People spend billions of dollars on creams, and even surgeries, to look younger from the outside-in, yet maybe our aging has more to do with what’s happening from the inside-out. For instance, a recent study indicates that people who are depressed appear, at a molecular level, to be biologically older. An article in the journal, Molecular Psychiatry*, which reported on a study of over 2,000 subjects, concluded that depression can make us older by speeding up the aging process within our cells. So much for creams and scalpels.
There may actually be good news in this molecular view! Glasser believed that we choose our misery. Could it be that in the process of negotiating life’s twists and turns, and that as we choose to be happy or choose to be miserable, we are actually choosing our age? This is not the stuff of science fiction movies; this is a very real possibility.
Glasser described in Control Theory* (1985) that it can make sense to choose misery. In fact, he listed four reasons for people making such a choice.
1. It keeps angering under control
Rather than expressing our anger outward, and maybe even threatening and hurting other people, we turn it inward. We don’t know how to deal with our anger in the public arena, so we direct it to a private location.
2. It gets others to help us
When we show up as miserable or depressed it can serve as a cry for help, which can be especially appealing for men, who often don’t like to just come out and ask for help.
3. It excuses our unwillingness to do something more effective
The more miserable or depressed we become, the more helpless we become, too. We convey that we are not capable of doing much when we are overcome with misery.
4. It helps us regain control
When we feel out of control because of how someone else is treating us or because of the difficulty of a circumstance, choosing to be miserable or to depress can very much increase our sense of control. No one can challenge us when we are helpless.
Any of these behaviors can make sense at the moment. We are desperate for a behavior that will help us feel better and we rummage around in our behavior system for something that will give us even a smidgeon of control. Being miserable doesn’t feel that great, but it feels better than the alternative, whatever we perceive the alternative to be. Somehow, misery is need-satisfying.
Of course, it is not usually a good idea to tell a person who is in the midst of being depressed or miserable that he/she is choosing it. A miserable person can become quite defensive of their misery. But there will come a time, when things are better or when the pressure is off a bit, when he/she will be more open to considering their role in the misery process.
And what a special moment it is when you first realize that misery isn’t something that just happens to you. An awareness begins to dawn in your thinking, an empowering awareness that maybe, just maybe, you can literally choose your state of mind. As you grow in your understanding of choice theory, it’s like you become immunized against misery and even depression. Yes, it can be scary to realize how much power and responsibility you have for your own mental health, but the trade from victim to empowerment is well worth it.
Without this kind of immunization our misery can sap us of the life force within us and quite literally age us way too quickly. I say go for the choice theory immunization. It keeps you young and happy all at the same time.
* The article about depression and aging can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24897247
* Control Theory has been re-printed as Take Charge of Your Life: How To Get What You Need with Choice Theory Psychology. It is available in paperback and electronically through Amazon and other booksellers.
My thoughts have been directed toward Beirut, the schools there that I had the privilege to visit recently, and to the incredible people who work and teach in those schools. My heart goes out to them as tension and violence once again impact the region. I am praying that the Spirit will give you courage, comfort, and protection. I am praying that your schools will continue to thrive!
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