by Christian Thomas Golden
At times I think this is impossible. Regardless, this is a life-change that I am attempting, even though I know I’ll fail.
Over and over again.
If I could sum up in one word all the problems of the world, that word would be “frown.”
Why? Why frown? Not to say I never frown, but some people seem to frozen on frown. Surely, frowns have their place. In fact, biblically speaking, a frown here and there is healthy (I’m too lazy to look up the scripture).
What I have a problem with is the apparent culture of frown. The core of this issue is really the devaluation of positive social interaction. Basic acts of civility (shaking hands, saying hello, saying thank you, saying please, saying you’re welcome, etc) have become obsolete. They’ve been so devalued as to actually have accumulated negative worth. “Don’t shake my hands, I don’t know you!” “Why are you saying thank you? I wasn’t doing that for you!” “Don’t say hi to me! I’m not your friend!”
Do people actually say these things? Yes. Perhaps they do not always say them explicitly but they certainly imply such thoughts with their non-verbal cues (the frown being one of them).
To go off for a moment, I was made aware of two self-help tactics yesterday. The first is “opposite emotion.” The basic idea is this: when you start to feel angry, sad, anxious, or any other negative emotion, push yourself to show the opposite emotion (happy, excited, or some other positive emotion). The theory is that if you show the positive emotion enough, you will eventually internalize it and actually become happy, excited, etc.
The second tactic is much like the first. It is called “act as if.” It goes a bit further than opposite emotion, but is usually geared towards addicts. The idea is that if you start and continue to act as if you are and are going to be a successful recovering addict, you ultimately will be.
I’m going to simplify the both of these into “smile.”
I’m not asking you to pretend to be happy. I’m asking you (and I’m telling myself) to sacrifice your comfort of being miserable by showing and acting the opposite for the benefit of others. This does not mean you have to lie. If someone asks you how your day is going, tell them the truth! Just try not to spread your misery (please remember I am talking to myself as well).
Of course, it goes beyond the effort to not spread your misery. There is a general lack of interest in one-to-one interpersonal in-person relationship building (even if it would be for the 45 seconds it takes to greet that person who held the door open for you) world wide. Some of us just find social situations uncomfortable, whether it be from the way our brain works (non-learned) or learned behavior.
The key here is sacrifice. We’ve (as in we people of the contemporary culture) grown into a mass mindset of self-serving (I mean we’ve internalized the massive promotion that the purpose of life is to serve ourselves). “I would do that, but it would make me awfully uncomfortable.” “I would do that, but I would lose this.” “I would do that for you, but what good is it for me?”
We need to stop it all, already! There is nothing wrong with wanting happiness, comfort, and pleasure. But those should not be the only things we want! I should say, the pursuit of happiness, comfort, and pleasure should not exclude consideration of that same pursuit by our brethren.
I’m not trying to judge or convict anyone. If anyone should internalize this (myself included), he should internalize it not out of some negative emotion. Perhaps I may need to recognize a negative emotion, thereby being motivated to initiate a positive change, but I should not muscle through in misery.
I should remember to smile throughout the process. I don’t want this to sound easy. I just want to amplify the simplicity of the process of maturing from a life of frowns to a life of smiles.