was sitting on my shoulder being like “yeah, fuck them. they just don’t get us. now let’s go drink something or make a really avoidable idiotic mistake that will make us feel worse.”
now that the chemical depression has lifted, I am trying to be more open to thinking. not necessarily positive thinking because honestly, if you say “chin up” i still don’t think we should be friends. however, i am trying to find my own version of compassion for myself. ok, the word compassion is a bit too strong – i am trying to be more gentle with myself when things don’t turn out the way i want them to, or i chicken out. i am trying to tell myself that maybe it is the right decision for me at that time or that it’s the decision i made and at the time it was the right one and it’s okay that i chose the decision that i did. (my brain is really wordy.)
i’m also trying this thing where i listen to myself – like my inner self. (nuts! right?) i never really believed in mindfulness when i was younger. my family wasn’t really into what we called “hippy dippy” stuff. but it’s amazing when you stop for a second and you try to internally find what you’re feeling. it usually has a location in your body (creepy!) and often times it is not actually the emotion you assume it is.
for example, i had an occasion where i had this nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach and i assumed it was my anxiety telling me to flee the situation. but when i sat with the feeling, and breathed into it, i realized i was actually just excited. it’s amazing how fear and excitement feel so similar and can be connected though can lead to opposite reactions. i think i have assumed that feeling was always anxiety and never really stopped to see if maybe it was something else.
also, i have always been embarrassed when i was sad. i guess because i was more “sensitive” than most people and so i would get sad from watching a television segment or reading a history book. or sometimes i would get a similar feeling to sadness which is feeling overwhelmed – which can happen when i’m literally overwhlemed but can also happen when i’m in awe of something – being overwhelmed can also actually be the feeling of wonderment. the fact is, when i am sad or even overwhelmed by life or by wonder, i can breathe into the feeling and sometimes just slowly breathe it out. my throat feels tight and my breathe is shaky but slowly i can breathe through the feeling and come to peace with the thoughts – whether that we are in really dire straits in the world, or that nature is truly extraordinary.
so positive thinking? not really in the cards for me. the idea of taking thinking and turning it into thoughts? that’s a task i think i can attempt to accomplish. (Thank you DBT).
in the meantime, we are only as strong as …. fuck it.