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What makes you happy? [May. 11th, 2007|02:11 pm]
John
One of the things that I realized could be a really tough question when battling depression is "what makes you happy?"

I mean, it's not a very tough question is it? But what if you've been in the pit for so long that you don't remember what makes you happy?

Worse... what if some of the things that bring you relief don't actually make you happy, but just leave you feeling safe or comfortable? What if you think that sleep, or vegging out playing computer games makes you happy, but really, it's just what you do, and you've lost that memory of what it's like to be truly happy, because it hasn't happened in a long time? Or what if you can't quite imagine what it's like to be truly happy? It just seems like... "happy? What is this thing you call 'happy'?"

With my fits of depression, I've been running into problems like that, asking myself that question. I was relieved to realize there was one answer that I could always point to.

I have always, and I mean *always*, felt good when I realized I was in the groove, and figuring out some aspect of how a person thinks, feels, or acts.

An example follows, with an LJ cut for Firefly spoilers - yes, it's been out on DVD for a while, and it's a mild spoiler, but hey, maybe you don't know and don't like even minor ones.


Watching the Firefly DVDs, I was confounded by one scene. The crew is rescuing a brothel that's under attack. Malcolm ends up having sex with the Madam. We've all seen lots of love interest/romantic tension between Anarra and Malcolm all along, but I was boggled when Anarra broke down in tears after learning about it.

Of course, it's a fictional universe... but Joss Whedon is a good writer, and I can't believe he'd have let that go in without a reason. But the reasoning seemed really stupid. Anarra is a companion; that's her *job*, having sex with people, so why would she be upset by Malcolm having sex?

If she thought he would lose him, sure, she'd cry over that... but not over him getting laid.

Well, we all have blind spots about sex and relationships, so, maybe Joss just thought it was a good dramatic tension builder, Malcolm gets laid, Anarra is in tears because OMG her unrequited-beloved got laid with someone else!

And then I realize I knew - I knew I was wrong about my first thought. It wasn't an accident, it wasn't a blind spot, it was intentional. And my best guess (remembering that Joss is always willing to play games with his audience) is that Anarra figured the reason Malcolm never confessed his love for her was that she was a companion ("a whore", to use Malcolm's too frequent word)... and yet, clearly, being a whore was *not* a barrier to his affection. And therefore, it was Something Else. Obviously, she was wrong, he did not truly love her, and that's what made her cry.

Figuring that out made me inordinately pleased with myself, even though I'd be surprised if it hasn't already been leaked around message boards and written into fanfics.


Anyway. That was kind of a tangent, but it's my journal, so I'm allowed to do tangents. The point is, I realized that the puzzle of humanity, of happiness, of figuring out how people work the way they do, that's always been something that makes me happy.

Other puzzles are fun, sometimes, but really, it's working in that realm of human thought and emotion that makes me happy.

Which means the one path I've set out for myself is the right one for me to be walking.

And along the way, I hope I can figure out how to help other folks answer the same question.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: kightp
2007-05-11 10:56 pm (UTC)
Oooh. Good insights (the one about Inara, and the one about what makes you happy, both).
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-05-11 11:08 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I agree with Pat. These are indeed good ones.

I remember that scene of Inarra crying, and it made absolute sense to me, but I never analyzed the way in which it made sense. And I think you're right, that it has to do with feelings of rejection. (It sort of amuses me that you had to reason it out, though.)

As for things that make me happy... When I am not depressed, many more things make me truly happy than when I am depressed. Nanook (my cat) always makes me happy--he's so trusting of me, that I will take care of him and pet him and curl up with him. Also, a good book or well done movie or TV show always makes me happy.

Some tastes make me happy because they are so sublime. Primal? Yesterday I had a salad with apple slices, goat cheese, and walnuts, and today I had the leftovers and dang! That is one happy combination! I feel the same way about bean/corn/pignoli salad with lime juice, a fresh tomato, and some cucumber chunks. There is no circumstance under which I would not delight in this!
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-12 05:31 am (UTC)
Well, I had to reason it out because I figured a companion wouldn't take sex with another person as rejection... there had to be something else for it to work (for me). But yeah, it is funny... I wanted it to work, and I couldn't help picking at it until it made sense to me.

(I think that might make it sound like I spent a lot more time/energy on it than I actually did; I wasn't obsessed over it, or anything. It just stuck out as the one scene that I didn't "get" in the series.)
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-05-12 11:54 am (UTC)
I understand. I just thought it was funny that you didn't get it, but only because I immediately got it. I think it is amazing, and very good, that you were able to reason it out.
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[User Picture]From: erin_c_1978
2007-05-12 12:15 am (UTC)
I so know what you mean. Just on Tuesday I was meeting with my therapist, sobbing and saying, "I'm not even sure anymore what would make me happy." Because I was so deep in the depression I couldn't see it. And now that I'm crawling back out again, it feels like there's hope again. But I think you're absolutely right that it pays to think about this sort of thing when you're not as depressed so you have something you can hold to your heart when you are. Sometimes when I'm depressed, it's even hard to get myself to do things that genuinely would make me happy, because when I'm depressed they don't sound appealing anymore.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-05-12 12:18 am (UTC)
When I was very depressed, my therapist asked me what I did for "self-soothing" and I just looked at her. I literally couldn't think of anything.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-12 06:37 am (UTC)
Nod. That's one of the reasons I think of depression as being partially a disease of the perceptions. Things don't *look* happy-making any more.

I hope you manage to crawl all the way out for a while.
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[User Picture]From: calpatine
2007-05-12 01:21 am (UTC)
Mal and Inara are one of my very favorite love stories. I'm so sad that they didn't get closure.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2007-05-12 06:38 am (UTC)
Nod. And I'm furious that they didn't get at least a couple seasons to for us to be frustrated about their lack of closure.
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[User Picture]From: hopeevey
2007-05-12 09:25 pm (UTC)
The real pisser for me, is that when I'm depressed, I can't seem to feel the happy, even when I do things that would otherwise make me happy. But I think it's important to do those things anyway; they seem to help, even if not dramatically.

About Mal and Inarra - I think you're right. I also think that Inarra doesn't realize is that Mal was willing to use the Madam for comfort, but isn't at all willing to use her in any way.
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