The Tyranny of Happiness

Yesterday on Q, Jian Ghomeshi had the author of This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, Augusten Bourroughs, on the air.

Curious, I downloaded the sample from Amazon.

After a few pages, my thought was “Finally! Someone who understands that ‘thinking positive’ is a load of crap”!

I’ve never pretended to be a particularly happy or positive person. I have a bit of a tendency towards negativity and brooding. In a weird sense, I’m usually pretty hopeful about life, but in general I need something really special to make me feel happy.

According to all the self-help books and articles, everyone should try to be happy, all the time. Showing up at work with a frown on your face is, well, frowned upon. Sometimes I walk on the street and people tell me “Smile!” and all I want to do is to punch them in the face.

Something else about me: I’m blunt.

the cranky cat

“Feed me and leave me alone.” Eesti on Flickr.

Once, I was told how people with different moods can handle each other through a blood transfusion metaphor: positive rhesus can accept positive AND negative rhesus; negative rhesus can only accept negative rhesus. Just so with people: happy people can handle both happy and unhappy people, but unhappy people can only hang around other unhappy people. Pity likes company, if you will.

So let’s be honest: if I’m in a bad mood, I don’t want to hear your “be happy” comment or read your “how to feel awesome every day” article. I want to wallow in my bad mood, complain and bitch at the world without people telling me I should “look on the bright side”. When I feel like looking on the bright side, I will, thank you very much.

It’s similar to how society views depression.

It’s risky to admit to depression. People will secretly consider you weak, unable to cope, and think that you should simply “get over it”. As countless studies have shown, one cannot just “get over” depression.

If I’m in a bad mood, for whatever reason, I cannot simply “get over it”. If I was meant to be a good mood, I would probably be already. But it’s risky to admit to a bad mood. When asked “How are you?”, the person doesn’t really want to hear how you really are. They want to hear “fine, thank you, how are you?”. So you slap a fake smile on your face, and muster an “I’m okay, how are you?” that doesn’t betray how much you don’t want to talk to that person. Or to anyone.

So today I want to declare for the right of all the crankies, bad-moodies and meanies of the world to be allowed to freely feel and express their mood, or at least to not to have to slap on a fake smile to pretend that they feel awesome.

No, it may not make us socially attractive, but we probably don’t want to be social anyway. So that’s a win-win.

How do you act around others when you’re in a bad mood? Do you find that faking it makes you feel worse? Tell me your stories of crankiness!



Filed under Personal, Rants

4 responses to “The Tyranny of Happiness

  1. Kendra

    “Sometimes I walk on the street and people tell me “Smile!” and all I want to do is to punch them in the face.” ME TOO!

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  4. Rick Hall

    It’s funny, i’ve had this conversation before. I have found that people who are extremely happy and never seem to be in bad moods or are negative, well, they’re usually hiding something about themselves. There’s often a part of them that they just don’t want to admit too. I find it’s worse on the west coast. People here, especially in Victoria, want to find love and every one is a hippie, they wake up every morning with a smile on their face and birds chirping, even when it’s been raining none stop for six months.

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