A while back, an intriguing message landed in my Inbox. It began: “The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy…”
My skeptical nature kicked in. Is that true? I wondered. It didn’t take long to find that the quote came from a book titled “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig. It’s a collection of short chapters where Haig details his experience with depression and anxiety. His disclosures are both painful and hopeful.
Does it help to learn about other people’s struggles? For some people, it may help to know that others—even famous people—have overcome problems similar to your own. It could be comforting, inspiring, even practical. For example, Haig includes lists of what helped him get through his tough times, and just as importantly, what didn’t help.
But are there downsides to learning about other people’s misery? I think so. Focusing on misery, even if it’s not our own, can influence our outlook. We might wonder—if Haig is famous and successful and he had a hard time, what hope is there for me?
Ultimately, the choice is yours. When you choose, I suggest looking at how the information affects you. Are you more inspired and energized? Or discouraged and less hopeful? I suggest that you deliberately choose influences that brighten the light at the end of the tunnel for you; rather than those that make it fade.
Now, back to the original question: Is the world designed to depress us so we’ll buy stuff? Let’s look at a Choice Theory explanation for why and how we behave. Dr. Glasser uses the image of an old-fashioned balance scale for demonstration. Picture what we want on one side, and what we believe we have on the other. If the sides are out of balance, an internal signal—frustration—motivates us to do something.
That “something” might be an action, a thought, a feeling, or even a change in physiology. Sometimes what we choose is effective; it brings reality closer to the way we want it to be. Other times, we’re not so effective. We might even do things that are counter-productive. Regardless, in some way, we act.
So whether the world is actually “designed” to depress us or not, it does make sense that we respond to dissatisfaction. The unhappiness that seems to fill much of our culture influences us. How do we respond? For some, buying things is one way. We have other responses too, such as complaining, worrying, physical suffering.
Regardless, we can get a benefit from Haig’s observation about the world. If we are aware of influences that lead us to be depressed or afraid or angry, then we are also better equipped to say, “No, I choose not to go along with this manipulation.”
We live in a big world. There is so much information, and many different people with their different points of view. Depending on how we’re feeling and who we listen to, we could perceive that things are awful, wonderful, or somewhere in-between.
As Haig says about his dark times: “One of the key symptoms of depression is to see no hope. No future.” However, “…the bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view.” The influences we choose to let into our lives make a difference in what we see, including whether we can see the light at the end of our tunnel.
How’s the light looking in your tunnel?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom