Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. -Mark Twain
Question #89561 posted on 04/30/2017 1:22 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

So I've noticed in myself that I tend not to get very excited about things. Or when I do, it doesn't last long. This goes for when I personally have good news (like a job) where I was excited initially, but now I don't feel that excited to share the news with others. And it also goes for when people share their exciting news such as engagements, babies, etc. I'm not a bubbly person and have never been one to scream in extreme happiness for friends or family about those things. Instead, I just feel apathetic. I feel this way often in church as well in relation to gospel-stuff sometimes.

I guess I'm asking, have you felt this way? Do you try to fake more excitement than you feel? Fake it til you make it? I either sound super fake when I do or I don't really try at all and just say "Congrats." I had a hard time especially with having a sibling get married and people were asking me how excited I was to gain an in-law (who was pretty much a complete stranger). It was awkward to pretend excitement or be honest and say well I don't know this person at all, but yeah I should be happy for my sibling. And it's weird to have my friends seem really excited for me in relation to a sibling's marriage/baby/etc when I don't feel that way. Maybe there's a part of me that feels left out of certain life events, but I know this apathy isn't always related to those because it happens even with small things too.

I don't want to be overboard with excitement but I'd like to more genuinely feel and express support/happiness/excitement for good things in mine and other people's lives. What can I do?

-Wild Berry

A:

Dear Reader,

So, maybe I'm a weird person to be responding to your question, because I'm in kind of the opposite boat. I seem to have been born with the blessing (or curse) of enthusiasm. (There are a lot of qualities I wish were innate to me that I don't have, but enthusiasm is not one of them. I seem to naturally be pretty enthusiastic about life.)

Anyway.

Before I get into some of the suggestions that I have for you, I want to echo what is said below: It could be good to investigate the possibility of depression. If that's not behind it, it's also good to remember that it's okay to not be an overly enthusiastic person. If everyone in the world got as enthusiastic as I tend to get, that would be terrifyingly awful.

All that being said, I want to share with you some of the things which I tend to do to show enthusiasm, because it sounds like you do have a desire to express excitement about good things.

Also, sometimes it can be really hard to change the way you feel at will. But I think it is easier to change the way you act, and then let those actions influence the way you feel. (Does that makes sense?)

So, without further ado:

When good things happen to others...

- Write letters. Write a letter saying, "Hey! This happened to you and it is amazing!" I like this because it's a nice and easy way to express excitement for someone if you aren't used to doing so. 

- Give gifts. If you want to accompany your letter with a thoughtful gift, this will show others that you are happy for them even if you don't seem overly psyched in person.

- Ask others questions about their successes. If you are finding it difficult to express vocal excitement for others, it can help to ask them questions about the good things they are experiencing (i.e. "Wow, you're starting a new job/ How do you feel? Have you met the new boss yet? etc.) Sometimes as you ask questions about something that another is experiencing, it can help your enthusiasm for that person to grow and make it easier for you to express vocal excitement in a genuine way.

When good things happen to you...

- Don't dwell on fears. Savor good moments. Sometimes our fear can kill our enthusiasm. (i.e. "Oh my gosh, this great thing happened! Yay! But wait...what if it doesn't last? Actually, yeah, something is probably going to go wrong and blabbity blah blah.) Allow yourself to feel happy for good things without worrying that those things are going to end.

- Listen to some happy, pump-up music. Sometimes, when I just want to soak up a moment of happiness, I turn on some happy music and dance around my room like a crazy person. (On second thought, this suggestion might not be for everyone, but might as well try it, right?)

- Share your good news with others even if you don't particularly feel like it. Others may just show some enthusiasm for your success, which can in turn reignite your own excitement.

I feel like I have more things to say, but they aren't coming to my brain, so let's leave it at that. It's cool that you are thinking about stuff like this; I think it shows that you do have a lot of love for other people.

Love,

Vienna

A:

Dear WB,

Just a quick note to say that while this may just be your personality, it can also be a symptom of depression. People think of depression as sadness, but it's not just that. Depression isn't the opposite of happiness; it's the opposite of vitality (credit to author Andrew Solomon). Low energy, low motivation, low excitement for things, low engagement with the world. So if you weren't always like this and you feel like you changed at some point, or if it comes in waves, and is accompanied by changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and energy levels, then I recommend consulting a doctor or therapist. 

But heck, if you just don't scream and jump up and down when people tell you they're pregnant, well there's no need to pathologize that. I appreciate a calm soul and steady head. You be you.

Much love,

Waldorf (and Sauron) 

A:

Dear Wild Berry,

Have you felt this way?

Absolutely. When I told people I was pregnant I had a not-very-close friend tell me she was so excited for me that she cried. And I didn't know what to say because I certainly didn't cry when I found out and I was the one who was pregnant. People. Yeesh. Everyone kept asking me, "Are you just sooo excited?!" and sometimes I'd play the part and say yes, but mostly I was honest and said, eh, sure. Because that's how I felt. So who knows, you might be doing some poor pregnant woman a favor by not faking a fuss.

