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Low self esteem leads to negative moods.....
August 11, 2002 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Low self esteem leads to negative moods..... People with low self esteem believe sadness is part of life and you shouldn't get rid of it.
posted by Espoo2 (53 comments total)

 
"I miss the comfort of being sad" -- Kurt Cobain, that guy who killed himself
posted by jragon at 10:51 AM on August 11, 2002


I've known for a long time that although depression is not something positive, I thrive on melancholia - and do miss it, in a way, when there's been a "pleasant" stretch, sans heartache. I presumed that this was fairly common.
posted by Marquis at 10:55 AM on August 11, 2002


well... ah fuck it, whats the use.
posted by quonsar at 11:01 AM on August 11, 2002


This has been known, or at least theorized, for quite a while. My therapist has sent/showed me numerous articles which go into this hypothesis: that depressed people/low-esteem people nuture their sadness and it becomes part of their lives, and anything that might break that up is seen as undesirable. Well, something along those terms. Funny, too, that it was released on my birthday.

I know I tend to feel this way A LOT (and, at the risk of being way too familiar with people I don't know.. my self-esteem/confidence has consistently been tested low for years. :/ ). The weirdest... and intellectually it always freaks me out... is the fact that when I get really sad/depressed I consciously feel like if I get happy, it will mean the depression meant nothing and I have to hold on to it as long as possible. I know this is wrong/bad in my mind, but I have loads of trouble changing it. So I nurse the depression as it slowly dissipates, while I growl at friends who tell me to just 'get over it.' It just sometimes feels like I "can't"... and its very hard to describe why.

Ahhhhhh, if this doesn't make me sound extremely unattractive to others, I don't know what else will.

I'm now gonna go watch "The Sweet Hereafter" 5 times in a row, you insensitive BASTARDS! ;)
posted by tittergrrl at 11:09 AM on August 11, 2002


Many people with low self-esteem believe sadness is part of life and that you shouldn't try to get rid of it, while people with high self-esteem believe in doing something to feel better if they have a negative experience or get in a bad mood.

Because everybody knows that life is supposed to be happy, fun and interesting 24/7. I don't understand the thinking behind this sort of thing at all. If I'm mad about something, I will generally get more pissed off if someone comes over all chipper, trying to make me smile. I'll get out of my mood, on my own, when I'm done with it. This isn't because I'm afraid the mood will feel as if it were pointless, but because I am pissed, and if I still am in 15minutes, then I accept that. We're not talking about depression here. It's a mood. Moods are good. They don't need to be fixed, and they are transient.

I find the video experiment ridiculous, and think it panders to American TV-worship. If i'm in a bad mood, I'm not going to think, "Hey, I know! I'll make myself happier by watching a comedy show." I'd be more likely not to watch any TV at all. Now, if I'm stuck in a room and told to watch something, with choices ranging in tone from my mood to its opposite.... I don't see any mention of people who refused.

Of course, this entire rant is based upon my belief that self-esteem isn't as much a factor in this as they'd like to believe. I'm more willing to bet that those with "high self-esteem" have simply had it more ingrained into them that they should maintain a happy demeanor at all times.
posted by Su at 11:16 AM on August 11, 2002


Not especially new; it's one of the bases of cognitive therapy, for instance. Someone in a depression will claim they deserve to be sad. The wording used is a little overwrought, though: nobody is saying sadness shouldn't be part of life. But depressed people are more likely to believe that there's something wrong about feeling good when something bad has happened recently to them -- or someone they know -- or even "the whole world". The cognitive therapy tries to break this logical construction by countering it with straightforward common sense: "Sure, there's a lot of stupid stuff going on in the world, but I have a good job, a smart and pretty girlfriend, and a cat who is completely devoted to me. Why shouldn't I enjoy what I have?"
posted by dhartung at 11:18 AM on August 11, 2002


thanks for the link espoo2

what su said--being happy all the time is absurd and inhuman...
I ride through my moods and if it takes an hour or a week--well, that's life....but on the other hand I'll do anything if it will lift a friend's bad mood--I can't stand to see it in others but accept it as normal in myself...
posted by amberglow at 11:23 AM on August 11, 2002


