Unhappy people say happiness is overrated. Unhappy people and grumpy cat. Well, stick a feather in my hat and call me grumpy cat, or something… If I opted to call this site the Happy Bitch, or The Happiest Bitch on the Block even, it’d do better. But I’m not in the business of promoting happiness. I know what you’re thinking, she must be a great therapist, huh? Well, screw you, I am.
Actually, I’m not unhappy. Not perpetually anyway. I do a lot of the same mood boosts for happiness and I read the same books. I just don’t value being happy as much I value other aspects of myself and my life. Seeking joy through mindfulness, especially in its origins, is more about living life fully, than it is about being happy. Por exemplar (for a fuller life, I’m also brushing up on my Spanish); my happiest day would be one day after I’ve done something of accomplishment, and two days before I’m expected to do anything else. My happiest days are Saturdays. But they are my emptiest days.
On full days, my happiness is fleeting. It’s not necessarily replaced by sadness or anger, instead I go through a full range of emotions. Which is really exhausting, so I sleep late. This fullness is the “joy” that mindfulness practitioners allude to. A nice side effect of a full, value driven life is happiness; but it is not the goal.
Remember when you found out dandelions were weeds. We all found out the same way. We saw some, we plucked them into a stinky bouquet only to present them to someone who was unimpressed. This means we had to like that person enough, hold them fondly in our little minds and have the forethought to pluck those pretty yellow flowers, only to be greeted with a look of disgust. So now we’re standing there like an asshole, and we owe someone real flowers. That’s what valuing happiness is like. Its missing the intention and beauty of feeling and connection by trying to trade it for another more valued state. And in case you couldn’t tell this is more than a tacky metaphor, it’s an unresolved anecdote in which I wish my aunt would have just taken the fucking dandelions with a smile. ::insert wilted spirit here:: Anyway…
The reason I have a full range of emotions is because I’m supposed to feel them, not so I can keep calm and carry on, but so that I give one, two, or as many fucks of my choosing. It’s allowing myself to express and have emotions without shame for having had them in the first place that leads to emotional regulation. And I said without shame, not without boundaries. Healthy emotional expression means making the situation better in the long-term and conserving relationships. Expressing emotions effectively is different than acting on every emotion you have. Mindfulness was a huge help to me in that I used to act on my emotions without properly identifying them most of the time, which is a pretty lethal mix. I haven’t killed anyone, though, yet.
I went to a therapist once in grad school. Literally, just the one time. I went because I was angry all the time and I’m not a characteristically angry person.
“Sometimes when people are expressing anger, they’re actually feeling a more vulnerable emotion, like fear.”
Pshh, no. Not me, I aint a-scared of nothin’. I actually said something like that sans Chuckie from Rugrats voice. It took me a year to realize I was actually terrified. Whatdya know. I can picture him being like, “called it!” Smug bastard. No, I shouldn’t. He was actually quite kind and professional. Whatever.
So I guess the take-away from all this is that all emotions are essentially good emotions. If we know what we are actually feeling. It took a lot of time and a lot of self-compassion for me to be able to admit that I was scared during that time. I often think I’m feeling angry, rageful -almost every time I feel this way I first felt rejected, embarrassed, inadequate. When we can recognize our primary emotions, we have the chance to do something different, to soothe. “It’s okay that I feel this way, I feel myself getting reactive. This is because I need love and belongingness. Not because I’m a bad human, but because I am a human.” I can work on the extent of the neediness of course, but if I notice what I actually feel, what I really need, I have the opportunity to fulfill my own needs, relying less and less on the external validation that I once prized. And that responsiveness to myself, that act of full living is greater than the fleeting smile it produces.