Sustaining Negativity

It gets very difficult at times to remain pessimistic.  There you are, quite contentedly stewing in a cauldron of class envy, petty jealousy, and bitter regrets when some daffy boob comes along to spoil your pursuits.

Relentlessly happy people are dangerous on multiple levels.  They can cause you to question the validity of your perpetual state of agitation.  Should you really be THIS annoyed and disgusted by the majority of the world?  (The question is rhetorical; for the doltish among my readers the answer is of course yes)

The second danger of an encounter with the blissful is that you may feel compelled to remedy their situation by explaining the futile and fleeting nature of earthly happiness.  Bring them down to earth, so to speak.  This is a fool’s errand, and will only serve to solidify in their mind the suspicion they have been nursing all along: they should probably ignore you.

Operating as we are under the assumption that you are intelligent and worth hearing, it is unconscionable to drive the smilers away before they have been subtly brought low.

To whit, some tips for becoming that much needed gray cloud across the shining sun of a cheerful conversation.

  1. Do not, under any circumstance, match their facial expression with anything save dour disinterest.  They may believe, down to their soul, that you care to hear the latest flowery details about the surprising romantic machinations of their significant other, but they must realize that you do not.  When they smile, do not smile back unless it is a bitter grin of loss and resentment.
  2. Snort periodically.  Take care not to sound too much like a pig, but a quick snort is enough to let the other person know that their grand pronouncements on our ability to feed the children, save the whales, or stop the spread of disease are full of the hubris of the truly ignorant.  Borne aloft as they are on the Pegasus of their rhetoric, your snort must be the gadfly’s bite, bucking Bellerophon from the heights and into blinded misery.
  3. Raise tangential and obscure points.  Obfuscation is a great aid in any attempt to both redirect happy talk into appropriate channels and prematurely end such utterly boring drivel.  Your time is precious; spend some of it memorizing interesting general trivia which can be inserted rather easily into several different conversations.  For instance: if the offender mentions food, a short discourse on the laws regarding French cheeses and the benefits of same.  Lying, say “That’s interesting, it reminds me of…” and segue into your unrelated point.
  4. Maintain prolonged eye contact.  You will be occupying yourself looking for microexpressions (a better method for determining whether they are truly happy, by the way), but they will simply find your gaze unsettling and off-putting.  This has the benefit of leaving you room to claim that you are perplexed at any distress they may show once they realize that you don’t give a damn how big the ring is or how funny the dog was this morning.
  5. When all else fails, look over their shoulder and pretend you saw something strange.  This will interrupt their entire flow and it is a rare person who can simply pick up right away and continue a “good” story.  This gives you the break you need to check your watch and let them know you “have to run” but will talk to them later.  Walk out of sight and then get a coffee – preferably away from such foolishness.

These are only a few tactics that come to mind.  You may find that these are ineffective, depending on the magnitude of the person’s happiness.  There is a world of difference between the person who had a really great piece of bacon that morning and the newly engaged 20-something.  Innovate!


  1. WC says:

    “I can feel you anger. It give you focus… makes you stronger.”

    I think people, like myself, have to be optimists in order to keep on living in this crazy mixed up world. We have to live in happy-go-lucky sunshine world or we will just go mad and do something really crazy. We arn’t strong enough to accept the fact that we are all doomed. Cause if we did, what then? It’s not as if we can change the world. So we just pretend that everything is hunky-dory and go about our lives.

    [Neal Replies: If the world were perfectly happy, and there was no suffering, it would not be real. Hence, the reality of suffering is the proof of existence and the necessary condition for real happiness. Acceptance of the unhappy predicament of man is happiness...]

  2. Henry says:

    That’s interesting and reminds me of the time I met an inconsolable youth who was concerned about their future existence. AS I stared the young man down, I replied, “You think and therefore you are – that was enough for Descarte and it should be enough for you…” gently snorting while distracting him with a feigned commotion over in the corner and quickly ducked away toward the hors d’œuvres. 5 for 5!

    [Neal Replies: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done.]

  3. WC says:

    Why is it the necessary condition for real happiness?

    “Ignorance is bliss”

    [Neal Replies: Or is it only by contrasting suffering and happiness that we can appreciate just how good we have it? Ignorance would then be undesirable.]

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