The Quest for Always Happy
I’ve noticed a weird thing that happens from time to time. I wake up feeling off, nothing major, just a little niggle of ickiness. Maybe it’s a bit of melancholy. Perhaps it’s a minor annoyance.
Whatever the offness is, my immediate reaction is to get rid of it.
As soon as possible. Go for a run, phone a friend, plan an outing, eat something nice. Anything. Just make it go away.
'Ofcourse', you’re likely thinking. Why on earth would you want to stay with an unpleasant feeling that could be a negative influence on your day?
Why would you want to linger there if there are more joyous emotions to feel?
Maybe. Maybe this is true. For most of my life I’ve had an undercurrent motto of “no time for a shit time” and chasing joy is part of my makeup (hello Ennea 7!). We also know that seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is hardwired into us as humans as a very basic instinct.
For the most part, this pain avoidance is a pretty great protective mechanism to have. Especially when it comes to protection from physical harm. And in some cases, armouring up is necessary as a coping tool to help us move through trauma.
But something has gone wrong in recent years.
With the arrival of things like Positive Psychology, Motivation Monday and the Happiness Project, we’re living in a society that has been teaching us that we have to be perpetually happy. As in: All. The. Bloody. Time. We’re constantly bombarded with photos of people doing wonderfully exciting things and telling us how joyful they are. They show us their successes, their holidays, their food. They show us how normal it is to live your life as an ongoing dream, always upbeat, energetic and inspired.
So for those of us regular peeps, winging our way through life and experiencing what it’s like to be human, we learn that if we’re not happy in every moment, there must be something wrong with us.
Or we’re simply not trying hard enough.
So we now need to work at that too: take up yoga, drink more green smoothies, find your tribe, practice gratitude. And if that doesn’t work, go on a retreat, read another book, schedule in date nights. The list goes on.
And yet the icky feelings linger so now we can add more shitty feelings to the pile too: guilt for feeling this way when we have everything we need to be happy. And then shame for not being able to shift ourselves out of it.
But here’s the mega truthbomb: These feelings happen.
The emotions we don’t like are the same as the emotions we do. Whether it’s joy or excitement or freedom, or fear or grief or loneliness, they’re all just emotions.
And we don’t get to judge which ones are good and which ones are bad.
We don’t get to decide which ones we’ll always have and which ones we never will.
It all needs to come from a place of allowance.
There are always going to be some days when emotions feel dark, moods feel edgy and tears feel endless. And that’s a good thing. That’s feeling. That’s experiencing all of life with all of its emotion. Full spectrum. With everything it brings.
When we acknowledge this, we don’t have to do anything at all.
We don’t have to beat the feelings into submission. We don’t have to avoid the pain with over-working, over-eating, over-shopping, over-exercising…or whatever it is we do to avoid feeling shitty.
We can allow the emotion to be. And maybe even listen to it. Maybe the anger is telling us to take action. Perhaps the overwhelm is asking us to slow down. Quite possibly the anxiety is reminding us to connect.
And sometimes it’s telling us nothing at all.
Sometimes it’s just an emotion. Having a moment. Passing through. And then drifting off.