Thou Shalt Be Happy – Glamour Terrorism
Working in the “happiness industry” I talk, hear and read a lot about how people can be happier. Over the past few weeks I feel I have been bombarded with articles, workshop offers, book announcements, videos and conversations about happiness. The rebel in me has become resistant and almost allergic. At some point I wondered what is actually wrong with unhappiness?
Don’t get me wrong: I do love happiness. When people are happy, everything is just so much nicer and more enjoyable. But the “happiness movement” is becoming so strong; I feel I have to offer some opposition to keep the balance.
Feeling unhappy isn’t bad at all. It is quite alright to feel unhappy for a while and really feel all kinds of unhappy emotions. Crying along with movies and sad songs and other people’s stories can feel liberating. Sobbing over our own misery and being able to sob to begin with, is very healthy. Without feeling our unhappiness to the bone, we will not be able to experience the deeply desired opposite in another phase of our lives.
I have noticed that to admit to feeling unhappy has almost become a taboo. In a world where we have to be successful, in love, good looking, healthy, smart, ever developing and expanding etc. it is not done to simply answer: ‘I feel very sad, thank you’, when we’re being asked the question: ‘How are you?’. By the way, ‘How are you?’ is becoming almost interchangeable with ‘Hello’ and when it’s used as a shallow greeting it wouldn’t be wise to take it seriously and answer honestly. But why say: ‘Fine, thank you’, when you’re not feeling fine at all? That’s when people say: ‘I can’t complain’, or: ‘Not bad’, I guess. Nobody wants to spoil somebody elses day by answering: ‘Bloody terrible’, or: ‘Couldn’t be worse’.
Obviously I’m not talking about these moments where the question ‘How are you?’ means nothing more than ‘Hello’. I’m talking about conversations with friends, family members and colleagues where the question is supposed to be genuinely meant to show an interest in the answer.
Be honest. Tell the truth. Show that you feel unhappy when you feel unhappy. It would allow for the asking part to show some sympathy and to also be honest about him or herself. It could contribute to solving loneliness I believe. It would at least save us from the “glamour terrorism”; everything doesn’t always have to be shiny and happy. It isn’t. It is great to aim for success and happiness, of course, without a doubt! But it is also great to have the courage to be honest and to not keep up appearances.
If you suppress an emotion it gets stuck inside and will bother you until you acknowledge it. Emotions are like children who just can’t stay still until you’ve answered them. Denying unhappiness and suppressing feelings like grief, fear and anger by constantly putting on a happy face, will result in bitterness and illness. It is much healthier to allow whichever feeling you have, to be there, and then to choose to either express it or to let it go. And often expressing it and letting it go goes hand in hand. Often by sharing your feeling, it can dissolve and evaporate.
So do yourself a favour and just tell them what’s up. That will encourage others to do the same. I rather have a conversation about what’s really going on inside than feeling the constant pressure of having to be happy.