"If you have low self-esteem, you should actively try to rise above the sadness and learn that you will feel better if you do not passively accept sadness. "

Thanks for that oh-so-useful tip. I feel better already.
posted by mrhappy at 11:28 AM on August 11, 2002


every angst-ridden adolescent knows that emotional distress is reality and happiness (or just contentment) is a mirage.

why would we want to live in delusion? that's so - dishonest
posted by djeo at 11:30 AM on August 11, 2002


This experiment could just as easily be interpreted as justifying several other hypotheses, for example: "people exposed to happy music who have high self-esteem prefer to avoid hearing information about current events."

This is complete pseudo-science and an example of the kind of positive-thinking propaganda that invariably makes me feel angry, no matter what my mood was previously.

My on-and-off depression, sometimes paralyzing, always starts when I feel that I can't express a real problem, either to myself or the people around me. Self-esteeming cheerfulness simply covers it up until it comes back twice as strong. Facing up to the truth often requires going through a painful period of mourning that is the opposite of "self-esteem".

In other pseudo-social-science news, violent criminals have higher self-esteem than any other category. Curiously, the only places I found info on this study were on men's rights and Christian sites.
posted by fuzz at 11:38 AM on August 11, 2002


Another newbie mistake, *sigh*. Here's an old MeFi thread on the subject. I'll get the hang of this, really I will ...
posted by fuzz at 11:49 AM on August 11, 2002


cheer up fuzz!!! (just kidding)
posted by amberglow at 11:58 AM on August 11, 2002


When I'm depressed I can experience pleasure if I happen to encounter it, albeit in a diminished way, but I can't imagine or anticipate it. So it isn't so much that I feel that I "deserve" unhappiness but that I can't believe there is an alternative and therefore don't actively seek one.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:16 PM on August 11, 2002


any activities that would remove my sadness are repulsive at best.
posted by disgruntled at 12:19 PM on August 11, 2002


I'm intrigued to know what methodology they used to calculate low / high self-esteem, maybe it included the question "when you are feeling down, do you think that you deserve to suffer?".

Seems to me that if you measure the same thing in two different ways then you're likely to get a correlation!
posted by daveg at 12:43 PM on August 11, 2002


oh my god this thread is depressing.
posted by pikachulolita at 12:48 PM on August 11, 2002


This seems so obvious that I can't believe they bothered to report on it.
posted by EmoChild at 12:51 PM on August 11, 2002


While it may seem obvious, psychologists have found that what many people think is common sense and very obvious is deeply wrong. So they end up having to research *everything* because you don't know what's obvious because it's true, and what's obvious and very wrong.

I mean at one time, it was obvious that mental problems were caused by demon possesion. And that there was no reason for a doctor to wash his hands between working on cases. And the sun went around the earth.
posted by stoneegg21 at 1:03 PM on August 11, 2002


you have to experience the lows to savour the highs
posted by Stars Kitten at 1:18 PM on August 11, 2002


While it may seem obvious, psychologists have found that what many people think is common sense and very obvious is deeply wrong. So they end up having to research *everything* because you don't know what's obvious because it's true, and what's obvious and very wrong.

OK, but likewise "science" rewards new discovery, so there can easily be a tendency for a scientist to frame any simple conclusion as unique. It serves their interests. It is like the difference between finding the first Australopithecus skull or just another lousy Neanderthal. Though I guess it would be silly to expect the people behind this study to tell us that it's crap.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:39 PM on August 11, 2002


This is complete pseudo-science and an example of the kind of positive-thinking propaganda that invariably makes me feel angry, no matter what my mood was previously.

Why is it pseudo-science? There was a difference between two groups - one group had low self esteem, the other high. Comments like "I'd rather not watch any TV" are irrelevant, because they apply to both groups.

Otoh, I think daveg has a point - but it's the kind of question you'd need to read the paper to be resolve.

