Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Pretence of Happiness?

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she said to me that I must be pretending to be happy in my life, since it is impossible for someone to be happy all of the time.  She also said that she thought that I never deal with my emotions, I never show the sadness and the pain that I have suffered, I never work through my problems and therefore, I must be unhappy on the inside.  Surely, she continued, I have to be projecting a mask of happiness to the world.  In other words, the life that I am living is a lie.

Conversation like this is useful and despite how it may first appear, it is positive.  It makes you stop and think.  It makes you look at how you are living your life and to question and evaluate yourself.  It pushes you to take a good hard look at yourself.  It set me to wondering, is it actually possible to pretend to be happy?  I don't mean the kind of pretending that you do when someone gives to you a birthday present and you find that on unwrapping it, it is something that you really do not like, so you force a polite smile and say thank you, in order to avoid an awkward situation.  I mean the kind of pretending that you have to live with each and every day.  The kind of pretense where you wear a mask to cover over the real you, every waking moment.

For me, the answer is yes.  I know from my old life that it is possible to do this.  I can recall times in the past when I pretended that everything in my life was going well, in order to protect the people that I loved.  Why did I do this?  Because I said to myself that they have their own problems and I did not wish to burden them with my problems.  But now I think about it, did I hide my problems out of a sense of pride, or did I hide them, not to protect those I loved, but to protect myself?  No matter that reason, the result was equally the same.  Each time I would see my family and friends and they would ask me how I was doing, I would smile and say that everything was going well, even though I wanted to tell them that my life at that moment, really sucked and I was deeply unhappy.  I am sure that this is a very common practice and a lot of people can relate to it, either having done it themselves in the past, or they are continuing to do it now.  Someone who puts on a brave face when they enter their place of work, someone who takes a deep breath just before turning the key in the door and walking into their home, someone who continues to be the happy out-going person their friends know and expect despite their inner turmoil.  Only in our quiet moments of privacy and solitude does the mask fall and the true face of unhappiness show itself.  Then we once more become ourselves.  The real person.

Why do we feel the necessity to wear a mask of happiness for others, when we ourselves are feeling anything but happy?  One reason may be defense.  We are in defense of ourselves and of the decisions that we have made in life.  If I decided to change my job, or to fall in love with a certain person (can we actually decide that anyway?), or to move house, change car etc... then those decisions are mine and mine alone.  If something then goes wrong, there can be no one else to blame except for myself, since it was I who made the decision.  So instead of being honest and saying "I screwed up", "I got it wrong", "I made a mistake", we want to hide the error lest others should think ill of us.  Then we compound that error by not admitting that we are unhappy in what is happening in our lives.  Pride gets in the way.  Pride blocks us and prevents us from sharing our problems with the people that love us and know us and from those that might be able to help us.  We further compound the problem. 

Another reason for wearing a mask of happiness in life is so that we  show no signs of weakness or vulnerability.  In British culture, there is a saying: "Keep a stiff upper lip".  What this really translates to is this: "Do not admit failure.  Do not admit weakness.  Put on a mask and show the world that nothing can affect you."  It became the backbone and the resilience of the British people during the height of the Nazi bombing campaign (the Blitz), when the German air force, the Luftwaffe, bombed London and other major cities, destroying more than a million houses and killing more than forty thousand civilians.  This of course is a good reason to not show weakness to an enemy, but what it also does, is ingrain in the emotional psyche the need not to ever show a weakness or vulnerability.  In human society, it seems that we are still prone to see sadness, unhappiness and upset as weakness of character and not as everyday occurrences, that happen to every single person that lives and breaths on this planet.  Wouldn't it be better to share the pain, talk about the situation, have people help you to find solutions to the problems, to give you reassurance and for you to be able to release the emotions that are caught up inside of you?  I think the answer is yes.

So, it seems that I have answered my question of whether it is possible to wear a mask of happiness and to pretend to be happy?  That answer is also yes.  But I want to know if that is what I am doing in my life now, am I pretending to be happy as my friend thinks?  Is it possible to always be happy and content with what life throws your way?
What I have come to realise is that when you walk your own path in life, when you truly go in search of the life that you wish to manifest for yourself, then you begin to walk down the path of true happiness.  This is not some momentary feeling, it is not just an in-between mood splitting the bouts of sadness, anxiety and depression.  No.  This is a balls to bone knowing that flows through every pore with each beat of your heart.  It is a happiness that comes from the depths of your soul and permeates through everything that you feel and every thing that you do.  If you are following your heart, then this is what you will feel - every moment, of every day.  Those that are walking their own paths will recognise what I am saying.

Yes, there will be moments and occasions will arise when something does not go right, but those moments come and they go again.  They pass you by like water breaking on the rock.  Following your heart gives to you a profound sense of happiness in all that you do.  It cannot be broken.  If you begin to feel unhappy, then you cannot be truly following your heart's desires.  How can you be unhappy when the life that you are living, when everything about that life is your own manifestation?  How can you be unhappy when you see the miracles of life all around you, in everything?  Even the caw of the crows that I can hear now in the trees, as I sit outside writing this, or the beauty and magnificence of a white butterfly that just fluttered past?  When you open your heart and follow its calling, then happiness awaits.  Not a fleeting moment of happiness, like the rays of the sun breaking through the clouds of a leaden sky, but rather, a feeling of being bathed in those rays each and every day. 

If there are times when I no longer feel the happiness, then it is simply because I must have ceased to follow my path, my calling.  I must have wandered off in the woods and become momentarily lost.  Then it is necessary to stop and listen and wait.  It will come again.  Faint at first, then stronger.  You will hear its voice again, calling to you, guiding you, pulling at you.  Your heart will show you the way, it will help you back to the path, and it will once more become your companion along the road.

So, what I say is this: Throw away the mask of happiness and open yourself up to the voice of your heart.  Hear its urging, listen to what it tells you.  Then ready yourself.  Prepare yourself for adventure.  And take the steps along your path to true happiness.  Leave your mask behind and become the true you. The you that you always knew existed.  Take a deep breath.  Seize and moment and walk.


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