Cursed With a Conscience

marvels and musings of a normal girl in a wacky world.


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The Perks of Being a Wallower

Time magazine Journalist Susan David notes: “The paradox of happiness is that deliberately striving for it is fundamentally incompatible with the nature of happiness itself.”

My interest in the enigma  of “happiness” has persisted for many years, due in large part to my excessively analytical, self-conscious, and at times melancholic personality. I constantly wonder: is happiness the mathematical product of set variables? Does it derive from life circumstances that are inherently good or bad? Are certain emotions correlates or symptoms of happiness, or it’s counterpart?

My intrigue with this subject was recently renewed when I stumbled upon an article in Time magazine called “Don’t Worry, Be Gloomy: Negative Feelings have Benefits Too”. Being one married to stress, anxiety, and all it’s relatives, I was curious to learn why these emotions might actually serve me. Was it possible that feeling  the emotions seemingly contradictory to happiness could, in fact, augment my well being?

This article, and a wealth of other research on this subject of happiness, explain how stereotypically “negative” emotions, such as anger, envy, stress, sadness, shame, anxiety and fear, can actually serve positive purposes. Psychology Today states, “Negative emotions are not only crucial to our existence but also—ironically—to feeling good. To live optimally in the world and endure its challenges, it’s necessary to engage the full range of psychological states we’ve inherited as humans.”

Anger, for example, occurs when we feel we are being undervalued. We respond with anger to prevent ourselves from being exploited; it leads us to advocate for our own well being and to assert our self-worth. According to Pyschology Today, anger also “boosts confidence, optimism and risk taking”, which can have very positive outcomes.

Anxiety can also be useful. When we are anxious, we are more active, aware, and stimulated. In addition, it can “point to ways in which we’re not being true to ourselves”, ways in which our actions “don’t align with our deepest values.” Anxiety can serve a “corrective purpose”, bringing us back on our rightful track.

Similarly advantageous, envy can make us strive to be better, and fear helps us avoid or escape danger. Shame conveys humility and remorse, which increases our likeability and often attracts compassion from others. Regret motivates corrective action and teaches us important lessons. Skepticism helps us form arguments and use unbiased reasoning.

Ultimately, Susan David reminds us that negative moods “summon a more attentive, accommodating thinking style” that leads us to “examine facts in a fresh and creative way.” She maintains: ” It’s when we’re in a bit of a funk that we focus and dig down.”

So is the state of temporary bliss really conducive to self-improvement? Personal well-being? Long-term happiness? Not necessarily. In fact, studies show that people in a state of “happiness” tend to be more gullible, accept easy answers, jump to conclusions, and avoid challenges. They also expect things that are unrealistic, resulting in disappointment and resentment.

Happiness, then, is not the result of everything going our way. It’s not the cheery outcome of avoiding challenges and tough realities. So, next time you find yourself in a funk, beset with anger, fear, shame, envy or anxiety, I invite you to find solace in these words from the infamous Mark Twain:

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”

Amen. Be calm and grouch on, my friends 🙂


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The Weird Sh** We Do

Being the deeply complex and unique members of the human race that we are, you and I have a variety of eccentricities that set us apart from our peers- both in ways that win us praise, and the occasional eye-brow raise. On the flip side, we also do a lot of the same shit as everyone else, without ever thinking twice about it. With that said, I’ve found that it’s actually quite hilarious to sit down and really contemplate the weird shit we do; the ridiculous, irrational, dysfunctional and hilariously nonsensical way we live our lives daily. The list to follow are several of the weirder human tendencies that I’ve noted throughout the years, most of which I myself am a perpetrator. Perhaps you won’t agree with all of them, but I guarantee even the most closeted weirdos among you could add a few gems to this list. Enjoy!

