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A Pensive, Melancholy Kind of Happiness

What is your eye drawn to first? The light - or the darkness? Do you see the water droplets and without hesitation assume they are leftovers from a recent rain....or perhaps could they be human tears?

All my life – up til now at least – I have struggled with sadness.

I’m not sure if you’d call it depression, although I have struggled with that too. In earlier centuries, I might have been diagnosed with “melancholy,” defined as “a deep, pensive, long lasting sadness.”

Only mine comes and goes, and the “long lasting” part has more to do with the “pensive” part than the “sadness” part…at least if detailed self-analysis counts here.

As well, as I get older I get ever more curious about my seeming incurable desire to peek behind dark emotional corners and flip up long-neglected and dusty mental area rugs, whether they are mine or (even more fascinatingly) others’.

In other words, I just can’t seem to help myself. In a way this is good, I suppose – everyone needs some excitement in their life, and I have no stomach for actual thrills and chills. If there is an actual, physical corner behind which something eerie or scary may or may not be hiding, I send in someone else.

It is just the reasonable thing to do.

But if it is a mental or emotional dark corner, it’s mine. Stand back, clear the area, send in the (self-declared) expert.

So, after 41 years of qualitative field research into the unique and particular habits of a certain melancholy party of one, might it be safe to say that I find happiness in exploring sadness? Or maybe even that my happiness – my place in this world so to speak – is peculiarly situated inside the unhappy places in this world?

I don’t know. But it certainly seems possible.

The good news is, I have a sister incurable addiction in attempting to become more happy. I like to read articles about the differences between happy and unhappy people, and I like to practice “happy people stuff.”

For instance, if I happen to read an article that says happy people practice forgiveness more than unhappy people do, I will add that task to my morning meditation, starting immediately. Or if, in conversation with a friend, a book is mentioned that deals with human personality and behavior, I will go right home and add it to my lending library (or, if absolutely necessary) to-purchase list.

In a weird way, sometimes I feel like I am trying to mentor myself into being me. Like maybe, if I keep exploring all the polar opposites of “sad” and “happy,” in the process getting closer and closer to the “center” of whatever it is I have set off on a lifelong quest to find, I will find “real me” in a way that is so irrevocable and clear that I will never again wonder about who I am or why I do the things I do.


Today’s Takeaway: Do you sometimes catch yourself wondering if something about “you being you” is something that makes you “you” rather than something you need to fix or change? In those situations, how do you approach the dilemma and decide how to proceed?

A Pensive, Melancholy Kind of Happiness

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2012). A Pensive, Melancholy Kind of Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Jun 2012
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