Is Happiness Necessary?

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BE HAPPY, DADGUM IT! (but if you can’t: EAT THIS)

Um, stop telling me what to do, Yahoo/facebook/Twitter/Drudge links. Anyone one else suddenly feel as if happiness is the new panacea for what ails us?

Is Happiness Necessary?

If I had to pigeonhole myself, I’d say I was an optimistic realist. Huh? What does that even mean?

Realist: a person who understands what is real and possible in a particular situation and is able to deal with problems in an effective and practical way.

Optimist: a person who habitually expects good things to happen.

Optimistic realist!  That’s me!

Some may think these two terms are diametrically opposed. Not so. To be optimistic in the face of reality has served me well throughout my life.

Example: Life hands you a stinkin’ pile; you figure out a way to make that pile work for you and others. Doesn’t change the fact of the pile, just how you handle the challenge of said pile.

Realistic optimist!

Although, it could be argued that these two traits are inborn and not something I could choose.

Over the years, I have read about the happiness factor in people’s lives and how we should choose happiness, that it’s imperative for a good and healthy life.  I flinch a little when I see the headlines about happiness, because that hasn’t been my experience in my 50+ years.

Am I a happy gal?  Most of the time. Do I conscientiously choose happiness? Not by a long shot.

Let me explain…

Happiness is a feeling that doesn’t swim well with life’s vicious shark attacks. Happiness is the little fish that gets chomped in the process of life’s school of ruthless sharks descending on your lovely beach. I can’t imagine that when life’s SHARK WEEK! happens to you, your thoughts will run to happiness, or that you will try to remember happiness in that moment. Or, maybe that is entirely my failing. Maybe you will find your happiness while bleeding out.

Optimism is an entirely different thang.

There you are on the beach, an arm severed, wondering how in the hell you’re going to survive, knowing the reality of your situation is dire, when suddenly, someone offers help. Suddenly your reality has a bit of hope, you might get through your shark attack and be able to move forward. It might be a glimmer, but that’s optimism.

The side-eye I give to the happiness movement is that it leaves a trail of guilt in its wake. BE HAPPY, DADGUMIT! Um, no can do at the moment. Can’t you see that life is trying to kill me?! ~arm spurting blood with each heartbeat~

I have enough to feel guilty about in my life: snarky comments, too much cake (wait. is that even a thing?!), staring at my smartphone too long in others presence, knee-jerk eye rolls, pretending I’m asleep so Garry lets Dex outside on a weekend morning, sharing fart jokes with someone who obviously does not appreciate funny sounding body functions.

To add BE HAPPY! to that list when the reality of whatever shark attack I’m moving through at the moment is decidedly NOT HAPPY, seems like I’m hammering my own thumb…on purpose. No thanks.

Instead, I’ll remain my optimistic realist self. I’ll know that while happiness is not required to live a good and healthy life, and it’s lovely to feel and I’m sure I’ll feel it over and over again in my life, the difference will be that my happiness will be a natural occurrence, a byproduct of living and not thinking about doing.

Which really makes me wonder: is happiness something you can teach a person to be? Sure, there are traits of happy folks, there are meditations to dwell on, there are smiles to wear and hearts to shift, but is the actual place of being happy, a teachable, tangible, emotion?

If it is, then it seems as if I could teach myself to be angry all the time, too (not gonna happen, but come on, play along). The thought of me teaching myself to be angry is laughable. FYI: I’m not talking about righteous anger here. I’m talking the simple act of feeling angry when stuff happens. BE ANGRY, DADGUMIT! Logically, we know that method probably won’t work. Plus, it certainly isn’t necessary. My reasoning is if it doesn’t work for one emotion, if most likey doesn’t for another.

I’ll hang on to my natural traits of being a optimistic realist, instead. Doesn’t mean everything goes my way. Doesn’t mean that it’s a false put-on. Doesn’t mean I have to force the feelings. I don’t even think it’s a choice for me. DNA and all.

