Optimism is good. It’s debatable whether it’s completely better than pessimism, but it’s good. It really is – in all avenues of life, looking at the bright side of things will help you get further. You can avoid victimizing yourself for no good reason and avoid feeling sorry for yourself or pitying your situation, and instead, spend valuable time picking yourself up after every unfortunate incident and look ahead at the next opportunity for something better.
To be optimistic is to open yourself up to the possibilities of something better, again and again, even if you’ve been disappointed in the past. However, there is a downside to optimism – just like there is a downside to everything in life. And in the case of optimism, that downside is being dogmatic with it.
When you have to force yourself to be optimistic at all times, then you’re missing out on the opportunity to feel things that need to be felt. By focusing entirely on optimism, you remove the opportunity for regret, despair and anger to emerge and let loose – and you effectively hide how you really feel behind a false wall.
It’s definitely beneficial to be optimistic most of the time – especially when you’re dealing with addiction recovery, where positive thinking can help. But it isn’t a good idea to bottle up your negative emotions without ever giving them a little room to breathe and escape you.
Forcing, Faking Happiness Is Unhealthy
When you’re fresh out of an addiction and still coping with the early stages of post-rehab recovery, then hiding the way you feel in order to continue feeling great is already a red flag behavior. It’s no secret that the first few weeks out of an addiction after the initial withdrawal period is an emotional rollercoaster, with a lot of lows and a few highs. You have to go through that period – and reflect on your emotions as they come, and not try to force yourself to put on a happy face when you’re really itching to resolve some anger or cry it out.
It’s not about being completely at the mercy of your emotions, though. It’s about being open and honest with yourself and about the way you feel, thus putting that honesty at the forefront of your emotional well-being. To stop being sad, you have to first acknowledge that you’re sad, and figure out why. You don’t just ignore the fact that you’re feeling down by forcing yourself to pretend like everything is going great – that dishonesty will only pile up and cost you your recovery in the future.
Avoid the Pink Cloud
Often enough, when the initial shock of getting over an addiction subsides, the exact opposite begins to kick in – total joy. This feeling of freedom and defeat over the subjugation of addiction and the newfound opportunities of a life worth living is known as the pink cloud – and that’s a negative term.
Early on in your recovery, if you come to terms with the challenges of life and manage to look on the bright side of things, then you’ll be greeted with a multitude of emotional rewards, including hope. But there lies danger in so much joy – the crash. Early recovery isn’t just mired by depressive symptoms and negative thinking, but there is the possibility that you’ll go through a sort of manic depressive phase where you shift between extreme enthusiasm and a total lack of motivation. Without drugs, life can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and every emotional trigger can set off a chain reaction of negative or positive feelings.
When we advise you to avoid the pink cloud, that doesn’t mean not being happy – neither does it mean not putting your negative thoughts in check. It means being realistic. It’s good to hope – in fact, it’s important, and it’s extremely important to get your head out of the past and away from resentment. But it isn’t a good idea to look too far ahead into the future – or you’ll trip and stumble over what you can’t see right ahead of you, in the present.
In other words, look ahead, but not too far. Focus on what’s really relevant to you in the moment, and take things one step at a time. Don’t worry about being happy, or excited – but don’t let it consume you and take you places you might not actually go to.
Allow Yourself to Feel
At the end of the day, there is no way we would deny the effects of optimism and positive psychology for bouts of depressive symptoms, anxiety, and addiction itself. Positive thinking is fundamental to maintaining the motivation and inspiration to power through the early stages of recovery, and maintain the passion to keep struggling against addiction long afterwards.
But you have to allow yourself to feel the full range of your emotions. You have to sit down and reflect honestly on how you feel. You have to consider your true thoughts and what they mean, how they reflect the way you feel about yourself and your choices. You have to allow yourself to regret before you fight to stop regretting, you have to allow yourself to feel sad before you recover.
There’s nothing wrong with crying it out or getting angry – for a little while. It’s the dosage that makes the poison. Sometimes, feeling what we need to feel is ideal for stress relief, and can help you think more clearly and better tackle a situation. But when something like resentment or grief consumes you, it’s seriously time to snap out of it and fight against the urge to be negative.
Happiness and joy are temporary emotions, not a lifestyle or a permanent state of mind. Just like how you can’t always be calm, you can’t always be happy. You have to be in a healthy emotional flux, especially if you’re trying to recover from an addiction and return to a normal state of emotions.
Don’t force yourself into a specific emotionality due to spiritual belief or ideological dogma – feel what you have to feel, and think deeply about what troubles you, rather than running away from it under the false pretense of seeking happiness. At the end of the day, that will just become another maladaptive coping mechanism.