Be wary of falling into the ‘Happiness Trap’ illusion in 2019
I’VE BEEN thinking about my New Year’s resolutions and something that used to be right at the top: happiness.
Overall, it’s overrated.
For this reason, I’ve decided to take it down from its previously prized place at the top. Give it a little less space on my shelf. Why would I do that?
Because this happiness thing sometimes feels like a snare.
I’ve even got a name for it – the Happiness Trap – and I’ve become tangled up in its web more times than I care to count. Perhaps you have, too, without being aware of it. See if this sounds familiar:
You overhear a conversation where one person asks, “What’s your No 1 goal in life?” and the other person responds with something noble-sounding, like “My only true goal is to be happy”.
That is the very definition of the Happiness Trap, and from this moment forward I’m leaving all that nonsense in 2018. I’m kicking it to the kerb – not happiness itself, mind you, after all, I’m not a fool – but the berating and beating-up of myself during those moments when happiness is not present.
As I step into 2019, I’m stepping out of the Happiness Trap. I’m wiggling my foot free from the misguided notion that happiness is the most important thing in the world and the primary thing toward which I should be striving.
Not any more. My heart needs something larger.
If my only goal in life is to be happy, does this mean that in those moments when I’m not happy – in those moments when I’m in the middle of some other intense emotion, which is very often – that I’m falling short of my goal? If I’m not in a Happy Place, then I’m in a Bad Place? Hogwash.
It’s as important for me to feel the deepest depths of sadness and the caustic, fluttery feeling of fear or confusion as it is to feel that warm, cosy glow of happiness. Each emotion of mine deserves to be embraced and fully experienced; each of them deserves a full seat at the table.
For too long now, when they come to visit, I’ve been seating all of my other emotions at the kids’ table – or at least the card table way over in the corner; the rickety table with the folding legs and the sagging centre that somebody always drags out and throws up for the unexpected guests.
In the new year, I’m going to bring myself more balance. I’m going to embrace this age-old thing called the Theory of Opposites: You cannot truly know the essence of something without fully knowing its opposite.
You can’t know the fullness of happiness without having known the depths of grief; you can’t experience true clarity of mind without also having experienced heart-stopping confusion. Go through the emotions and fill in the blanks with their opposites. It works.
Here’s why. Opposing forces help create greater balance and clearer contrast; one almost helps define the other. They belong to each other. This is what I choose to believe.
So to happiness I say, move on over. Make a little room at the table. I’ll still seek you, but there are other guests waiting at the door who want to sit down, other emotions that are equally deserving of being encountered and lived through.
| The Washington Post