One other possible problem - iirc depressed people are actually better predictors of the future (we're "naturally" optimists). So maybe they were simply accurately predicting that the humour video would have little effect.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:03 PM on August 11, 2002


It also seemed like a "duh" study to me, because I know more than a few people who basically define themselves by their depression and their 'demons'. It is like the only way they can feel like they have any self-esteem at all is to think of themselves as special because of their mood disorders.

I wonder if such a personality existed before prozac came along and made depression a medical condition that was treatable with a pill. Or maybe the internet just exposes it more in people because of the narcissistic nature of blogging, etc. That's the main reason I haven't started a blog, really: the fear it will turn into a whine-fest, like so many livejournal pages.
posted by emyd at 2:16 PM on August 11, 2002


This is from the Press Release:

A group first read descriptions of the six videos â??which included stand-up comedy routines, a discussion of global warming and the story of a polio-crippled runner who dreams of becoming an Olympian but fails â?? and rated how happy or sad each would make them feel if they watched it. Most people, regardless of their self-esteem, said the comedy video would make them the happiest.

watching a film about a disabled runner "who dreams of becoming an Olympian but fails" could inspire more ideas than some dumb comedy in my opinion ... plus one of the important conclusions could be that Prokofiev's "Russia Under the Mongolian Yoke" might be bad for you :)
Other than that, it's great science.
posted by neu at 2:28 PM on August 11, 2002


I'm with emyd on this one, in that I doubt "depressed" or "bipolar" existed as identity claims before this (at least somewhat) arbitrary branding of them as such by the pharmaceutical industry. But for whatever that's worth, if it helps people to latch onto this identity or that, why would I give a hoot? One being able to identify themselves as "gay", "bisexual", "atheist", etc. sure beats the hell out of "social deviant". Likewise I could see preferring to defined in terms of a trait that you display, rather than one you lack.
Maybe it all goes back to whether or not one needs a niche?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:30 PM on August 11, 2002


Depression has always existed...
posted by andrew cooke at 2:35 PM on August 11, 2002


I'd never really thought of it that way, Ignatius. Defining yourself by your depression should be as equally valid as defining yourself by your sexuality. I guess I just have a personal problem with it because, as this study purports to confirm, they complain about it, but they don't really want to get better.

But since I think people do need a niche, that's as good a one as any.

On preview: I don't doubt that depression has always existed. I just question whether it was ever treated as a valid identity before. The web page linked to seems to indicate that it wasn't up until maybe the mid-nineteenth century. And then when rich people started visiting Freud, it became really acceptable.
posted by emyd at 2:57 PM on August 11, 2002


Is it wrong not to always be glad ?
posted by evanizer at 3:23 PM on August 11, 2002


Su: I'm more willing to bet that those with "high self-esteem" have simply had it more ingrained into them that they should maintain a happy demeanor at all times.

A-freaking-men. A few years ago, one of my friends' families was breaking apart, and naturally she wasn't the happiest person for quite a while. Another friend of mine made her a "happy quotes book" and actually expected her to be chipper from then on. After all, she could just read a quote and WOW! What a bright, sunshiney day!

Let the bad mood run its course. You don't have to wallow in it or inflict it on other people, but sadness isn't like a horrible disease or anything...

(Depression, on the other hand, is a different story)
posted by ligeia at 3:38 PM on August 11, 2002


well i dont know,

but i must add,

how can someone so young ,

sing words so sad?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:43 PM on August 11, 2002


Uh... how do you mention self-esteem? This is not only depressing, but based on bullshit. Here we go again.
posted by hama7 at 3:51 PM on August 11, 2002


Meh. Normative science. Doing a fairly reasonable and clear-cut study, then making a conclusion based on implicit assumptions.

"...sadness is part of life and you shouldn't get rid of it." I agree entirely. It doesn't mean I'm always sad; far from it. It doesn't mean that I enjoy being sad. But I realize that sadness has its reasons, be they social, psychological, or simply chemical, and that it should be experienced just as any other emotion. Opting to try and "switch off" sadness cheapens the human experience.

