WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU’RE FORCED TO APPEAR HAPPY ALL THE TIME?

Seems to me the amount of laughter and shouting, high fives and hoots is greatly increasing. Sometimes it’s not a choice, it’s a command from those around you. And it may be making you miserable.

Take a Zumba teacher I ran into recently. Not only is she constantly yelling encouraging phrases like “great!”, “good going,” but also she demands the class shout back at her. Whoops, yeah-hey, uh-huh. If the students aren’t sufficiently loud enough for her, she’ll lean in toward us, hand behind ear to encourage an increase in volume. These noises are accompanied with high-fives as she scoots between the rows as well as stomach bumps. She’s not alone in her approach. In my spinning class, the instructor’s claps and shouts and music are so loud, I’m forced to wear ear plugs.

Most visible are the personalities on television. Each news hour is replete with jokes between newscasters, calls for “best day ever!” As repartee leaps from person to person, the level of hysteria rises higher until I expect a report on a new tragedy, war, or disaster will be interspersed between guffaws. And for casual interactions between miscellaneous folks in a store or on the street, it’s common to be concluded with “Make a great day!”

I object to this trend. If I’m in a bad mood, if a friend has died, a check bounced, a daughter doesn’t call, the meal burns, a huge bill sent, a politician’s spouted another lie, why do I have to pretend everything’s wonderful?

I realize that humans usually smile or laugh when pleased or trying to establish a pleasant social interaction. And I do so frequently. Not just in public either. Last night I got the giggles as I read the latest Ladies #1 Detective Agency novel. I simply don’t want to manipulated into false gaiety like a ventriloquist’s puppet.

To me, people insisting on happiness, joy, smiles, laughs all the time are like substance abusers constantly searching for a high. They’re bound to drop into a destructive dejection eventually. There’s value in feeling emotion, every type of emotion, to its height and depth, but restricting yourself to the so-called positive ones can’t be great for you.

I’ve found people who agree with me. Danish psychology professor Svend Brinkmann from Aalborg University says forcing ourselves to be happy all the time could leave us emotionally stunted. Some believe trying to be cheerful all the time can actually hurt us, stunt creativity, set an unrealistic and ever-impossible goal, hinder our ability to relate to those around us. We evolved to experience a range of emotions, says Time magazine. To avoid the negative ones limits us and, surprise!, ultimately our personal satisfaction.

So if you, like me, feel forced to laugh on the inside while crying on the inside, do yourself a favor and fuhgeddaboudit. You’ll do yourself more good by experiencing the full menu of emotions.

5 thoughts on “WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU’RE FORCED TO APPEAR HAPPY ALL THE TIME?

  1. Totally saw myself in your post . Sometimes I’m so good in making others believe I’m all smiles & happiness that they get shocked to know I break , get hurt , sadden like everyone else. So much is expected of us but only a few cares enjoy To ask if we’re okay.

    • I believe that saddness and tears are good to experience. “A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” But unless we feel open enough to express these, others don’t know. One time when a friend had just been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, I started crying in Zumba. The teacher was kind enough to ask about me after class, which I most appreciated.

  2. If more conversations were honest we’d see many fascinating sides of others. Growing up most of us were not allowed the full expression of our feelings? Never too late.

    • Or somehow we learned what was considered appropriate behavior. It’s a balancing act for all of us, men as well as women. I’ve always, since birth, been considered too loud. It certainly affects people’s perception of me. Men are supposed to be tough and not cry. Humans are fascinating.

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