Monday, 7 May 2018

I don't want to be 'happy' - here's why

Hello lovely people,

Today I want to talk to you about being 'happy'

Every day, we are bombarded with messages from the media, the healthcare system, the education system, the wellness community and pretty much everyone in between that happiness is the one true goal in life. Furthermore, 'happiness' is equated with success, health and is viewed as a personal achievement. Happiness is constantly idealised as the best, purest, most desirable emotion out there.

Believe or not, this is incredibly dangerous. 

By idealising happiness we are creating a moral hierarchy of emotions. We are also actively disregarding the full range of human emotions.

Reality check: growth and healing are often incredibly uncomfortable and can bring up a lot of so-called 'negative' emotions. Even the fact that we label certain emotions as 'positive' and 'negative' is problematic and very telling of our attitudes towards them. 
Labelling our emotions creates a shame-culture surrounding so-called 'negative' emotions, We don't want to talk about them, we don't want to admit to having them and most importantly, we don't want to feel them.  In idealising happiness we degrade and discourage emotions like grief, anger, sadness and fear. 

Despite what we are told, we should not seek to erase these emotions; in doing so, we are simply suppressing them. Suppressed emotions will bury themselves deep in our subconscious and manifest themselves physically and emotionally whilst informing our every thought and action, whether we like it or not....

But what's wrong with wanting to be happy? Isn't that just optimism?

When we idealise happiness, we imply that happiness is a choice. Like health, happiness is rarely a choice. Of course, we can make choices that align with heath and healing but that does not guarantee we will experience happiness. For those of us with mental illnesses, we experience so called 'negative' emotions a lot of the time. I recently saw a poster advertising a 'wellness week' that said 'your happiness is your own personal responsibility'. I could not disagree more. Whilst I agree that healing is your own personal responsibility, we cannot apply the same rules when it comes to happiness

In in order to cultivate a healthy relationship with ourselves and our mental health, we cannot only accept so-called 'positive' emotions. We must accept and embrace all of our emotions and crucially, remove any judgement surrounding them.. Emotions are fluid. Health is ever-changing. 
Besides, it is not humanly possible to feel happy 100% of the time. This is a fantasy we must let go of. Feeling happy all the time would mean a complete disconnect from reality on an interpersonal and global level.  

Quite apart from anything else, I don’t want to be happy all the time. Being happy all the time would mean that I never grow, I never normalise my own discomfort, I suppress my own emotions and I never heal. 

Besides that, emotions are not mutually exclusive. I can feel anxious, sad and excited all at the same time. Aren’t humans amazing?! Why would we want to erase the technicolour spectrum of our emotional capacity? 

It is an unfortunate part of western culture that happiness is held in such high regard. 

Moreover, happiness is an ableist concept. 

Mental illness means that for many people it is not possible to feel happy at a particular time. Also it is important to note that health, happiness and beauty can all be correlated and equated with personal wealth. Happiness is a class issue. Happiness is a racial issue. Happiness is a gender issue. How accessible happiness is in your life is determined by your privilege

In order to recognise injustice and process pain we must feel uncomfortable feelings. Not feeling 'negative' feelings does nothing but delay the healing process. 

Processing and experiencing emotions is a vital part of maintaining our mental health. 
Scratch that, it is a vital part of existing as a human being.

We must surrender to our emotions. We must embrace our emotions, their complexity and multi-dimensional existence. 

When we welcome our emotions into our lives and offer them unconditional love, we are in control of them- not the other way around. 

Control, for the most part, is an illusion, my point is that when we surrender to our emotions we acknowledge the truth of our situation and as a result we are empowered

Emotion is a means of processing trauma. It is a line of communication between the mind, body and psyche that keeps us safe. We are not flawed for experiencing anxiety, fear, saddness etc. 

That’s not to say we should not seek help in managing our emotions - of course, that is always a good idea. However I truly believe that if we are to move forward as individuals and as a collective, we must stop idealising happiness and instead accept all of ourselves including the emotions that we do not want to accept or love. In doing so, we are free.

In the pursuit of happiness, we will only experience disappointment and failure as a result of the unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves.

So what can we do about our happiness paradox?

 ♥ We must give ourselves permission to experience all and any of our emotions.

♥ We must stop prescribing judgement alongside our emotions.

♥ We must embrace what makes us uniquely human. 

♥ We must actively encourage discomfort and normalise it.

♥ We must not seek to eradicate or discriminate against certain emotions.

♥ We must celebrate our emotional spectrum and share it with others.

Something that I have found very useful, personally, is reading and watching poetry. Modern poetry is a medium through which people often express and share their trauma. It is such a relief for me to hear others speak of pain in their lives so freely and so fiercely. It almost seems crass to call it beautiful  but in many ways it is just that. In writing about our pain in a way that is raw, honest and unsweetened, we celebrate our truth as a gift to the world.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur is a cult classic and was my first venture into modern poetry.

I have recently finished Salt by Nayyirah Waheed and that too, is really, really wonderful.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, as always thank you for reading it!

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Until the next time,

Niamh xx

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