I try to be very astute at observing others. Latest observations bring me to a conclusion. Many people tend to think discouragingly. OK, I know I'm pushing the bounds of grammar a bit here. We don't often make an adverb out of the words "encourage" or "discourage." But, it really well describes what I'm seeing. People often tend to go negative and stay negative when facing disappointments and setbacks. This then in turn seemingly leads to depression. Is estimated that roughly 30 million people in the United States struggle with depression to varying degrees.
Discourage, Discouraging, Discouragingly
"I am discouraged," is the dispirited soul's cry. Recently, I overheard a conversation in Starbucks. As two were conversing this comment ensued, "My job, is, well, so discouraging right now." Sitting in many a coffee shops one overhears many such conversations. Well, let me clarify, I overhear many such conversations.
For my wife it is quite maddening. Often, she will look at me and say, "You're listening to another conversation on the other side of the coffee shop. Aren't you?" Roughly translated, "That means your astute hearing shows you're not paying attention to me, again." My reply often is, "It's a fascinating what's going on over there!" And, as you can imagine, that excuse doesn't work very well!
What does it mean to be discouraged?
What do we mean when we use the word "discouraged?" "Discourage" can be defined as, "To deprive one of hope, confidence, and or spirit." Now, let those words sink in a bit. Deprive implies to steal. The act of stealing requires an agent. We typically refer to that kind of agent or person as a thief! And, what does this particular thief do? This thief absconds with one's confidence and spirit. And, is there much worse than living hopelessly without confidence?
Why do I get discouraged? Why do you get discouraged? Why do we, some of us anyways, actually "get discouraged?" Is perhaps the reason we "get discouraged" due in part because we think discouragingly? Perhaps what actually discourages us is not so much the events in our lives, but rather the way we interpret those events.
Two people worked for the same company in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Both participated in buying their company's stock through their payroll stock options. In sort of a competition, both acquired over the years large amounts of company stock. One woman in particular told me, "I am now worth over two million dollars because of all the company stock I own!" In fact, she spent over two hours sharing a confident view of her future. She was hopefully jubilant. Then 2008 happened.
Their company didn't survive the Great Recession. Overnight the company stock crashed to penny stock value. All value was wiped away. With that, both employees lost their entire retirements, which were invested totally in their company's stock. And, eventually they both lost their jobs as the company closed.
Encouragingly Thinking vs. Discouragingly Thinking
Employee Number One exclaimed, "All is lost!" It became his mantra by which he lived life. Within three years, he started to receive disability as he could no longer work. His diagnosis was a Major Mood Disorder. Unable to work, he dropped out of the work force, and to some degree out of life.
Employee Number Two immediately exclaimed, "What am I going to do now?" After the initial shock of her personal economic calamity, she devised a positive plan. While receiving unemployment benefits she found grant money for retraining in a pretty unusual discipline for a woman. With retraining openings for automotive repair she enrolled. Over three years she mastered several disciplines in automotive mechanics and repair. She found financing to start her own business. Now thirty minutes south of the Twin Cities she enjoys her own business which provides well for her family.
So, Really, Who Is This Thief?
Don't get me wrong. Discouragement is quite a natural emotion when facing adverse circumstances. And, for some it is a mental health issue requiring professional care. But, perhaps for many of us, we live, function, and enable a discouraging mentality in ourselves. Perhaps this thief lives inside of us because we unknowingly encourage it to do so?
In Psychology Today, University of California researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky states: "40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change." I interpret that to mean that perhaps 40% of the time I am willfully surrendering my own happiness to someone else. The way I think and process my circumstances and surroundings seem to determine my level of fulfillment in life.
Yet, This Thief Tends To Be Our Willing Companion
I think this thief is easily identifiable if one takes a little time to just look. In her blog, 7 Habits of Chronically Unhappy People, Tamara Star notes that chronically unhappy people tend to consider their futures with worry and fear. This in turn leads to filling their daily regular conversations with gossip and complaints.
Perhaps, one major step in dealing with our depression is to begin making this type of individual feel unwelcome in our hearts and minds. So unwelcome, that eventually this resident moves out ceasing to visit any longer. Because, in fact, in the end, this friend is in fact not a friend. Rather, this impostor is a saboteur seeking to dismantle hope and crush our spirits. For some of us it's time to serve an eviction notice.
Just My Thoughts - Don
Other Posts on Positivity
Part One: Seek Encouraging Places
Part Two: Seek Encouraging People
Part Three: Seek Encouraging Conversations
Happiness: Where It's Not