A Guide to Being Melancholy

Have you every envied Eeyore for his dour disposition? Have you ever wallowed for delightful, tearful hours in a particularly brutal case of the blues? Ever wished you could maintain your sorrowfulness when surrounded by others who are celebrating and generally having a great time?

Never fear. My “Guide to Being Melancholy” is for everyone out there who would like to maintain a gloomy outlook on life even when there is absolutely no reason to feel down and out.

Here’s a sneak preview:

  1. If you’re feeling glad, be sure to take a healthy dose of guilt. Even though it’s not your fault that no one came to the Bible study you planned, and it’s a perfectly human emotion to look forward to your now free evening, you should definitely feel bad about that.
  2. Which brings me to my second tip: always be sure to take responsibility for absolutely everything. Deeply personal responsibility. Whether it’s the fact that your co-worker’s not feeling well, two friends are having a disagreement, or the proliferation of violence in the world, you should be deeply sorry for it and feel bad. Feeling bad is a really big key to all of this. The more times in a day you say “Oh, I feel so bad” the more you will create just that feeling in yourself that is, of course, the antithesis of goodness.
  3. As a continuation of this, being sorry is an excellent tool for keeping yourself in a somber state of mind. Particularly apologizing for things which you have no control over (see above) or apologizing for your own existence- your opinions, what you’re wearing, how you’re feeling, the way you think- these are all excellent things to apologize for if you want to continue feeling muted and powerless.
  4. To continue this kind of behavior, it is absolutely imperative that all molehills be turned into mountains. You must be sure to agonize over that awkward conversation you just had for the rest of the workday. Convince yourself that everyone is looking at you whenever you walk into a crowded room- and they all just noticed that you tripped. That piece of advice from a friend? Clearly they hate you. Text messages going unanswered? No one will ever want to speak with you again.
  5. When all else fails, you can always pick a tragedy in your life, or some really hard season, and spend hours going over it while you try to fall asleep. If you reflect long and hard enough, you should be able to recreate your mindset at that particularly low moment, and start to feel some of those potent emotions. Sad songs and tragic movies can help with this, too.

In all serious, I don’t want to attack any genuine feelings of sorrow or pain- these experiences are a deep part of the human experience in our broken world, and I think grief needs to be felt, processed, and expressed. But I do also think that it’s possible to spend too much time with those emotions, and to sometimes experience them for no real, legitimate reason. Maybe this is just a personal problem, but I know that pain and sadness have become emotions that I am comfortable with, and so I almost default to them as a coping mechanism. I would say that I don’t like feeling this way, but no one is forcing me into it, and I usually sustain it all by myself. If I’m being honest there is something in me that is attracted to these feelings. I know this may not be the case for everyone, but it is a truth about me that I’m dealing with. Partly, it helps to acknowledge some of the things I’m thinking and feeling out loud, because then I realize how actually overdramatic and ridiculous I’m being. But if it’s not helpful to you, feel free to leave me an angry comment.

For now I’ve got to go get over feeling bad about being too cavalier with such a heavy subject.

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