I read something recently about the culture of telling people they should be happy; how it’s unrealistic and also disrespectful to the other emotions they want to feel.
“I want to be sad dammit!” the author said, almost as though she was rebelling against this drive towards happiness and instead clawing at the other emotions that had somehow been deemed less acceptable by this happy-driven society.
You know, I totally get that… sometimes I want to be sad too, and sometimes I want to be all out furious (you should see me around and about day 21 of my cycle!), but I also felt a bit frustrated as I read, because I felt a bit like the author had gotten the wrong end of the stick.
Or maybe we (and I say that because I’m undoubtedly guilty of it too) haven’t been communicating it well enough. Because what she was referring to as happy, I would call peace. And that drive for permanent (or at least regular) inner peace is something I don’t just think is possible, but that I’m incredibly passionate about.
I used to be someone who was constantly unhappy. Whatever was going on in my outer world I would be worried, stressed, and working myself into knots thinking about what I should be doing, what other people might think, and all of the things that could possible go wrong. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t productive in any way and by Gods it was tiring! And whenever I read those self-help books or articles, or indeed whenever I write them, that’s the mental state I always think of.
Now I’m pleased to say that my life has changed for the better and I’m generally the opposite of all of those things I described; that’s not to say my outer world never stresses me out or worries me, just that inside I stay me… centred and pretty damned peaceful.
Is that “happy”? Well it’s not unhappy, but it also doesn’t mean I’m singing and dancing all the time. This change means that I’m more at peace – more comfortable with myself, more comfortable with the Universe and its flow, and also more comfortable with my moods.
I still get so angry I want to shout, I still get sad, there are still times I want to curl up with Marley & Me or the Notebook and sob until I’m exhausted, just because. But that’s OK, because I understand that those feelings are necessary, I have a good idea where they come from and I can almost enjoy them more as a result.
So yes, to the lady who wrote that article, I totally agree. Maybe we should stop talking about the search for “happiness” and how to be happy, and should instead focus on the search for peace.