I wonder how the study would have turned out had the subjects been given the option of taking antidepressants rather than watching comedies.
posted by zerolucid at 3:57 PM on August 11, 2002


Rats. Noow I'm raely depwesssed. "mention" shuold be "measure". Duh.
posted by hama7 at 4:36 PM on August 11, 2002


hama7: Uh... how do you measure self-esteem? This is not only depressing, but based on bullshit.

Actually there are a number of well-established self-esteem scales used by research psychologists and psychiatrists, such as the Rosenberg self-esteem scale. If you have access to a psych journal database, I'd suggest a search. The results of these scales are supposed to correlate highly with other self-esteem scales, and with other things that you might expect to correlate with low/high self-esteem (for example, depression). So while it's not as straightforward as taking out a tape measure and measuring someone's height, taken together they can provide a reasonable quantification of someone's self-esteem that can be used in statistical analysis.
posted by ligeia at 4:59 PM on August 11, 2002


The finding is contrary to the common belief that all people are motivated to alleviate negative moods

Uh, commonly believed by whom? This 'study' is full of such straw fellows
posted by HTuttle at 5:08 PM on August 11, 2002


positive moods led to high self-esteem

oh god. i am nuts.
my contribution is Maslow. he seems the one with the best prescription to reversing depression, et.al. Though a combo of some drugs, for a short period (2-5 wks), and what ever "therapy" one chooses seems viable.


that or it's the industrial age....churning up our souls.
posted by clavdivs at 5:31 PM on August 11, 2002


"you have to experience the lows to savour the highs"

I've been on pretty much an even keel for the last, oh, five years or so. No crushing lows, but no exhilarating highs either.

It sucks.

I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud. Even buying our first home only made me feel somewhat pleasant, and only for a few minutes.

On the other hand, I also can't remember the last time I felt like the world was a loaded gun pointing at my head.

Nonetheless, I'd gladly trade a few lows for a high now and then. The monotony is killing me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:59 PM on August 11, 2002


Heh.. I certainly don't feel as if sadness SHOULD be a part of my life. I would gladly disavow depression if I could, but I seem to be wired this way. ;)
posted by xyzzy at 6:06 PM on August 11, 2002


crash: I've been there, and so maybe I'm just projecting my own story onto yours. So take this comment with that caveat, but what you describe sounds to me like real depression.

It's easy to see the image of the dramatic, suicidal, I-hate-myself-and-I-want-to-die depression, but I believe that there's a kind of "functioning depression" which burns slower, but consumes your soul just as much. You're able to go through life doing all the things you're supposed to, but everything's in black-and-white and food doesn't have any taste. You don't feel bad, but you don't feel good. And you never quite know why, because real depression isn't supposed to be like that. And after all, you shouldn't complain, you're doing reasonably well.

And behind this lack of feeling is a tremendous sadness, real feelings about real things. This kind of depression is like a blanket that smothers all your feelings so you don't have to feel (and then resolve) the bad ones. The "high self-esteem" method of fighting depression is basically an emotional suicide, where you kill off the parts of yourself that you can't express, because it's easier than facing them. Unfortunately, it has to get worse before it can get better.
posted by fuzz at 6:46 PM on August 11, 2002


What they neglected to mention is that the comedy video was of Gallagher.
posted by solistrato at 6:58 PM on August 11, 2002


Gallagher. That is depressing.
posted by hama7 at 7:15 PM on August 11, 2002


I found this psychological 'study' to be completely ridiculous. objective standards must be used in order to obtain any sort of scientific result. expecting an entire group of people to all be affected in the same way by a 'boring' song by prokofiev (who tends to be more abstract than depressing), and then attempting to compare that feeling to the effects of depression is just silly. it also fails to take into consideration people like me, people who would rather be shot than watch a stand-up comedy routine. I find it very amusing how conclusions were drawn based purely upon film preference. oh, and a jazz version of any bach brandenburg concerto, to me, is an egregious offense against good taste and decency. (hi, ignatius, hi)

it is rational to say that people that have just listened to prokofiev's 'russia' that supposedly have low-self esteem based on previously taken tests are less likely to choose a stand-up comedy video than their happier, bach-filled counterparts. it is not rational to subsequently claim that people with low-self esteem just aren't interested in being happy, darn it all. next test: are britney spears fans a lot more confident and do they have a lot more self-esteem, because in their attempt to emulate brittany, they show a lot more skin than their nine-inch-nails listening counterparts? trent reznor: just why is he so modest and cagey? tune in!
posted by Espoo2 at 7:26 PM on August 11, 2002


