Taking on the Cult of Cheerfulness

Ah, what a relief to read articles about people thinking my way about things– trying to relieve us all of the burden and patronizing attitude that we should just feel better about things, so they’ll be better.

In ADD land, we talk a lot about how ADD is a way of being, a different way of being, and not necessarily a bad thing. There are lots of good things about it. Then I’ve had clients come to me who feel frustrated that they can’t embrace its goodness- because it is frustrating and painful to deal with their ADD.

I teach them a mantra of sorts:
"it sucks."

So stab me with the cult of cheerfulness. If we just think about the half-fullness, the wonder of it all, good things will come of it. To flip that over, what we’re hearing is, if you don’t choose to be happy and optimistic and notice the good stuff, it’s your fault that you’re unhappy and a failure. So you’ve now saddled us all up with a huge burden. Be happy or you’re a failure.

My tip: if something sucks, name it. Name it as a fact that it sucks. Notice that it sucks.

This isn’t the same as dwelling, ruminating, or self-pitying. Ok, sometimes there’s some of this involved, but the point is not that I’m recommending you dig yourself a mud pit and wallow in it, unless that’s helpful of course. I am recommending that you stop blaming yourself for feeling bad about things that aren’t so pleasant in life.

This works to help people just get where they’re at, and accept that it’s hard. And accept that they didn’t make it that way. And guess what: certain things do suck. What I’ve found is that a lot of people are in pain, a lot of people have dealt with a lot of crap, misunderstanding, frustration, and adversity– and spent a lot of time blaming themselves. The idea that we should always be positive just perpetuates that. It makes it easier for the people who aren’t having such a rotten time to be comfortable with the pain of people who are. It makes it easier to disguise the suckiness of things for people.

Telling me to just be happy, and to just focus on the good stuff, is dishonest and mean, whether so intended or not.