To: Well-intentioned Happiness Hustlers
From: Walking Wounded
Cc: Oblivious bystanders
Date: The fifth of never
Re: Gratitude and the happiness imperative
In response to your concerns expressed for my lack of apparent outward displays of “happiness”:
I thank you for your genuine and kind interest. Also, I thank you for sharing your research-based advice regarding the value of “counting my blessings” and the correlation with positive feelings.
It is on this point I would like to dwell for a moment, and consider some alternative perspectives:
a) How does comparing my luck to that of some poor farmer who just lost his entire family and all his worldly possessions in a random tsunami, make me (or anyone) feel happier? “At least you’re not that guy” invalidates how I feel and dishonors “that guy’s” humanity.
b) A lack of this feeling we call “happy” is not synonymous with being ungrateful. I am fully aware that I won the lottery in life, and I am genuinely grateful for it. However, that gratitude does not always (not every moment of every day) translate into a positive buzz. Reminding me of what I already know about how great I have it adds an unnecessary sense of guilt to a temporary, though real, state of something other than what humans generally experience as happiness.
c) Are you encouraging me to count my blessings and be grateful for what I have so that you are not inconvenienced by my sadness, disappointment, or other non-happy emotion?
d) Is not happiness only one of the many possible emotions that constitutes the varied blessings of this rich human experience? Why should I not also give thanks for this ability to feel and express anger, angst, grief, and more?
Believing that you are completely well-intentioned, I offer you these counter-recommendations for when you want to “buck up” your fellow citizens of the civilized world:
a) Listen, and offer the occasional sympathetic “grrr” or “sigh”. Weep with those who weep, even. If you can.
b) Don’t talk about yourself. It’s not about you.
c) Leave the room. Seriously, it’s ok. Misery does not always love or need company, particularly when that company is trying to get him (or her) to be someone else. If you can’t simply “be there” with the alternative-to-happy emotions, you probably should be elsewhere.
d) Slide the bowl of chocolates down the table on your way out.