“I’ve developed a new philosophy…I only dread one day at a time.”
– Charlie Brown
As a psychotherapist, the image of Charlie Brown often comes to mind in dealing with my clients. So many people live like “good ol’ Chuck” with persistent rumination about things out of their reach and control, just like he obsesses over the red headed girl. As lovable and cute as he is, Charlie Brown is stuck in a spiral of negativity — no wonder why he is stuck and never changes! He never can seem to get himself out of the world of low self esteem, along with his continual musings on if onlys and what ifs.
Perhaps the most poignant thing about Charlie Brown is that no matter how many times Lucy pulls the football from him as he is about to kick, he keeps on expecting her to change her ways — and he gets the ball pulled out from him. He doesn’t seem to learn that it is time to shift his strategy and learn from his errors in judgement rather than repeat the same mistakes over and over. Time and time again.
We can relate
I do believe that Charlie Brown has been one of America’s most lovable cartoon characters precisely because at some point in our lives, we all can relate to him. Who hasn’t kept on trusting, even though our friends, family, and even our spouses have proved untrustworthy or disappointed us? Who hasn’t found themselves focusing on the negative rather than the positive, regarding the negative view as where the “real truth” lies? Despite the fact that we can relate to him and enjoy the humorous take on depressive thinking – since we commonly do get pleasure out of poking fun at our foibles — ruminative and negative thinking is really no laughing matter. It leads to depression, excessive anxiety, and interferes with true growth and healing.
Some tips to overcome ‘Charliebrownitis’
If you find yourself identifying too much like Charlie Brown, here are some tips:
- If you have low self esteem like Charlie Brown, watch out for the tendency towards depression. Depressed zaps our sense of power and sense of personal worthiness.
- Due to low self esteem, people often find themselves in unhappy interpersonal relationships, and settle for less than they deserve. Relationships end up being more clingy and needy than mature and healthy.
- If the red headed girl in our life is not interested, time to move on. Instead of spending too much time wishing for dreams that don’t come true, how about creating new goals and dreams that have a chance?
- If someone treats us disrespectfully over and over again, stop falling for it.
- Realistic hope is good, but unrealistic hope is just “wishful thinking” that leads us to be “stuck.”
- We might be lovable like Charlie Brown, but he doesn’t see how lovable he is and maybe you don’t either! Time to look inside yourself and identify the things that you like about yourself! How about making a list?
- Charlie Brown looks at what’s missing in his life – the “hole” and not the “whole.” Do you spend more time looking for happiness in all the wrong places outside of yourself rather than finding peace within you?
- Charlie Brown’s negative thinking is reflected in his blue moods. He does not realize he has the choice of a more positive attitude!
- If you keep on trying to kick the football and someone takes it away from you, shift gears and try a new game with new players in your life! Maybe that person is not really on your team even if they say they are. Parting can be painful, but if your friend does not want the best for you, ask yourself if this really a friend?
As you consider Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang characters — what character are you most like? How about those that are close to you? There’s the dependent Linus, the narcissistic Lucy, the depressive Charlie Brown, disorganized and sloppy Pigpen, the precocious Schroeder, the know-it-all, insensitive Patti, the loyal Woodstock, the imaginative Snoopy, or the optimistic and sweet Sally?
How about getting an opinion of people who know you best? If you don’t like the answer, you can work on changing it now Learn from Charlie Brown that you are lovable no matter what, but life will be more fun if you choose to stay positive.