1. Refusing to bring a sweater at all costs: ok, this one might be more common among my San Diegan sista’s, but nonetheless should earn some “amen’s” across the board. So anyone who’s spent a week in SD is clued into the weather patterns: the cloudy mornings, clear and warm afternoons, somewhat chilly evenings, and FREEZING COLD nights- and this applies nearly year around. Of any geographic population on earth, we blessed San Diegans have the least excuse for being burned by mother nature- or frozen in this case. Despite our forecasting privileges, it nevertheless remains to be true that through hell, high water, and routine 15 degree temperature drops, we San Diegans utterly refuse to haul around a sweater with us. Without failure, we depart our house late morning basking in the warm sunlight, ignoring our crumpled sweaters sitting in the closet, refusing to consider that by the time the sun begins to slink away at late afternoon we will become freezing, goose-bump infested, whining, cold bitches. But bring a sweater? Hell no. We’d rather suffer.

2. Refusing to go back inside for something we forgot: Let me set up the scene for this one: We’re hauling ass around the house, stirring up a tornado of chaos in every room we pass through in an attempt to get ready for school, work, night out, what have you. At long last we make peace with our ill-preparedness and leave the house anyway, praying we haven’t forgotten anything crucial. We walk the three blocks to where our car is (Bingo!) right where we (vaguely) remember leaving it- and, Hooray! It’s also unticketed. Thus relieved, we leap into the car and rev the engine, ready to book it outta there. And then, boom! We realize we’ve forgotten the lunch we made, the coffee thermos we prepared, and the SDGE bill we desperately needed to mail. What do we do? Instead of running back inside the house to get it, we peel outta there and cut our losses. We endure the 10 dollar expense of buying coffee and lunch at school, and miss the bill deadline, risking having our electricity shut off just so we won’t have to spend fifteen seconds running back inside. Two steps forward, three steps back- the college two-step. Don’t lie…we’ve all done the dance.

3. The “pick-at-your-food” diet. If ol’ Rob Atkins has built a legacy convincing dieters they’ll shed pounds eating a juicy steak instead of a slice of bread, I should really trademark my winning diet method. This method is an effective diet strategy 90% of the time, 0% of the time- but it’s got dieters like me swooning. It’s genius rests on a modern eating philosophy, which maintains that a whole pie is more unhealthy than the sum of its parts- because our psychology says so. What follows, is that 15 juicy forkfuls eaten straight from the pie pan is less shameful than eating one of those telltale triangles that announces devilishly “I am a whole slice; if you eat me, you are a pig.” In this way, the “pick-at-your-food” diet defies the measurement methods that tell us we have eaten too much, leaving us guilt-free to nibble away at a buffet of sweets, blissfully non-committal; consuming as much as we want without the horror of knowing we’ve eaten an entire, grotesque, hateful slice to ourselves. I ate a “section”, yes, but not a slice. In the modern eating world, we have abandoned the outdated pie formula, which states that 1 slice of pie is 3.14259 days of guilt. So nibble on, my friends!

4. Getting the basket instead of the cart: Enough said.

5. Going to bed drunk and unjustifiably pissed:….and waking up not caring at all. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve fallen asleep gravely depressed, fuming angry, stubbornly self-righteous, or convinced of some other conspiracy of nonsense while drunk, i’d be a rich woman. Time after time, we go home in a fit of some emotion or another, convinced on our drunken high horse that we’ve been victim of a terrible wrong, and wake up completely at peace, or even embarrassed, at our previous opinion. To make matters worse, I can even account for times on such nights night that I’ve literally hoped to wake up the next day still upset, thinking it would be cheating myself out of justifiable misery to sleep it off and reconsider the situation sober. Yet it never fails: the next morning, somehow that ho stepping on your foot with her high heel and your boy forgetting to put a smiley face at the end of a goodnight text just doesn’t seem so wickedly offensive. #Goddamnit

These are just a few idiosyncrasies that I’ve picked up on through observing other people (once in a great, greeeeeat while on a relatable basis;). If you guys can think of any others, please share. I love analyzing our weird/psychotic human nature. At least we’re not alone!