Permission for Unhappiness

Happiness, contemplated for centuries and written about endlessly, is a concept that has been subject to an indefatigable human quest and ironically became more fleeting as the search increased in ardor. According to scientists, happiness is the sum of our overall satisfaction with life and how good we feel on a daily basis. From a mathematical standpoint, about 50% of our genes, 40% of our thoughts and actions, and 10% of our personal circumstances compose joy. As such, things such as our job, home, money etc. make up only 10% of the whole deal.

We already know that nurturing our relationships, gaining new experiences (and absorbing those experiences with our five senses), focusing on the present moment, making time for things that excite us, being grateful for what we have, eating well and working out are all part of an endless list of things that help to make us happier. The real issue here is to really do these things.

On the other hand, we could build our lives not upon our own truths but superficial realities that merely appear pleasant from the outside; neglect our priorities; obsessively compare ourselves to others; write scenarios for events that have not yet even occurred; try to keep people in our lives that are no good to us; believe we can change others; sacrifice ourselves for others’ happiness; and live without learning to say no. Alas, being unhappy can be this easy. (It’s no surprise that millions are very successful in this particular endeavor).

Just as we can find happiness through elements that are under our control (see paragraph two) we can lose it through events that are out of our control (health issues, losses). A lot of us have unrealistic expectations due to a false conviction that happiness should never be lost. For this is the actual reason why I’m writing this post. Perhaps what the concept of happiness needs most is the belief in balance among the various parts. Especially when happiness is associated with the perception that something positive lies in every negative life event or the necessity to be in a constant state of contentment. The effort of trying to find something good in every event that causes unhappiness is exhausting over a certain period of time. All of a sudden the ‘optimistic butterfly,’ that you once were a few months ago has turned into the most depressed being. Perhaps it is this dichotomy that breeds prejudice against personal development books. For when you present surreal and what is called ‘balloon’ emotional states on a silver platter, you create people who don’t know what to do with their unhappiness when this particular balloon bursts. That’s why I believe we should allow the feeling of unhappiness. Of course without forgetting about the balance I mentioned. And this balance is so grandiose, that the dumbest thing we could do is to believe that every type of emotion is permanent.



Translated by Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

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