I'd like to more genuinely feel and express support/happiness/excitement for good things in mine and other people's lives.

However you feel is a genuine feeling. I get excited about things (office supplies, cloudy days, deliciously bad puns) and when I do I like to take the Kurt Vonnegut approach. Vonnegut said "I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'" So when the weather is particularly nice (i.e. 65 and overcast), or I just find myself enjoying life, that's what I murmur to remind myself to stop and appreciate those small happy moments while they last. Because tomorrow it will be unbearably sunny outside, or one of my kids will barf on my last undamaged possession. As for expressing excitement for other people's lives, I have no idea how to do that unless their news is actually something exciting to me. My sister getting into woodworking school was exciting. My other sister having her fourth baby was...less exciting. And that's okay I think. 

-Genuine Article

A:

Dear Warner Brothers:

So I've noticed in myself that I tend not to get very excited about things. Or when I do, it doesn't last long. This goes for when I personally have good news (like a job) where I was excited initially, but now I don't feel that excited to share the news with others.

To me, this sounds like the hedonic treadmill, or the tendency for our happiness/excitement levels to eventually return to a natural baseline regardless of our outward circumstances. 

And it's weird to have my friends seem really excited for me in relation to a sibling's marriage/baby/etc when I don't feel that way. Maybe there's a part of me that feels left out of certain life events, but I know this apathy isn't always related to those because it happens even with small things too.

No one's mentioned the possibility that you could be experiencing jealousy. My social circle has always been less aggressively Mormon and baby-centric than the typical BYU graduate's, but I am hitting a point where seeing very close friends checking off the Life Script boxes can cause me a pang of envy. Social media consistently reminding us of how we're failing to live our best lives is a widely-studied phenomenon. Having a walking Instagram post around you sounds annoying. I'd probably be honest and say "in-laws are a crapshoot, we'll see" and "as long as they keep the kid under control, it will be fine." 

I feel this way often in church as well in relation to gospel-stuff sometimes. 

Not shocking to me that an environment that often seems to demand Mandatory Cheer could produce ennui. It's nothing wrong with you. You'll figure it out. It may be that we were born to experience joy, but I think it's fine to culturally acknowledge sorrow or even anomie, as well. Part of growing up.

---Portia, outwardly bubbly yet jaded

A:

Dear you,

So I come from a family of VERY nonreactive and inexpressive people (Ask Zed, she'll verify it) so I know pretty close to exactly how you feel. I honestly don't get excited about a lot of things, and often find that when others around me are excited, I become less excited and expressive, especially if their excitement is aimed at me in some way.

Now I'm about to say two things that might at first seem to entirely contradict the two things I just said above, but in reality, they don't. Rather they qualify the two things I said above.

FIRST: I actually get excited about plenty of things, but I don't do so in the same way as a lot of other people. This is something that I realized a couple years ago and it's been really helpful to me in dealing with the second part of your question. Once I recognized that just because I wasn't cry or jumping up and down for joy when good things happened to me doesn't mean that I'm not excited for it. When I got my acceptance letter to BYU, I felt pretty ambivalent at the time and it was super awkward every time someone congratulated me 'cause it was like "uh yeah, it's cool I guess..." Retrospectively though I realize that I was excited, I just didn't express it in the way a lot of people around me did. I'm not saying that this is for sure the case with you, but it is a possibility. You may be like me and just not be the kind of person who becomes overwhelmed by their excitement like other people do. That's not a bad thing. It's part of what makes you YOU.

SECOND: This one will sort of answer the second part of your question about reacting to other peoples exciting news. I've found that it's often hard to be excited about some friend or relative getting into grad school, having a baby, or whatever. However, I've realized I can much more easily be excited about how excited/happy that friend/relative is. So like when Facebook reminds me that my friend just graduated this past weekend, I find it much easier to be happy/excited because my friend is happy/excited, even if I feel more or less ambivalent towards someone who is not me graduating. I hope that makes sense. It seems clearer in my mind than it does all typed out. Sorry about that. 

Once you figure out those two things for yourself and to what extent they actually apply to you, it becomes a lot easier to be expressive of your excitement for people. You still might be like me and not be a super expressive individual like that, but it's a whole lot easier to express* happiness/excitement about something when 1) you can recognize how you actually feel those emotions for yourself, and 2) when you can find something that's easier for you to be happy excited about. Then even if you're not jumping for joy and shouting your excitement from the rooftops, it will perhaps feel more genuine to yourself and others even when all you can think to say is "Congrats."

I hope this helps and isn't too confusing.

Best of Luck,

~Dr. Occam

*Note that if you're not a very expressive individual, this will take practice and getting used to, but the more you do it, the easier it'll become. And who knows, you may see yourself gradually becoming more expressive of excitement both in your own life and for the exciting events in the lives of others.