Anybody got a .wav link for Prokofiev's "Russia Under the Mongolian Yoke?" Do you have to play it half-speed to get the full effect?
posted by sheauga at 7:42 PM on August 11, 2002


"Much of the insight and creative achievement of the human race is due to the discontent, guilt, and critical eye of [melancholics]." "In fact, melancholics were so ubiquitous they became a social type -- malcontents."

"It sounds heretical coming from a psychiatrist, but a little depression probably was good for her art, even if the personal cost was too high. In the end, she opted for happiness ..."

"It's very important that the concept of optimism not be stereotyped as blind and delusional ... I employ this newly acquired cognitive skill frequently when I'm feeling uneasy about a situation."
posted by sheauga at 8:29 PM on August 11, 2002


Thanks for those links sheauga. Sorry I couldn't find you that recording, but here's a bunch of other Prokofiev.

I like Prokofiev very much. Damn Sting and his thievery...
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:04 PM on August 11, 2002


"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" - Newton's 2nd law.

I'm convinced that newton's 2nd law holds true when applied to our emotions. After the effect of drugs such as cocaine wear off (the "high") there is the crash, or the low, to look forward too...but everyone knows that...I'm just suggesting that perhaps this also applies to any other time that you experience happiness or depression, not just in drug related scenarios.

Maybe that is why some of us actively avoid any sort of strong emotion...it could seem more attractive to some of us to live a steady life of little happiness or sadness than to experience any large amount of sadness at all.

thoughts?
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 12:19 AM on August 12, 2002


I've been on pretty much an even keel for the last, oh, five years or so. No crushing lows, but no exhilarating highs either.

Sounds like adult life in the western world.
posted by Summer at 2:44 AM on August 12, 2002


Maybe I'm just being cynical, but when I read the article, the psychological deviants in it were those with high self-esteem. While I'll certainly grant that low self-esteem is a bad thing, most of the people I've known with high self-esteem seem more 'off' than those people I've known with low self-esteem. Some of them seem to be in denial, but most just seem to lack a certain self-awareness, or seem like they don't have access to some of the darker, deeper avenues of reflection that a lot of other people are. Most of the time I think they're lacking something vital, but sometimes I have to wonder if ignorance is indeed bliss.

When I feel down, I don't turn to comedy to jolt me back into happiness, I turn on depressing music and somehow that slowly makes me feel better. The Tindersticks, Smog and Leonard Cohen are all helpful when I'm unhappy. It's a case of misery loving company.
posted by picea at 7:04 AM on August 12, 2002


People with low self esteem believe sadness is part of life and you shouldn't get rid of it.

Thank you for the keen grasp of the obvious.

You know what I say to people who don't like that? Fuck 'em!

Optimists are far more likely to be delusional morons in my opinion. I am what I am and I'm dead tired of various clueless jerkoffs trying to tell me how to live my life.
posted by mark13 at 8:57 AM on August 12, 2002


I prefer to call high self-esteem what it really is: self-delusion.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:31 AM on August 12, 2002


Maybe that is why some of us actively avoid any sort of strong emotion...it could seem more attractive to some of us to live a steady life of little happiness or sadness than to experience any large amount of sadness at all.

Some of us are wimps.
posted by zerolucid at 9:46 AM on August 12, 2002


"Sounds like adult life in the western world."

But, but...I don't wanna grow up.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:42 AM on August 12, 2002


I prefer to call high self-esteem what it really is: self-delusion.

That's only if you're not as good as you think you are.
posted by kindall at 12:50 PM on August 12, 2002


When I'm down I know I hit reality.
posted by semmi at 8:50 PM on August 14, 2002


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