There is no doubt these are challenging times, however we are frequently bombarded by quotes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter spreading the happiness message. Everyone seems to be pushing the happiness agenda. There is the “Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, which has spawned an entire happiness “movement.” Every day on Facebook I receive loads of affirmations from Hay House authors (and many others) encouraging me to turn my negatives into positives. There is even a quote by famous depressive Abraham Lincoln--”Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be”--that has been making the rounds on social media for years.
While I am all for living the best life possible, I often find these quotes to be both reductive and enervating. Somehow, being happy is now equated with being “spiritual” and “good”. Your shadow is something to be avoided at all costs. If you are not happy, you are obviously doing something wrong.
It’s a kind of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that may spur some to “positive” action, but can make others feel less than or incompetent. If someone is genuinely depressed, in the midst of a health crisis or going through his or her dark night of the soul, being “positive” is like putting white wash on a crumbling fence. It doesn’t work.
You have to take care of the structure before you pretty it up. That means examining and embracing in order for healing to begin.
Each one of us has our own unique psyche and history. We must embrace both the shadow and the light in order to find our place in the world. I believe true happiness comes from:
Feeling our feelings
Using those feelings as our guides
Reaching out for help and support when needed, including friends, family, coach or a therapist
Being part of a community
Following your own compass
Never making excuses for who you are
I have learned from many spiritual teachers, coaches and therapists. The people I have resonated with the most have all stressed authenticity.
An authentic life doesn’t begin or end with a pithy saying or a meme. It means being present with all that is. It means never feeling less than because you’re not “happy” every day. Remember, “happy” is only one feeling, not better or worse than any other. Being human means experiencing them all.
As Rumi says in the famous poem “The Guest House”:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I hope that wherever you are, your guest house is full. Treat each one with love and compassion. They are your friends and guides.