I am myself feeling quite cheerful, but I notice some others aren’t. ‘It is a wet and windy Saturday, don’t we have a right to our gloom?’ they ask. I know that whatever I answer will be wrong, so I’ll simply make a few observations addressed to no one in particular.
English has a wonderful repertoire of phrases to describe everything from a mild lowering of spirits to clinical depression: feeling glum, feeling blue, a bit down, a fit of the blues, a touch of black dog, down in the dumps, in the doldrums, an attack of the glooms, and so on and so forth. The only antonym given in my Thesaurus is ‘cheerful’, yet when we are feeling glum, the last thing likely to cheer us is someone who is cheerful. We feel their optimism as a personal slur on our despondency, their brightness as an insult to our gloom. The truth is, apart from those who suffer from depression (which is a real and terrible illness), most of us are quite content to be glum sometimes. We wear our dejection as a badge of honour. See how I suffer, how wretched I am, how awful life is to me! Things can’t possibly improve. It is all dark, dark, dark!
Alternatively, we might say, ‘Look at me, me, me’ . . . and there, unless I am very much mistaken, is the clue to understanding why glumness can be so attractive. It puts the spotlight on ourselves, makes us the object of our own pity and safely insulates us from those horribly cheerful people who whistle and sing through all life’s little mishaps. It is an uncomfortable contrast, isn’t it? If you are feeling down this morning, it will probably make you feel worse. I apologize (sort of), but there’s just a chance it may make you feel better. I hope so.