Juggling Depression And Compliments – A Guest Post By Mindfump

We have minds which are inherently negative, we like to complain and we like to mope about all the bad stuff in the world, as opposed to the good. My only evidence for that is in fact that previous sentence, which is inherently negative. Like some inception based literary negativity. Logically speaking though there are some very good reasons to have a negative disposition, especially when confronted with the uninvited obtrusion that is the compliment.

The compliment presents a conundrum. Like an alien descending to earth, why are they here? What do they want? Are they going to eviscerate me? All valid questions. The compliment disrupts the order of things, especially in the mind of a depressed person. They have a negative outlook, often surrounded by negative imagery of oneself and this intrusive compliment messes up this nice dark world of negativity.

Even for the non-depressed a compliment is met with suspicion. This is for a good reason. There is more to gain from a compliment, the giver of a compliment could be trying to curry favour, or trying to manipulate you in other ways. Like that weird shield around the alien ship in Independence Day, the compliment just bounces off, it rarely reaches the soul.

Criticisms on the other hand penetrate easily, like that guy who flies up the beam at the end (spoiler). The criticism will head straight for the core, and hit hard. This is also a logical conclusion. This is because there is nothing to gain for the person saying it, or so you think. The list of reasons someone would give you a compliment is extremely long, the list of reasons someone would give you a criticism is a short list with ’it is probably true’ on it.

We are programmed to want to be right, and if you are depressed your thoughts are usually that you are not good enough or not attractive enough, or intelligent enough. When someone criticises us it validates us, ‘see I was right!’. When the alien comes along in the form of a compliment, it goes against what we think. We were wrong? That is not right, I don’t believe that.

So how do we get these compliments to penetrate the shield of negativity?

Well, we need to narrow the list of alternative reasons for getting the compliment – obviously. We need to narrow it down to a point where there is only ‘because it is probably true’ left. That is difficult though.

When I worked for an insurance company, they had a campus style setting. Everyone was based in this one area, and we had access to sports facilities, food, games, and obviously work. In one of the restaurants I used to see this man sit alone every day, and after a couple of weeks I went over and just sat next to him. We chatted for a good while about not a lot, and then just as I was about to leave he said that it was good chatting, and that it was lonely at the top. Turns out he was the CEO of the company.

After talking to him more, I realised that people only ever said superficial good things to him, or nothing at all. Their career depended on it – or so they thought. Clearly I did not think this as I was telling him things like; how I’d cut off a customer once to ask out a girl in the office or how it is better to call in sick than be late.

For him, the list of reasons he would get a compliment are huge. That is the same as someone suffering from depression or anxiety. The list is huge, because their even more prone to the negative. Typically though they’re not CEOs of multi-million pound companies. Although I have very limited research to back that up, and by very limited I mean zero.

For the perfect compliment then we need to narrow that list, we need to get it from a trustworthy source and it needs to be in a situation which is not only a benefit to the sayer. Love is typically the answer, if it comes from a place of love that usually reduces the list of reasons enough to be believable. So now that I have figured out the formula, all I have to say is ‘I love you, always be yourself, you are fabulous’.



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15 thoughts on “Juggling Depression And Compliments – A Guest Post By Mindfump

  1. As someone with bipolar disorder, I can tell you that you’re absolutely right. In this society, sadly, negativity and abuse (of many degrees and sorts) is so rampant that positivity has little or no room to grow. We are all so used to hearing about the worst of ourselves that when someone comes along to tell us differently, we won’t have it. This is especially true the older a person gets. The falsehoods that we’ve been fed for years have a firm hold on our psyches and we believe, wholeheartedly, that we ARE who everyone else has told us we are.

    There’s a movement, small but growing, to instill kindness into children. It’s primary aim is to combat bullying, which is where you could lump criticism, but the movement is spreading to encompass more than just anti-bullying. Like anything, it takes practice and enormous amounts of time, but it will, I hope, eventually become second nature to people to accept and give compliments freely and without ulterior motives.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am certainly optimistic of this outcome. It is true the world is a big bad horrible place right now, but if we tell everyone to be big and bad themselves because they wouldn’t survive then nothing will change. I agree with you, Project this on the kids and eventually we will become nicer. Fabulous comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Spot on, once again! It’s the nasty little confirmation bias at work, and even when you know it exists it can be tricky to spot. I also struggle to *give* meaningful compliments at times, not because I don’t want to or don’t care or can’t think of anything, but because I have this assumption that my opinion is wrong or not valid and is unwelcome. Completely irrational, I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest, it is just a minefield. We have convoluted the world so much that it is almost impossible to be straight and honest with people in a positive way. Lets hope that doesn’t last forever.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Juggling Depression And Compliments – A Guest Post By Mindfump – Living with all these mental health cousins–Borderline, Bipolar, PTSD, ADD, SAD, and others

  4. Pingback: Late Night Thoughts: Poets, Compliments, Change, Tragedy, and More | Café Philos: an internet café

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