When asked about their ultimate goals in life, people usually mention being happy. Our favorite tv shows often ended happily ever after. The commercial billboards all along the roads try to promote happiness. Well famous singers sing happiness. “Be happy” I read on my social media accounts as if it is an action I should do. Children are also asked not to cry and not to be sad.
In my opinion, happiness is overrated. Happiness, as a noun, is the state of being happy. Happy as an adjective means feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. It is a positive or pleasant emotion. So happiness is an emotion.
During the 1970s, psychologist Paul Eckman identified six basic emotions that he suggested were universally experienced in all human cultures. The emotions he talked about were sadness, happiness, fear, disgust, surprise, and anger. He later expanded his list to include pride, shame, embarrassment, and excitement.
All of these emotions exist. Some are pleasant, some unpleasant. But they do all exist.
Therefore, both happiness and sadness are primary emotions that we experience. Happiness is the most positive one while sadness is associated with feelings like shame, grief, disappointment.
In fact, you cannot feel happy without feeling sad. Happiness is not a stand-alone feeling.
Ironically, a person’s potential to reach the highest levels of happiness is limited by their dread of experiencing emotional sadness. So we cannot selectively choose not to feel sad without eliminating the feeling of happiness as well.
Sadness is an emotion that reminds us of what matters to us, what gives our lives value and meaning.
Intuitively, we don’t want to feel sad. Culturally, we avoid sadness and end up suppressing this very natural emotion. So what are we really avoiding when we suppress our sadness?
Let’s try to shift our perspective. Happiness can arise. Sadness can arise. Any other emotion can arise. And it’s totally okay. Let’s accept them all. Let’s recognize them all so we can feel them in a healthy way. We do need our emotions in order to be more connected to ourselves, our needs and wants.
So worry, be happy, be sad, and most of all be mindful!