Taking the Pressure Off of Being Happy
October 27, 2016
When my son was much smaller and would be heard crying by my mother, her advice would be, “Give him what he needs, tell him to be happy. Kids don’t need to be sad.” My ex-husband repeatedly echoes the same belief: ‘Kids are supposed to be happy, I’ll do everything to make my kid happy!’ As a young single mom at that time, I was conflicted for I didn’t feel what they were saying had been true in my experience, nor fair for that matter in preparing one for real life. I felt that it would actually be doing my child a disservice to bypass or try not to feel or express certain ‘unpleasant’ emotions.
Somewhere along the way we must have mistaken our kids’ natural carefree nature with them needing to be in a constant state of happiness.
When did we confuse temporary, fleeting happiness to the deep sense of happiness that resides within regardless of the weather and circumstance? Why are we constantly chasing the former as if by doing so, we’ll create lasting and permanent sense of satisfaction in our lives, empty of all voids?
Why are we placing momentary happiness above all other emotions? Why do we have the false belief that life is suppose to be happy all the time? Being happy is as fleeting and useful as any other emotion. We are also capable of feeling a myriad of other emotions including sadness, grief, shame, anger, confusion, jealousy, discontent, etc, etc. This is how we process our experiences in the world; this is how we navigate intelligently through life; this is how we connect with our human-ness and ultimately each other through the empathy that we strengthen by actually feeling whatever it is that is coming up.
So now when my son experiences sadness (or any other emotion), Jason and I work to assure him: I feel you experiencing sadness, we’re here with you, you are loved.
By being with and validating our children’s (partner’s, friend’s) emotions, they are then free to feel whatever it is they feel with openness, freedom, and curiosity, which allows them to process their emotions in a safe and healthy way. Emotions are wonderful and useful tools! They are great at telling us to slow down, take a break, redirect, get help, look more closely at what we might have been missing, to step up, speak out, strive for something more, do what we love, indicating that perhaps it’s time to forgive, let go, etc.
As we navigate on this path of life, let us resist the temptation and conditioning of denying, suppressing, numbing our emotions. We don’t need more apathy in this world! Let us allow space for ourselves and our loved ones to actually feel all emotions as we hold a safe and loving space for ourselves and one another.