So maybe I shouldn't be so surprised wisdom jumped out of a humor book the other day. I've been purposely taking the time to read more "fluff" books lately. My brain already runs on 10 different trains of thought all day every day, I need a break from that, not to add to it. When I found out A.J. Jacobs (author of The Know-It-All*, The Year of Living Biblically*, and My Life as an Experiment*) had a new book out, I knew I had to get it. I really liked his earlier books and he manages to be informative while keeping everything light and funny.
I reserved Drop Dead Healthy* at the library and waited for it to come in. Right there at the end of chapter 8 was a succinct description of my anxiety problems. I tried to explain this to my mom months ago, but it wasn't really clear in my own head and I certainly didn't put it into words this well.
Without some delusional optimism, you'll suffer from Depressive Realism. This psychological theory holds that the people with the most accurate view of the world aren't happier--they're clinically depressed. Studies show they have a correct perception of how much they control the outcome of events--namely, very little--and it crushes them...I have always been driven not just to know things, but also to know the why behind them. Some people probably call me a pessimist, but I've always viewed myself as a realist. I don't worry about everyday small things, I fixate on the giant what-ifs, the things I truly can't control. I hated being a kid. Not that there weren't happy times and not that I didn't have great parents, but a child does not control their own life. I was aware of that and I hated it. Becoming an adult gave me the illusion of control and I was much more content. Give me the responsibilities of adulthood any day if it means I can go where I want when I want and do what I want to do. I was blissfully ignorant for about 10 years.
If your worldview is too real, you might spend all your time in bed eating Bugles corn ships feeling overwhelmed and listless. You'll be too aware of all the thousands of factors toying with your destiny--from the weather to your genes to a misplaced pair of socks.
Until last December, when my best friend's 3 year old suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Once the immediate crisis passed and I had time to sit and think, a towering wave of "holy crap, unspeakable tragedy can strike at any time" came crashing down. It was like a domino effect making me aware of countless ways life could suddenly and royally suck and I can't do a damn thing to prevent any of them.
So what I need is big dose of delusional optimism. That might sound like a tall order, but earlier in Chapter 8, the book lays out research about placebos. Basically, they work. A significant portion of the time, if you think you're taking a pain killer or an anti-depressant, your brain will go ahead and release actual pain killers or anti-depressants. So if someone out there has the time to trick me into believing a diet of chocolate, cheesecake, fried rice and cherry coke will cure anxiety disorders, that'd be great.