The Trap Of Trying to Be Happy

Stop trying so hard to be happy and be where you are.“I just want to be happy!” “Are you happy?” “I just want him/her to be happy.” I hear people say and ask a lot. What do we mean by happiness?

We seem to have a happiness obsession in this culture. People actually believe you can feel happy all the time which sets them up for a whole lot of suffering. I’ve yet to meet a human being who is in a constant state of happiness. I meet plenty of folks who act happy, but it’s just that, an act. Most of us are taught to act happy or upbeat giving preference to the socially acceptable emotions. We are taught to hide, not express, and bottle up unhappy emotions. Just look around here on FB. Most folks report only one side of their lives. Particularly people who are trying to sell you shit or folks who want you to think everything’s okay. “Look how happy I am.” Yawn. We’re all smarter than that. All we have to do is look to our own life experience to see that life ain’t all roses. It’s fucking intense. Life is hard. Life is dark too, We feel pain, uncomfortable, awkward, silly, ashamed, embarrassed, depressed, exhausted, and enraged.

Chasing a constant state of happiness sets us up for seeking only half of our experience and making anything that isn’t “happiness” wrong.

If we take notes from babies, their preference isn’t happiness. They don’t add on layers to their direct experience. They don’t make their tantrums a problem, they just tantrum. They laugh, giggle, squiggle, shit, fart, smile, and cry. They just exist. Nature is the same, nature doesn’t complain when the sun isn’t out. It doesn’t wish darkness would go away. The earth simply turns so that we can live and exist as we are. The balance of dark and light is critical to our survival. So, let’s stop making happiness the goal and stop demonizing the dark side, the shadow, or the emotions that you have been trained to avoid and dislike. Let’s come to know that sometimes we are happy and sometimes we are not and that we can be okay and even enjoy, both the ups and downs in life. Living this way is realistic and true. When we live this way, we learn to trust the way things actually are. Ahhhhhh…

related: Do you want to be happy or free?



  • Kirk Hoffman

    Reply Reply January 16, 2013


    One issue is that many people are using ‘happy’ as a placeholder. They may actually mean that want to feel fulfilled, or inspired, or excited. Or they don’t want to feel lonely, or bored, or stuck. There’s a problem with not having the ability to identify a current emotional state and the variety of potential responses to it. Instead we use a vague blanket of ‘I want to be happy.’

    There is also a difference between difficult times in life that are a part of existence and hardships we can move away from through change. There are some painful emotional experiences that work best as a goad away from negative choices to more positive ones, feelings that are best used as ‘I don’t want to feel that way anymore’ moments.

    My favorite part of your post is the phrase ‘chasing a constant state of happiness.’ Since our emotional responses to life have so many influences (belief systems, family systems, current input, biological systems, etc) emotions do not tend to be the best goals – although they do provide great signals along the way.

  • Gary Walter

    Reply Reply January 16, 2013

    Good post. I wrote something similar a couple of years ago.

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