The Benifits of Befriending Melancholy


I have an oddly high number of acquaintances who run self-help businesses. All of which I met while I’ve been traveling. This is evidence to my belief that travel is good for the soul – it seems to be obligatory for any sort of authority on happiness. Though I run a travel website that likes to spurt out life advice, I have mixed feelings towards self-help programs. There is a huge part of me that dislikes the idea of charging people money for advice. Is it really self-help if you have to be sold the idea? If a satisfying and fulfilled life is really as simple as steps 1,2,& 3, why couldn’t I have googled my self-help steps for free?

My feelings are mixed, however, because I understand that life’s just easier with someone helping out and giving encouragement and guidance. But I prefer to see a world where encouragement and guidance are freely given. When money is involved, we tend to expect results and clear defined rules, and we get more upset when that’s not the outcome. But my experience of life has taught me that life isn’t always clear and we can’t expect unchanging results.

There are moments in my life when an inexplicable sadness and melancholy come over me. During these times I simultaneously desire to be alone and around people, this causes awkward social interactions which fuels a continual discomfort. When I have no clear excuse for myself to be sad, I disappoint myself and become more so.

By acknowledging this peculiar feeling, however, I realize I often put myself on a pedestal of happiness. I want to be a happy person for myself and for a desire to be liked, a desire to be approachable, and worthy of admiration. So I end up ridiculing myself for not being happy… the funny thing is, that’s what causes the melancholy.

Happiness cannot be constant. With that said, It doesn’t seem right to call this melancholy a problem. By calling it a problem, it becomes heightened. By insisting in continued happiness, we’ve already failed. So is it an issue in it’s own right? Without outside judgement melancholy can become a strange sort of pleasure. Oh, the joys of wallowing in self misery with no rhyme or reason. There it is, self help can’t exist without a desire to help yourself. You can’t help yourself without looking at the problem and realizing its existence.

If you’re funny like me, you’ll find that the melancholy is a created expectation of a false reality. I expect myself to always be happy, that’s not reality. Maybe we shouldn’t be seeking self help so much as an acceptance of our sadness. Solutions are impossible without a problem and sometimes problems are just what we create by calling it a problem.

Unfortunately, not all of sadness comes from self created, looping melancholy. Shit does happen, but I have an optimistic belief that the same approach of acceptance of sadness is the key to overcoming anything. Too often we want the shit to just go away, but solutions are impossible without knowing a problem and it’s hard to know the true nature of a problem without looking at it first. You don’t have to pay for that advice, just look at it yourself.