Happiness is not the opposite of depression:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I am not happy. I don’t know if I was born unhappy or it came about as a result of growing up in an alcoholic family where you just never knew what was about to happen at any given moment. It fell to me to take care of my sister and mediate between mom and dad, who were like two tornadoes living under one roof. Things got better when I was 13- mom left and dad remarried someone sane. Since starting treatment myself I am no longer depressed but I was surprised and chagrined to find that the absence of depression wasn’t happiness! I just assumed when sadness dissipated I would feel happiness. This hasn’t been the case.

Not Happy

 

Dear Not,

Happiness is an emotion that usually happens as a result of an actual event or accomplishment. It doesn’t happen all by itself. It needs to be allowed to happen. Happiness is essentially the way you pay attention to things and become absorbed by them. It requires letting go, appreciating, melding.

Sometimes you might actually be happy but not know it because it isn’t what you expect when you think of the term happiness. “I blame this on the media. There, happiness is advertised as elation. In reality, happiness can be a far more subtle type of joy that involves peace of mind and contentment.” (1)

If we grow up in chaos we often try to control everything. This leaves us very little space to simply be- we can’t allow emotions to fill us because we are trying to keep all the crazy shit out. Such people tend to have an “all or nothing” perception which can be a barrier to happiness. As nothing is ever truly all good or perfect, the inability to accept imperfection can act as a filter to block the awareness of happiness, as can the expectation of imperfection.

Many people are happy because they are in denial; they believe what they want to and filter out all the bad. This works for a while but cannot last. If you are responsible for others, this tactic isn’t viable because your eyes need to be open to protect your loved ones.

You are no longer a child. You can say no. you do not need to be liked by everyone but you don’t need to be unlikable either. You do not need to be alone but you can survive the times you are alone. It is ok for you and others to be imperfect but you must not let those imperfections prevent you from being the person you wish to become. Healthcare professionals tend to label people as broken because this is the state of healthcare today. I wouldn’t accept that label- perhaps you are just not fully realized yet.

 

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

 

Granny says: when I was researching genetics, I discovered something very interesting. There is a genetic component to happiness; it has to do with optimism and pessimism. Research has discovered that there is a section of the oxytocin receptor gene that influences an individual’s tendency to see the glass as either half empty or half full. Those of us who are naturally optimistic tend to be more content and “happy” than those who are pessimistic and are always expecting something to go wrong.

That being said, this discovery paves the way for another thought- happiness does not lie outside of each person, but rather inside. Either we are grateful for, and appreciate all that comes to us…or we are like old curmudgeons sitting on our porches just waiting for kids to play on the lawn so we can yell at them to get off.

According to the media, happiness is designer clothes, a perfect face and a hot car. The fact is, at least half of the people in that hot car and designer clothes are wishing discontentedly for even better stuff and more plastic surgery- while the naturally content optimists would be just as happy taking the bus to the zoo.

We can make our own happiness- or we can be miserable in the midst of plenty. It’s all about the attitude. If you are genetically disposed to be pessimistic, don’t let it run your life. As adults, we can all make choices.

 

(1) Susan Hurd

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About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at dr.brilliantcliche@yahoo.com and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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One Response to Happiness is not the opposite of depression:

  1. Comments:

    Ali:

    I’ve always had a problem with the word “happiness.” I think it’s the wrong word to use in most cases. The way I see it “happiness” is a spectrum and as long as we try reach happiness it’s akin to a painter saying they are trying to reach “color.” The correct word, IMHO, is “satisfaction,” a word I define as “that amount of happiness we define as adequate!” I think part of the reason we don’t achieve our goals is because we’ve never defined them adequately enough to know whether we’ve achieved them or not. Similarly, If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know if you’re ever there?! Anyway. I think this endless fascination with “happiness” is merely due to a miscommunication that isn’t merely semantic, but rather a worldview difference that at the end of the day, makes a world of difference! wink emoticon. This person’s end of depression, using my painting analogy, is akin to stepping out of black and white and into a color spectrum. As long as she hasn’t defined what color is her favorite, she won’t have a direction in her painting, never satisfied, and therefore not “happy!” frown emoticon.

    Anne:

    The question to answer is how can I be happy? How does one define happiness? I remember when I was young, I saw this movie, at her mother’s grave this lady said..I did everything everyone wants me to do. I was a good daughter, a supportive wife, and a loving mother, but you never told me how to be happy. That stuck on me for 30+ years. I am still trying to find the answer for her or give her some guidance. Then I figured, she is the only one who can do that. Another question – is it OK to define happiness in terms of others? For example, my spouse is always there for me, do things for me so I can enjoy my movie.

    Dr. Brilliant Cliché :

    Happiness is a state that results from something else, like being busy or being quite or appreciating what one has or did ect. It is the result of something not the cause, it isn’t anything of itself. That’s why it can’t be the goal or the prize at the end of something. This woman at the grave just has to look back and say i did good, it was worthwhile, i am a success and she would be happy. But she is waiting for a pat on the back from her dead mom which cannot occur. It requires her to allow it. She will never feel quite done until someone says you are done. Unless she realizes there isn’t a done. Like Dorothy the magic was always with her all along.

    Ali :

    I agree that happiness, like other natural phenomenon, follows laws of causality. Something triggers something else in our head and we claim we are happy. While this isn’t all mathematical and there’s also some physiological differences at an organic level, I think the main problem is how individuals in various cultures define these personal and unique causes for themselves. Furthermore, I believe these expectations are set early on.

    If we agree that the term we keep using interchangeably for happiness is indeed satisfaction, then the real question is what causes do we each “choose” at various stages of our development, consciously or subconsciously, to trigger the effect for us!
    Eastern cultures teach us to be satisfied with less material goods, the least of which – in fact the most important of all – is our health! This is because these cultures are older and more experienced in human history.

    When we tune ourselves to be satisfied with little, we start from a position of happiness. Such programming, to a large extent, is cultural.

    Western cultures, on the other hand, teach that our individual causes should be material goods. This is the byproduct of capitalism. Of course, this mentality is simultaneously the cause of a civilizations’ greater economic prowess and also its unhappiness. There’s always more, the goal post is constantly moving, and this spiritual deficit drives our economies of empty achievement and pointless titles.
    The solution, in my opinion, is to have a minimalistic attitude in the Western world. You then benefit from the rat-race-industriousness of others and yet live your own life satisfied with the simpler things and achieve at leisure. Of course, this philosophy should be hidden from the masses!! LOL! wink emoticon
    But again, we need to address causes and Anne’s description of that eulogy comment shows the importance of focusing on teaching our kids how to be satisfied with the simple things rather than program them for achievement based on a futile effort to cover their unhappiness. George Bernard Shaw once said: “One way to avoid being miserable is to prevent yourself from having enough leisure time to ask if your life is a happy one!!” LOL!

    Dr. Brilliant Cliche:

    Here is a mediation I designed to help: picture a circle. Now imagine that this that circle is you. Inside is everything that is you. Cross your eyes and that circle will become two. You are also that other circle. One is what you believe yourself to be now. The other is that which you will become. What are the qualities in this new circle?
    Again picture a circle. Divide the circle in half with all your good points on one side and your bad points on the other. Cross your eyes and partially move the circles apart. You are really the conjoining circle in-between the two others. You are the in-between and you can work on and re- imagine what that actually means. If your good was blue and your bad yellow. You are actually green. Everything in life is this way, self, others, and things. All is green. Much depends on how things are used or what choices are made rather that the person or thing is itself.
    Happiness isn’t yellow or blue. It is green.

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