The Half-Empty Heart : A Supportive Guide to Breaking Free from Chronic Discontent
Low-grade depression is one of the most common diagnoses for people who visit a psychotherapist -- and an undiagnosed problem in millions who don't get the help they need. Despite the frequent occurrence, few books are available on the disorder, whose symptoms include a lack of motivation, a low threshold for frustration, and a constant struggle for deeper satisfaction and more meaningful experiences.
Downs, a clinical psychologist and author (Why Does This Keep Happening to Me ), discusses the increasingly common low-grade depression known as dysthymia. Symptoms of this problem include constant disappointment, lack of motivation and feelings of hopelessness. Downs offers many brief case studies of people suffering from dysthymia, as well as descriptions of this condition. For example: "The block we create to emotional flow is best described as emotional dishonesty. Emotional dishonesty ranges from simply hiding our true feelings from others to actively falsifying our feelings in ways that may be more acceptable and less confrontational.... We hide our true feelings from other people when those feelings aren't convenient or might be uncomfortable." Downs does a first-rate job of explaining how "chronic discontent" can develop and how it affects relationships with friends and family. The last part of the book is a five-week program designed to help people change their lives and conquer some of their symptoms. The center of his cure is a series of writing exercises (focusing on keeping a journal of feelings and recollections), and while this may not address everything sufferers may need to know, it is a solid effort to help them get on their way. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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St. Martin's Press
December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Half-Empty Heart by Alan Downs
When Normal Is Below Par
Why Does the Happiness Never Seem to Last?
You took the job. It felt good. But that was six months ago, and now it feels like the same old humdrum.
You married your sweetheart, and you thought life couldn't get any better. Now, you're not sure what you feel -- or even if you want to be married.
You worked nights to get your nursing degree -- it took you almost 8 years to do it, but you graduated with honors. Now, after a few years on the job, nursing isn't what you thought it would be. What now?
You built your dream house and included in it everything you've ever dreamed of having in a home. Now, a year later, you're thinking about selling it.
You find yourself weary with the humdrum of everyday life and often feel apathetic about things that you know should mean more to you. You try to spice up your life with new experiences, but you always seem to be in the same endless cycle of frustration and disappointment.
"What is wrong with me?" you ask yourself. "Why can't I be happy with my life? Why am I frustrated and disappointed with the way things have turned out?"
If this is you, you're not crazy. Chances are, you're struggling with a psychological condition that blocks you from feeling satisfaction and lasting happiness in your life. The condition is chronic discontent, and it is more common than you think.
Chronic discontent is one of our society's most widespread and devastating psychological disabilities. It is a slow and persistent condition that may exist for years, all the while eating away at your quality of life without causing any acute symptoms. Then, after years of slowly sabotaging your happiness and overwhelming you with continuous frustration, it can even turn into the more serious condition of major depression.
Chronic discontent isn't simply a matter of negative thinking or being ungrateful. If you've suffered with it, you've probably spent a great deal of time beating yourself up for not "picking yourself up" and "being more positive." Maybe you've tried, like I did, all the self-help techniques -- using positive affirmations and visualizations, gratitude journals, and meditations to change your attitude. None of it worked for long, right? That's because what you're struggling with is more than just a bad attitude about life -- it is a serious condition that prevents you from experiencing much fulfillment or happiness.