Mandatory Happiness is Not Real


Sadness is not a disease that must be eradicated, it is the background that gives definition to joy.

In the “real” world, no one wants to hear about your problems.

When you go into work in the morning and perhaps you find your coworkers congregating in the communal kitchen you know that it is inappropriate to discuss with them your financial struggles or your difficulties in dealing with a lover. You know that it is inappropriate to complain about how your boss is managing your department or to get too deep into office politics. Oh you may have a confidant or two that you can speak with behind closed doors but in any social situation there exists a very discernible limit to exactly how much “complaining” or “drama” is allowed.

I call this general state mandated happiness. We are expected to maintain the guise of happiness at all times, regardless of the events that transpire in our lives every day. We are expected to get up and go to work with a smile on our face and combat the typical problems of the day with a positive attitude and we are asked not to complain, not to make noise, not to rock the boat. In other words, we are not to upset the order.

At first blush, this may seem altruistic. After all, what’s wrong with encouraging everyone to have a positive attitude? Surely the world would be an unpleasant place with everyone complaining all day, nothing would get done.

And yet when we really look below the surface it should become apparent that this is all a ruse. The result is an apparent world of seemingly happy people who are all slapping a smile on their face pretending to be happy and even telling themselves that they are, all the while ignoring issues that may be building up inside them. And when we get upset or feel as if we’re in a rut, we look around at all these “happy” people and it feels as if we were the only ones who have problems.

Have you ever had this feeling? I imagine it’s incredibly common. And what’s worse, in a time when we should be able to look to the community for support, we might often feel there’s nobody home. The feeling is utterly isolating and the result is Depression, unless we are able to realize that this is all an act.

I bring all this up because I understand what it feels like to look around and see so much positive energy only to find it lacking in yourself. It can make one resentful. It stirs up anger and frustration at people who seem to be happy. It’s like their happiness is a slap in the face, pouring salt into a hemorrhaging wound.

To those who feel that anger inside them:


You should feel precisely what your body wants you to feel. Happiness is not about denying that problems exist or ignoring painful realities. It is not about wrapping every emotion up in happy-paper and pinning it up with a big red bow. The key is to embrace everything that comes to you, the good and the bad, and to accept and embrace them as you would a newborn child. Sometimes it is incredibly important to mourn, to be sad, and to cry. Sadness is not a disease that must be eradicated, it is the background that gives definition to joy.

Sadness must be celebrated and appreciated; it must be allowed to BE so that it came BEcome something new. If I say “make the decision to be happy” I’m not advocating that you lie to yourself or to deny that problems exist. What I mean is “don’t let yourself get caught,” don’t get snagged in the mental trap of doubt, depression, sadness and stress; it means realizing that when life gets your down there is an alternative to feeling sad. You have the choice and you have the freedom to make that choice every day, every moment, and every instant and in fact making that choice can be incredibly easy when your heart and your mind are in the right place.

Oscar Wilde said “we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” I think that sums it up quite nicely. Any fool can smile in ignorance. It takes courage to face the world as it is and to smile anyway. A smile in that sense can be the most empowering decision you can make. Happiness should empower you to sing, not shut you up.


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