When a person says “I just want to be happy,” often they are really thinking “I want to be happy all of the time, or at least, most of the time.”
The truth is that no one actually wants to be happy all of the time. We want to have the human experience which means feeling a whole range of emotions. One of my favorite TV series is a show called “The Good Place.’ Spoiler alert coming up, you’ve been warned.
In “The Good Place,” the main characters finally actually get to heaven. The people in heaven can have everything they want all the time. The protagonists find that most people are sort of checked out and almost like zombies. I thought the show was really poignant because it really pointed out that if you have everything you want so that you can be “happy” all the time, you'll eventually end up feeling numb. Humans need a mix of different emotions to have the human or Earth experience. Feelings are intense because of the contrast. Part of the reason that people are unhappy is because they believe they shouldn't be unhappy but without unhappiness, there's no frame of reference for happiness.
Negative feelings are what make positive feelings possible. This is why everything is really 50/50, you have the 50% of feelings that are above average and the 50% of feelings that are below average.
Sometimes we actually want to feel those negative feelings. When our best friend dies, we don't want to feel happy. We want to feel sadness. We want to feel grief. When we see injustice, we want to feel anger and that anger can fuel new change. The Black Lives Matter movement comes out of anger from injustice.
There are some people who love watching horror movies because they want to feel scared. Being scared is typically thought of as a negative emotion but sometimes people actually enjoy feeling scared. People pay money to go to haunted houses for the thrill that comes with being suddenly surprised. The next time you're thinking about what kind of movie you're in the mood for, maybe think about how you want to feel and that may help you select a movie to watch.
We all really want to feel a range of emotions which includes a range of happy emotions. The feeling of peace is very different from the feeling of excitement and we want to feel them both.
What are all the feelings you want to feel?
What is a feeling? A feeling is just a vibration in our body. A feeling is different from a physical sensation like hunger or thirst. A feeling can’t kill us or hurt us. Feelings come from our thoughts.
We feel in our bodies. No one else feels your feelings. When you feel love for someone, the person you love doesn’t actually feel your feelings of love. If they feel love, it comes from their thoughts. Only you feel your feelings because it’s something inside of you.
Resisting a feeling is like trying to hold a beach ball underwater. You can do it for a while, but it takes consistent effort. Eventually that beach ball is going to pop out of the water and that’s when the feelings explode.
Reacting to a feeling is what young children do when they start yelling, crying, and throwing tantrums. Some people, when they're angry, may react by punching something.
Avoiding an emotion is something we do when we sense an emotion that we don’t want to feel so we try to dull it or escape from it. We may do this with food or alcohol or binge watching Netflix. These are actions that we call buffering. If you are really avoiding a lot of negative emotions, then you will be doing a lot of buffering behavior which gives you a negative consequence. For example if you are buffering with food or overeating, then you're probably going to gain weight.
Allowing a feeling is when we allow it to flow through us. We accept the feeling. Most people do this naturally with positive feelings. If we can allow our negative feelings to flow through us naturally like we do with our positive feelings, then we can move forward.