Braving Happiness

Happiness can be scarier than hardship.

It takes an incredible amount of bravery to be happy. It isn’t really surprising that we may tend to resist happiness; when we are in a place of hurt, sadness, insecurity, weakness, depression, frailty or hardship, there is really not much else to lose. In my own experience, this place can be almost… well, comfortable. It’s like a case of emotional Stockholm syndrome – our hurt  (or insecurity, or fear, or dissatisfaction) can become something we know so well that living without it feels terrifying; we may even develop the urge protect it.

I wasn’t necessarily aware of this until I pointedly asked myself one day: Are you afraid? Be honest. Is it unsettling to think of letting go of what binds you? The answer was yes.

Internal whispers can paralyze us, can’t they?

If I love, I will be hurt.
If I move on, I will encounter the next tragedy.
If I accept it, it will be taken away.
If I try to do it, they will see me fail.
If I attain it, I will have to maintain it.
If I am confident, I will have to let them like me.
If I let them like me, I will have to like myself.
If I conquer my weakness, I won’t know who to be.
If I lose weight, I won’t be able to hide behind it.
If I dream it, I will be disappointed by it.

I was talking with a good friend last night about how many of us “young” adults are now experiencing a realization of mortality. It is nearly impossible to really live or really love when the fear of losing it all has made a nest in the back of your mind. I am curious if this condition is a result of experiencing some form of loss or if it is a normal stage of development (anyone have any wisdom to share about this?). Either way, I desperately find myself hoping that there is more to maturity than simply being made aware of painful realities.

How does one shed the fear of happiness? I’m not sure. I know that I have slowly moved from paralyzed, to nervous, to wanting freedom – which proves that change is possible. But fear is a giant. My counselor used to say that the most important time to reach out for help is when you feel stuck somewhere – this seems to be my cue. I am a huge advocate of counseling and have done my fair share, but I know as well as the next person how hard it is to pick up the phone when you don’t have the energy; To make yourself seek advice when you don’t really know what you need (I’ll take an intervention please!). But I have promised myself that I will do it, because I know that the results of others’ wisdom in our lives can be powerful, and I am excited by the potential of happy unstuckedness.

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13 thoughts on “Braving Happiness

  1. You wrote: ” It is nearly impossible to really live or really love when the fear of losing it all has made a nest in the back of your mind. I am curious if this condition is a result of experiencing some form of loss or if it is a normal stage of development…”

    I believe that losing is what scars our hearts and makes us fearful….it changes us, but also deepens our ability to appreciate the present moment. Your thoughts on braving happiness are familiar, as I am also rediscovering the parts of me that I felt disappeared when my mother died.

    Acutely aware of my mortality, I strive to live in the NOW, and give myself the freedom to be happy again. Sounds like you are doing the same.

    1. Thank for for your wise words, it’s a special comfort to hear of similar journeys! Living in the now is so crucial when it comes to having joy, I hope to get there soon :)

  2. Happiness after losing my mom was hard. I resisted it. I grieved a lot. Grief = love to me. How could I be happy when my mom wasn’t a part of my life anymore? But I realized that all she wanted for me was happiness. As my mom, she wants her daughter to be happy, just like I want my children to be happy. Stepping out of the shadows of grief was hard. Living life without my mom is still hard. But slowly I am doing it because this is what my mom wants for me. Another loss…yes, it’s all too possible. The Sandy Hook tragedy took the lives of kids the same grade and age as my daughter. I couldn’t imagine losing either one of my children. I lost 5 family members in 8 years, along with a very close friend. Yes, I am scared to open up. I am scared to love completely, even my husband. Scared to let someone into my heart fully. I am scared of losing someone else again and going through that devastation and pain, starting over again on my journey of grief. But I didn’t die, my mom did. Part of my heart died when I lost her, but I am still fully alive. And in this life I need to find happiness and share that with my family. I need to find happiness in life, even if it’s just in little things for right now. Thank you for such an insightful post. I wish you all the best and a life of happiness. Take care.

  3. I couldn’t love this post anymore. How true that it takes bravery to be happy especially when going through grief. So many times I have felt a glimmer of happiness and immediately felt guilty or terrified by it. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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