But you may be wondering, as I did, if it’s even possible (or natural) to change the way you think. Aren’t unpleasant emotions part of being human? Well, yes, but the trouble starts when those unpleasant emotions become unhealthy emotions, as Dr. Burns points out in his book. You can’t, and shouldn’t, be happy all of the time, but you can manage your emotions more than they manage you. I get that now, but when I was reading the book, the perfectionist in me was dissecting every “bad” emotion, determined to be Ms. Perfect.
Until synchronicity kicked in to save me. Netflix mailed me the next film in my queue, just like any other week, and I ensconced myself in PJs and pillows to watch it, just like always. But this film happened to be Equilibrium, which is a Matrix-Fahrenheit-1984 combo about a future society where emotions are forbidden and are quelled with drugs. In fact, feeling is a crime punishable by a one-way trip to The Incinerator. Rather a bleak picture, let me tell you. Then, later that same night I was surfing channels when I should have been sleeping, and I caught a televangelist yammering in drill-sergeant tones about how we need to control our emotions. Crikey. That scared me worse than the film, and it drove home a simple, synchronous point: Feelings good, androids bad.
Of course Dr. Burns knew this all along. His book even includes a surly snippet from a brilliant article, “In Praise of Depression,” which I’ll partially quote here:
“Considering the state of the world, why does science still consider depression an aberration? Don’t these people read the newspaper?... For some of us, optimism is seen for what it is: a form of escapism... a form of desperation that science would do well to investigate—were these researchers not too busy attaching electrodes to dogs and finding out that the impressionable hounds get depressed after the first few hundred volts...”
- David Ives, from “In Praise of Depression,” originally published in The New York Times, June 17, 1981
Are androids the next stage in human evolution? Will silicon chips reside in our brains and bodies? Will nanobots course through our veins, monitor our vitals, and fix us when needed? Will we live longer, better lives... or just longer lives? I’m the first to admit humans could stand a great deal of improvement, and I welcome the improvements bio- and nano-technology are bringing to our lives, but I just hope we’re careful about how we define “improve.”