I just learned that happiness doesn’t necessarily mean feeling happy.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re feeling happy, then you are happy. Be happy! Celebrate!
But you may be experiencing other types of emotions, and still feel “happy.” Perhaps the word “happiness” is problematic here. You can be “joyful,” “content,” or “satisfied” without necessarily feeling “happy.”
Let me explain.
The other day, I was laying sick, on my bed. Ever since having kids, I’ve gotten sick more often.
But every time I get sick (which is not that often — 2-3 times a year), I am overcome with a sense of gratitude.
Why? No, I’m not a masochist. I’m just glad that while I may not be well, the extent of my illness usually stops with common cold or flu. In the other words, I’m not very sick at all. If a cold or a flu is the extent of my illnesses, then bring them on. I’m so happy that I’m not dealing with a major illness, like cancer or AIDS.
So catching a flu serves as a reminder of how healthy, fortunate and lucky I am.
But that doesn’t mean that I actually feel better. I was grateful as usual, but also miserable.
So I put my headphones on, and found perfect music (I think it was Kalli’s While the City Sleeps) to soothe my soul while laying down feeling sick. It was dark, quiet, and lonely (my family had gone to bed already). I allowed myself to sulk in my misery.
And somewhere in that time, I began to feel a powerful sense of joy and relief. I was so overcome, that I started laughing to myself. I wouldn’t say I was happy — or was I? I was miserable, I certainly wasn’t enjoying that.
On the other hand, I felt that I was whole. As in no pretending. When I’m ill, I do a fair amount of pretending — pretending not to look or sound so bad. But you know, I was feeling bad. And when I finally accepted that and allowed myself to be that sorry character who was sick and feeling sorry for himself — aided with the perfect sound track for the occasion — I just felt very joyful.
Joyful to be able to fully feel and express the full, unrestrained emotion.
I realized that being happy doesn’t necessarily mean feeling happy all the time. I used to think that happy people didn’t feel sad or angry or other “negative” emotions.
But that is not true. As a happy and whole human being, you’d feel, and you should be allowed to feel, a full range of emotions. And the “happy” part comes from not having to restrain, conceal, negate, or filter any of them. Including those “negative” emotions.
I am a musician, so music serves as a catalyst, the unlocking key to some of the feelings that I do conceal, in an attempt to be more socially acceptable. Like anger, frustration and fear. The other day I was feeling angry, so I put System of a Down’s Prison Song. It’s such a pure, unadulterated rage. It’s a song about prison conspiracy in US, and I have to admit, I haven’t done any research to see if what they are claiming is true. But that wasn’t the point of the song, for me. I was angry, and I needed something that justified and unleashed my anger. For that purpose, the song worked great.
So to sum up, I observed several truths that are related to one another.
- Being able to fully embrace all emotions leads to a sense of contentment and joy.
- Some of us are concealing and restraining some of the emotions, those we deem “unacceptable” to express.
- If you belong to 2, then it’s helpful to have an outlet — occasions, art, whatever-works-for-you — to unlock the hidden emotions.
If you are feeling sad, allow yourself! Don’t judge your sadness. Whatever made you sad, your emotion is valid and fully justified. You have the right to feel that way — and feel that way freely and completely. Don’t try to limit the range or the depth of it. Just embody the feeling, until you are finished. Same thing with anger, disappointment, fear or longing. Give yourself the permission to experience and feel them fully.
You’ll find that once you do start to feel those emotions to their full extent, you’ll find that there is an “end” to it. You feel it for a while, but then after that, you don’t feel the same any more. This is the healthy way to be.
What won’t go away are those emotions that you aren’t feeling fully. They will never go away. And they do become worse, the longer they stay with you. Go lock yourself in a room and start feeling.
We all feel. Some of us feel more strongly than we realize. That’s OK — allow yourself.
For in embracing all feelings, we find freedom and joy.
Even when you are sad.