“The notion that a human being should be constantly happy
is a uniquely modern, uniquely American,
uniquely destructive idea.” Dr. Andrew Weil
Flashback to the time my high school aged son asked me: “Mom, where’s your great big smile?” Daniel had noticed the absence of the ever- present smile that had earned me the nickname “smiley” for much of my life.
So what was going on? Was I grieving a loss, disappointed in my life situation or….. just in a funk? The answer was NO! I was finally waking up from the lie I had unknowingly been living for so long – the lie that kept me locked in a frozen state of sham “happiness.”
I was a master at disconnecting from my own truth. For decades my smile had served as a mask protecting me from the disapproval of others.
I learned as a small child that any expression of “negative” emotional energy like anger, fear or sadness was greeted with dismay by my parents. When I repressed these painful emotions, I felt safe and loved; indeed, my mask served as an effective coping mechanism for decades.
My habit of emotional avoidance kept me frozen in a kind of trance that did not permit emotional health or balance. The more I ignored myself and my uncomfortable emotions, the more my physical health suffered.
Merriam Webster defines happiness as a state of well-being and contentment, joy; a pleasurable or satisfying experience. Synonyms for happiness include cheerfulness, merriment, gaiety, glee, delight, good spirits, lightheartedness, exuberance, exhilaration, and elation.
Yes, we all want to experience states of well-being and contentment. Yet, the constant pursuit of states of elation can keep us from allowing and honoring our full range of emotions.
“Unless we can process, navigate and be comfortable with the full range of our emotions, we won’t learn to be resilient… the strong cultural focus on happiness … is actually making us less resilient.” Susan David, PhD
We are not meant to be happy all of the time, and our efforts to be happy can actually create massive amounts of unconscious tension in our bodies that keep our nervous systems activated and interfere with our innate healing mechanisms.
Many people see themselves as flawed and abnormal because they experience periods of deep sadness, grief, despair, and anger. But humans are designed to experience ALL emotions. We cannot experience the gift of true joy if we don’t honor and accept the darker emotions.
“… it may be normal, healthy, and even productive to experience mild
to moderate depression from time to time
as part of the variable emotional spectrum….” Dr. Andrew Weil
When we move from avoiding to allowing emotional energy, it flows through us. Our nervous systems regulate, and we begin to actually enjoy greater health AND more joy and contentment!
A true smile reflects the light and love within us. As my mask slowly melted, my smile became a barometer of my truth. My life expanded, and my health was transformed.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile,
and sometimes your smile is the source of your joy.” Thich Nhat Hanh
And, as always, remember – YOU hold the key!