We all have days when we don’t feel our best… when we begin the day or end it on a down note. Maybe there was an argument with a spouse, a disagreement with a friend, a poor academic mark, difficulties at work, the possibilities are endless and can be experienced on a rather mundane basis. I was speaking to a friend after going through a similar event and they shared this passage with me:
“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that – I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things that make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.” – Hugh Machay
After reading this, a quote from a movie came to mind, “the sweet ain’t so sweet without the sour” –Vanilla Sky. What I feel is so vital to take away and reflect on from the above passage is that the feelings we experience that stray from happiness are part of our lived experience. They add new dimensions to our way of being and allow us to enjoy the richness and joy life can bring us to a greater extent. But, to feel that being happy is the so called “default position” that we often times may believe to be true, only leads to feelings of guilt, separateness, and other self-defeating thoughts that can surround us when we are not “happy.” We live in a society that can feel unforgiving and invalidating toward our experience of very real, natural, and ordinary emotions that are a part of humanity. Rather than fighting against these human feelings, I challenge you to accept them as a piece of you; to reflect on them and allow yourself to be “ok” with them, even if they do not feel wonderful. Beating yourself up is only going to add to the unhappiness or other emotional experiences that are divergent from happiness. Not being happy all the time is ok, it’s normal, and it is something that we are not told enough.
Written By: Stephen Ham, M.A.
For a quick read of the normalness of sadness, Click here