That old-fashion post-coital feeling

In Feeling Good, David Burns breaks down and classifies the kinds of thoughts which lead to depressive or anxious feelings. He calls these "cognitive distortions" and they represent errors in thinking which anyone is vulnerable to, and which have the power to create long-term unhealthy emotional states.

One flavor of negative feeling which he doesn't directly address is the emotional crash which can occur right after an exceptionally positive and enjoyable event, usually as soon as are you alone, when the endorphins that had been holding you aloft suddenly all feel embarrassed and set you down and back silently out of the room.

Phenomenologically, this resembles post-coital tristesse, with its accompanying physiological hollowness and feelings of longing and loss. It is terrifying to consider the possibility that this sweet sadness could pop up in other areas of our lives, depositing itself like a stowaway in the arc of our most exciting and satisfying experiences. We are comfortable with the idea of sex being a little bittersweet (is that not an essential component of romance?), but we are not so prepared after, say, a marathon, or a house party, or a piano recital.

These are stealth depressions, apparently endogenous, resistant to cognitive approaches such as distortion identification or rational response. They seem to grow so organically out of the positive events and thoughts that we try to tell ourselves that it's just us noticing the absence of the fun, not some new active negative cloud. But then we get home, and the cat reminds us that our spouse will be gone until eleven and the house is dark and silent, and we realize that something has been scooped out from inside of us.

With a certain kind of eyes, one starts to see these moments lurking even before the fun has started, and sometimes the disease lets a little fear seedling take root, even as the excited anticipation for the event continues to happen in the rational mind. We may find ourselves bracing for what we think is an inevitable impact. Or worse, we may start to avoid strongly positive, endorphin-rich experiences because we dread coming face-to-face with the dark teatime of the soul afterwards.

It's all an illusion, of course, or, should I say, it's all a choice, that is being made deep in the nether regions of our psychological transmissions. The application of meaning and judgement to our feelings is arbitrary; the events and even the thoughts have no inherent "qualities" of their own. We put it there, the "good" and the "bad". That doesn't make it hurt less, but it can help us to see the game as a game, not as actual, sticky reality.

Thus may solipsism function as a refuge for us in our dark times. By blaming the victim (ourselves), we cheapen the perceived authenticity of our sadness, and maybe, just maybe, make it brittle enough to be broken by just the right critical mass of ice cream.

A carnal symphony in four movements: "Sing Sing Sing" - Benny Goodman Orchestra Live at Carnegie Hall 1938

Stop doing your "best"