UNHAPPY? SO????? BELIEVE IT OR NOT UNHAPPINESS MAY LEAD TO THE GOOD LIFE
You want to be happy. I want to be happy. Parents want happy children. Children want to be happy. Teachers and bosses are told happy students learn better; bosses are told happy workers are more productive. Happy children are easier to love and live with. Happy parents are kinder parents. And yes, students happy about what they are learning, apply themselves more diligently, while happy employees work harder.
Sad fact of life: Happiness is not the norm of adult life. As a poet said, “Happiness is like a crystal, shattered, scattered far and near.” We are lucky to find bits and pieces as we go along life’s path. Expecting happiness to be the norm is programming yourself or your child for unhappiness.
Parents from the sixties on to the today have worked hard to give their children a happy childhood. Unwittingly, these parents have spawned a generation that expects too much happiness. Many of today’s therapists are finding a new group of adults seeking help. These have had such happy and untroubled childhoods, that adult life seems barren and dull. Their happy childhoods that did not prepare them for life as an adult.
Unhappy? Maybe you had parents who followed the advice of the song “Don’t Worry Be Happy” or listened to the communication experts who thought children should never be punished or criticized. Maybe this made your early life too easy. Such parents meant well and did the best they could, but followed the wrong experts.
FACT OF LIFE: Happiness is not the norm. Moreover, happy children often grow into unhappy adults who expect too much. When I was a working therapists dealing with middle class kid, I saw what were called “Type A suicides.” These were teens who had everything and remained very unhappy, so unhappy, life seemed unbearable to them. First the theorists and therapists thought hidden trauma and abuse might be the problem. Not so. More and more therapists are recognizing that the abuse was having too much of the happy life and not enough of the good life.
In the How to Land Your Kid in Therapy – Magazine – The Atlantic. Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory at Swarthmore College, is quoted as saying: “…happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.”
The article should be a must read for parents, grandparents, unhappy adults. Seeking more and more excitement or perfect happiness doesn’t work. The article makes that clear.
What does? The articles doesn’t go into that as deeply, but most theorists now agree; but that finding meaning and purpose adds up to positive self-esteem and satisfaction with life and others. Many people survive abuse, war, trauma, or every day tragedy and manage to move forward and even find some bits of the happiness crystal here and there, by finding a mission or a cause to believe in and work for.
Victor Frankl, who lost all his family in the death camps of Nazi Germany, survived that horror and tried to figure out how others survived. Often it was a matter of luck, and many just gave up, turned their faces to the wall and embraced death. Those who didn’t found a cause they felt worth living for. But Frankl saw that many found their cause in one of three ways:
- Wanting others to know what they had gone through, we want witnesses for our pain and suffering
- Wanting revenge
- Wanting to make the world better for the next generation, in some way this cause might have been part of the push to provide children with happy childhoods.
Wanting revenge does not work, much of the unhappiness in today’s world is caused by trying to repay hurt with hurt. The healthiest cause is wanting to make the world better. Moreover, it is a cause that can be satisfied much easier than trying to be perfectly happy. Experiment with spreading kindness, smiles, compliments, gratitude in your small corner of the world. You will find it makes a difference.
Share, care, and stay strong.
IMAGE: Baby World at www.beautyangleshop.com