Too frequently, I hear the phrase “I just want to be happy” in response to any and every circumstance imaginable. I’ve heard Oprah Winfrey ask many of her show’s guests, “What is your dream for your children?” Countless times the response is “I just want my children to be happy.” In marriages where a partner has been unfaithful, often the wife or husband expresses a desire to erase the cheating in order to return to a state of happiness. Couples can become stuck in the place of wanting to get back to where they were without a reality-based consideration of where they are. With so many emotions under the scope of the human experience, it seems happiness is the one that reigns supreme. A desire to be happy has caused artists to write songs, producers to develop documentaries, and individual people to single-mindedly seek happiness as a solution to almost any problem.
Happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, and fear are just a few emotional responses that human beings are capable of experiencing. Regardless of your preference for happiness over sadness or anger, all of the emotional responses are important and have a particular function. For example, happiness and joy signal you to continue the behaviors that led to the emotions in the first place, while anger and frustration indicate that you need to make necessary changes. Rather than seeking happiness as an ultimate goal, recognizing your true emotional state brings awareness to your life so that you are better able manage the inevitable ebbs and flows that naturally occur. When you mask your true emotion with more comfortable emotions, you are actually making the situation worse by stopping your potential to grow and evolve by not allowing true authenticity to manifest. By doing this, you halt your personal growth and the evolution of your spirit– a main purpose of your incarnation.
Generally speaking, men are more emotionally comfortable expressing anger than other emotions like hurt, helplessness, or abandonment. This is not to say that women do not get angry, but I specifically use men in this example because traditionally, men are socialized in a way where expressions of anger are more acceptable than other emotional responses. When women become angry, they may cry, which allows other people to connect to accompanying emotions like hurt or sadness. Men, on the other hand, are likely to feel better if they cry, but “oh no,” men can’t cry, right? Or maybe men only cry in the dark? Is that really still an issue in our society? The point is that many men have problems expressing their true emotions. When you become angry, ask yourself, “why?” and “what?”
- Why am I angry? What is really going on here? Remember, anger is a tricky emotion so don’t necessarily accept the first answer. After serious probing, you may think, I’m really ticked off because the burglars came in the house and stole my flat screen. With continued contemplation, you may find that vulnerability rather than anger represents your true feelings. The next step is accepting and dealing with the vulnerability. The way you would act when you feel vulnerable is a lot different than how you act when you are angry. If you notice a tear, just think to yourself, “My feminine and masculine sides are connecting, therefore, I am evolving.”
Tips on getting real with your emotions
- Peace Keepers: When your words and actions are for the benefit of keeping the peace and do not reflect how you truly feel then chances are that your fake happiness is harming you. Some situations require that you stick up for yourself and speak your truth.
- Mind over Matter: You can buy all the Manolo Blahnik shoes in the world or the largest house overlooking the Pacific Ocean and still find yourself searching for happiness. Happiness is a personal experience having to do with your state of mind rather than material things.
- Substances and Selfishness: Heavy drinking and drug use without regard for personal and societal responsibilities doesn’t equate to true happiness. The idea of “I’m going to do whatever I want just because it makes me happy” not only gives a false sense of happiness but can also be reckless and potentially have harmful effects.
- Get Mad, It’s okay: When people get angry and use their anger productively, great changes can happen. Think back to the Civil Rights Era when black people were mad as hell over discrimination and the law of the land at the time. Collectively, their anger brought about legal changes that served to make their lives better. Most importantly, this anger changed the consciousness of black and white people who began to look differently at the system of racism.
Before you use the easy way out and profess your need to be happy, stop and think. Ask yourself these two questions: How am I truly feeling? How can I express my true feelings in a way that supports my personal growth? Remember, happiness is but one emotion and is not the best choice for every situation. Choose wisely and grow purposefully.