In Praise of Melancholy
“Don’t worry, be happy…”
Or should you?
Happiness is the ultimate dream on this planet, but as we will see below, chasing for happiness, while running away from its polar opposite, can destroy us.
Who Should Read “Against Happiness”? And Why?
“Against Happiness” is a controversial book, in the context that it ‘glorifies’ melancholy as the source of creativity, and criticizes people for wanting to be constantly happy, even stating that such endeavors might destroy this world.
We recommend it to self-help buffs and all those who feel intrigued by this subject.
About Eric G. Wilson
Eric G. Wilson has penned numerous books on the topic of literary psychology and is currently teaching English at Wake Forest University.
“Against Happiness PDF Summary”
There are some names that we all know because of their work that stood the test against time. Literary and musical legends are still inspiring generations years after their death.
There are many things different about all of these people and many other things that connect them.
And, believe it or not, melancholy is one of the characteristics they shared.
Yes, they were depressed!
Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Napoleon Bonaparte et cetera, all belonged to this group of people.
Actors like Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, and one of our contemporaries Jim Carrey are part of the “crew” as well.
Melancholia, if we imagine it as a building, would be inhabited by one of this world’s most brilliant people: from artists to politicians, to scientists.
Why are we telling you this? Why has the author made an effort to tell you this?
Well, because melancholia is usually connected to bad feelings and destructiveness, and the reality is quite the opposite.
In fact, melancholia can trigger creativity and can be a source of inspiration for many individuals.
Even when asked, some composers or singers claim that their best work resulted from the worst period of their lives.
Accepting the dark part of yourself and reshaping them into something beautiful is a noble act.
In this context, we must mention Virginia Woolf who has openly claimed that darkness when it comes to her feelings and mood is what has inspired to write her best stories. According to her, these states made her face the “assault of truth.”
But how can such mental darkness and depression result in something so light and beautiful?
Well, the answer may be hiding somewhere in the connection between polarities.
Carl Yung believed that many of the things that seem opposite are actually just manifestations of the same principle – the unconscious.
He stated that the unconscious consists of linked oppositions such as sadness and joy, darkness and light etc.
He went even further, connecting melancholy to understanding and mental health.
Melancholia is shaping people’s ability to open their eyes to the beauty and make a distinction between something that looks pretty and something that is truly beautiful.
What is the difference, you ask?
It is simple. Pretty things seem made, artificial, and very much alike.
Beautiful things, on the other hand, breathe friends and wilderness.
But if melancholia is good for you, then why do people feel aversion toward sadness?
In most parts, it is because of the ever-present fear of death.
Melancholy makes you face the fact that everything in this world, including yourself, is temporary. Everything will one day disappear.
To be able to live freely, you have to stop running away from death, and instead directly confront it and explore it.
It seems that people in the Middle Ages were more in touch with this part of themselves since it was common then to decorate the houses with skulls and skeletons, in order for those that lived there to be constantly in touch with the thought of the inescapability of death.
When you embrace these unchanging facts about the life, you can look deeper into the meaning of your existence and the existence of all things.
Being a melancholic will keep you constantly curious, questioning the world, and therefore the chances of creativity and invention are much higher.
Although there are many benefits of adopting such mentality, people do not see melancholy as beneficial – instead, they just want to be happy.
Isn’t it strange that people just feed themselves with antidepressants at even the slightest feeling of uneasiness?
Just take a look at the statistics about people that have their own therapists – the numbers are humongous.
Does that mean that the whole world is depressed?
It certainly does not. But not accepting the occasional blues also means that the world passes on the opportunity to become more creative.
Key Lessons from “Against Happiness”
1. Sadness is Healthy
2. Destroying Melancholia Is Dangerous
3. Do Not Immediately Reach Out For Help
Sadness is Healthy
We repeated many times throughout the text, and we will do it again: sadness is healthy. We are not talking about clinical depression here, but it is very artificial to try to be constantly happy.
We all have moments when we feel down, and when such moments come, instead of running away from them, we need to learn how to channel them the right way.
Destroying Melancholia Is Dangerous
The link between creativity and melancholia is confirmed. So, if the world continues fighting against the feeling and trying to get rid of it, it will also get rid of progress and the possibility of breakthrough innovations and beautiful art.
Do Not Immediately Reach Out For Help
Every time you feel uneasy or mental anguish, you should not immediately reach for antidepressants or a therapist’s help. Instead, you should learn to live with such feelings, as they might give you the chance to reflect.
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“Against Happiness Quotes”Creating doesn’t make us unhappy; unhappiness makes us creative. Click To Tweet Melancholy shows us that our demons – the dark parts of our hearts, our agitations and our loathings, our cynicism and our acerbities – are integral parts of ourselves. Click To Tweet Some of our most sacred institutions have become happiness schools. Click To Tweet American happy types are hopelessly frustrated because they’re trying desperately for security in an insecure world. Click To Tweet Sadness reconciles us to realities. It throws us into the flow of life. It puts us on the brisk edge of experience. It makes the heart beat hard, throbbing between faith and doubt. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
“Against Happiness” is not your typical self-help book.
It offers a different look, a new perspective on one of the most avoided feelings in the world: melancholy.
After reading it, I felt more at ease with myself and started embracing those blue moments, instead of fearing them, and feeling uncomfortable when they came by.
So, I guess, when it comes to me, the book served its purpose. Now it is your turn to try it.