On the concept of ‘choosing’ to be happy

I have often, as I am sure many others have, heard someone make the comment that depression and happiness are a ‘choice’.

I always wanted to say something about this concept, but could never find the words … but I had a discussion today that helped me solidify this today, so I’m sharing.

As with all things, thinking about this for a while leads me to state there is some truth behind the comment, but that the pragmatic truth is that it’s not that simple.

When someone who is suffering is in the depths of depression, there are no choices. There is just suffocating darkness, overwhelming despair and, quite possibly, waves of anxiety. The concept of a choice is so far driven from the mind as to not even be a glimpse of a hope of a possibility. A lot of work needs to be done to help someone who is a victim of depression to move from the Stygian gloom that is the abyss of depression and into the surrounding shadows of the valley of sadness. Never underestimate that. Sometimes, the tools just aren’t there. Sometimes they need a guiding hand. Sometimes, they really do need to get lost in there, to see the depth of it, before they can find the way out again.

Once the way out is shown, then and only then, can new things be brought up to them. Then can the tools they need to cross the valley of shadows and into the sunlight be offered and applied.

Then, can the concept of choices come about.

Some will choose to remain in the shadows, wallowing in the semi-darkness, continuing on with their lives with their dark, welding glasses left on. They will not drop back into the abyss, but nor will they venture into the light. Why? Because they are comfortable there. They know and understand the land they live in. They will not risk the uncertainty of the change that sunlight will bring into their world.

Most others will aim for the sunlight.

However, this is not a “choice to be happy” rather a “choice to not go back into the abyss”.

This is the actual choice.

This is what stops someone going back into depression. The choice to never have to get lost in that world again. The choice to use the tools they have and even find new ones to avoid that hopelessness. The choice is about allowing yourself to fight to remain away from the cliffs of the abyss.

As I said in another post, “the removing of unhappiness by definition provides a level of happiness”.

Happiness is not something you can simply choose and thus achieve.

It too must be fought for and won. It’s an aim. It’s a process. One we all deserve. One we can all achieve … with the right tools and support.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “On the concept of ‘choosing’ to be happy”

  1. I posted this on my Facebook page recently “If happiness is simply a matter of choosing to be happy, why aren’t more people happy?”. I got a lot of responses about how people are more comfortable with misery and I have to say I couldn’t disagree more. At some point, I’d agree that there is the capacity to choose not to go deeper in the abyss, but so often the tentacles of that darkness are so tangled and tenacious that choice is not a factor. I am utterly blessed to be at a point today, at this moment, where I am capable of choosing to laugh, choosing to smile and be aware of and present for my family. Today. How many more days that I could only yearn to see a pinpoint of light to lead me out of the darkness – countless. I agree in principle about there being a point where choice is possible, but reaching that point is excruciating, tenuous, uncertain and damn hard. This concept of choosing happiness strikes a nerve with me, I don’t mean to lash out at you, only sort out my own thoughts on the subject. Thanks for your thought provoking post (I came across with tag surfer).
    k8

  2. i was out when I saw your title of this post, and it made me think something and tweet it, but in case of confusion, in no way was I talking about or to you.

    The state our brain chemistry leads us toward is not a choice. i chose daily to fight my brain chemistry, some days the chemistry wins over my fighting it, cause somedays I’m just to mentally tired to overcome the pull my brain chemistry has.

    Sometimes outside environmental factors help me fight, and sometimes they seem to be on the side of the brain chemistry and make my fight harder.

    I stumble and fall, but I never give in to the state my brain chemistry seems I’d rather be in constantly.

    That’s the choice I make.

    I think some people are more “comfortable” with misery, simply because it’s familiar, and does not require a constant choice to fight it.

    It’s tiring being at war with your own body chemistry all the time.

    I’m always anxious, worried, sad to a level, deep inside, it is how my brain operates, but i chose to smile and laugh and seek joy, and happiness as much as I can to show my brain chemistry that it does not have complete control over me.

    I have no choice with regard to how my body functions “as is”, but I have a choice in how i “pimp my ride” and make the trip called life more comfortable, since I’m stuck with this particular vehicle.

  3. I love you all.

    You have all re-iterated the message I was trying to convey with your own experiences.

    Thank you for sharing. The road to that “choice is even a remote possibility” is a difficult one. The therapy one goes through, be it “formal” with psychiatrists and psychologists or “informal” with friends, support groups and the like, is an important one. The therapy offers us an external view. It offers the ability to externalise what is occurring in the abyss and by doing so, better understand it. Finally, there comes a day where that ability to make a choice becomes available. Though, as we all know, “being happy” is not the choice.

    Rillie, like you I also have a biochemical deficiency that means I will always be at the mercy of the chemical balance that can be achieved via drugs. However, regardless of which, the thought processes still need to be dealt with.

    The way I perceive it, I like to offer the analogy of a physical injury.

    For some people, depression is a simple injury. Something occurs and they end up being unable to utilise the muscle. In order to be able to use the muscle again, they need to look after it and rehabilitate it. To do so, they need a physiotherapist. Psychologists and Psychiatrists are the brain’s physiotherapists.

    Just as with an injured knee, work needs to be done so that it can be used again. The physiotherapist asks you questions to understand how you injured your knee. They then start a regiment of massages, guided movements and take home exercises to help the body re-strengthen the knee so that you can use it again to walk on your own.

    For some people, the injury is deeper. The Cartilage is weak or the nerve endings never formed correctly. In short, there is a biochemical reason for the severity of the injury. In this case, the physiotherapist prescribes a set of drugs to combat the disability. These drugs by themselves do not make things better, they simply try to even the playing field when it comes to performing the exercises and other therapeutic activities needed to fix the muscles that are atrophying around the knee.

    Regardless of the situation, there are days where the light is stronger and easier to see. There are days where the ‘choice’ seems to have gone into remission. This is the reality of life for anyone who has gone into depression. A reality that is even closer to the skin for someone who is fighting their brains chemicals.

    It is not defeatist to state that a victim of depression will never be rid of the shadows. It is not defeatist to admit that the slope back to the abyss has now been smoothed out by our previous slide into it. It is a fact. An awareness. An understanding.

    The choice is simply to resist and fight going back.

    That is all we can do.

    I am so glad to have met and heard from all of you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s