Sara Paules, MA, LPC
One of the most common complaints I hear from clients, friends, family and even IG followers is: “I’m just not happy” as if this is a problem to be solved. The problem with this statement is that we play into the idea that we must be happy. In fact, our culture even insists that happiness should be our default state.
Think about it… How many times have you heard a well-meaning friend ask or say something along the lines of: “Why aren’t you smiling?”, “Just cheer up” or even “Why aren’t you happy?” These subtle messages are clear: Everyone else is happy and I’m not so there must be something wrong with me.
The truth is though that nearly one in five adults will struggle with depression and one in ten adults will attempt suicide in a lifetime. You can truly see how hard it is to be happy when you start to add in difficult life circumstances like divorce, death, sexual difficulties, work stress, life transitions, domestic violence, racism, bullying, and loneliness.
The idea that everyone else around us is happy and there’s something wrong with us if we aren’t happy is a myth that will only get us caught in a trap of feeling worse about ourselves. By trying to get rid of negative emotions or feelings, we just confirm the negative belief that there is something defective or wrong with us for feeling the way we feel. Nearly every experience and everything we value in life will bring both positive and negative feelings. There is no such thing as the perfect job, partner, birthday or parents… By not accepting this fact, we can end up in constant disappointment, or stuck in our growth.
What can we do to combat the happiness trap? Here are 3 rules that can help you recover from the happiness trap.
This is only a short list of ways you can start to combat the false idea that we should be happy at all times and that we are defective if we aren’t. The happiness trap comes from the teachings of my personal favorite approach to therapy, Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). To learn more about ACT, head here.