While it would be amazing to feel happy for the majority of the time, while moving through this life, I think so much of what we read about needing is a direct effect of folks feeling emotions that aren’t in the happy realm, the emotions that aren’t as socially acceptable as a giant HAPPY. It’s tough to be sad and depressed and upset. Yet, those are also healthy emotions to feel, you know, as long as you work through those badboys. With pop culture breathing down our necks if we express anything other than the sweet light of all is well, it makes sense that we see so many imploring us to BE HAPPY, DADGUM IT!

I don’t think it’s that easy; I don’t think manufactured happiness is necessary to live a good and healthy life.

I’ll take my realistic optimism and on the days I’m having a happy, I’ll be grateful for it. I’m just not going to dwell on making that my emotion of choice.

What about you? Have I lost my mind or have I hit your quivering nerve of HELL YEAH!





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  1. Hell yeah! 🙂 I do think you make excellent points. I understand “it leaves a trail of guilt in its wake.” But I have to admit that sometimes, I am able to choose happiness. I wake and decide, I am happy. And then I am happy. For no reason.

    But I would describe myself as a Realistic optimist as well.

    Very thought provoking post. Enjoyed reading it!

    • Thanks, Tanvi. I have also thought that I could focus on the “happy” and therefore possibly be a bit happier, but for the most part I’m a feel-all-the-feelings-you’re-having-at-the-moment kinda gal. Appreciate your thoughts!

  2. I fully believe there is a HUGE difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is an emotion, fleeting and fickle – based on those around us usually. Joy comes from something you know. A deep abiding knowledge that sustains you through the best and worst of times. Joy is what has kept me going through a nasty divorce, heath issues and financial droughts. Joy in the what I know is what makes me smile when I am crippled with pain or ecstatically happy because my hubs is coming home.

    I have joy because I know I am loved, unconditionally. And that IS necessary. At leas I think so. 🙂

  3. Axiesdad aka Bob says

    Happy is what I feel watching puppies romp in the back yard; it’s great for a few minutes, but I got s–t to do. Serenity is what I feel because life is good and tough times don’t last forever. I know which one I choose.

  4. Oh, Mrs. Tucker, you hit the nail on the head with this post. I have ALWAYS thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t feel happiness all the time. I’ve spent most of my life content, and felt there HAD to be something missing inside me because I was okay with “only” being content. As a result, I taught my children that they should strive for contentment in life, and enjoy the moments of happiness when they happen. Thanks for the phrase ‘optimistic realist’; I’m taking it and running with it.

    • Brenda, thank you for this. I think this highlights my thoughts perfectly. Happiness cannot be manufactured just because you want to be happy, and when we are pushed to “be happy” I think it can be harmful. You’re welcome to the phrase….run with it!

  5. You always bring out such good points in your posts.

  6. They are great points. It’s true if you don’t achieve that wonderful happy feeling when life is dealing you lemons then you can add guilt and failure to your rotten feelings. I love the fish and shark analogy. I work on changing my circumstance or thinking when things aren’t going the way I want, so I guess I am choosing, or at least trying to choose happiness, but sometimes being sad and made is necessary. Thanks for the good read. I found you through Grand Social.

  7. This is excellent stuff, Mrs. T! Great points. I’ve been doing some research on this very subject in the last few weeks and finding that this positive/happy psychology is actually a recent construct here in America and that science is showing it can have adverse effects and actually make people feel less happy if they feel forced to pretend they are. It also has resulted in calling normal “non happy” emotions depression, when it’s not at all. We are created to feel a whole gamut of emotions. To put plugs on any of those is to do harm to our very being. You can feel anger, etc. without acting on it. Feeling our emotions – all of them – makes us more complete whole people.

    I really like what you say here: “…….my happiness will be a natural occurrence, a byproduct of living and not thinking about doing.”

    • I’ve actually written about the importance of feeling all the feelings. It’s important and necessary for growth. To ignore the more unpleasant feelings, to feel guilt upon feeling those feelings, is as harmful as having to be happy went in fact you aren’t. Thanks for joining the conversation, Ava.

  8. “I don’t think manufactured happiness is necessary to live a good and healthy life.” — Totally agree with you!

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