Shh! Don’t Tell Anyone I’m Happy…

Fear of Happiness

“We really have a good life,” my wife says to me on a Monday afternoon as she snuggles into bed in her favorite pajamas and snug old t-shirt. As a healer, she doesn’t have fixed work hours, and now, as a consultant, neither do I. So we spend some happy daytime hours with our three-year-old son. But I feel a familiar twinge inside me: Don’t say it, it might go away.

“I sometimes use you as an example of someone who has a good marriage, a great job and is a great father,” my brother and mentor GD says to me on the phone. Even before I can feel the compliment, something contracts in my chest: Don’t celebrate it or something bad will happen!

You see, I have an irrational superstition about acknowledging the goodness in my life. Like I need to hide my little happiness from some nasty Ogre of Destiny who walked past little ole me – and blowing the party whistle may just make him look down: Hmmm…. How did I miss YOU?

In the past, my paranoia went so far that I was terrified of taking an action to assert confidence of continuation or (gasp…!) permanence. As if the very act would tempt Fate. An example: when I was dating my current wife, at one point I was living in at her apartment. But I never kept my toothbrush in her bathroom stand, preferring to carry it in my bag every day: Don’t claim to know the future! It sounds funny now, but in my head, the placement of that toothbrush decided the fate of our future offspring.

So I have lived with an inner certainty that it can and will all come crumbling down anytime now. And that every smiling picture I take will someday be used with a caption: ‘In Happier Times’. I try to convince myself that things aren’t as wonderful as they seem – no matter how it looks to others – so I don’t get ‘carried away’. The mind advises that it’s the best way of protecting myself from the shock of tragedy, when it does happen. (“Because Life is meant to be a painful struggle, and every sane, sensible person knows that happiness is fleeting, temporary and delusional” – the Mind)

But unfortunately, this is also the best way to keep joy and ecstasy outside the door. Focusing only on what needs to be fixed makes life an endless To-Do List. Acknowledging your happiness may make you a target of jealousy, but it’s also likely to make you a source of inspiration. And that’s worth it. For just a little while, I can relax the resistance against fully feeling joy and let go of the radar that’s constantly scanning for trouble.

And I can re-examine this ancient fear that if I celebrate my life, the happiness will go away. Maybe if I celebrate my life, then the happiness will definitely stay for at least for one more moment – this moment! And the next moment will be born out of this moment. And moment by moment, a virtuous circle of celebration will be created. A rolling snowball of joy that resonates with others who also celebrate their lives. And someday, even if a shock of tragedy comes, it will be cushioned within this soft expansive love for Life; and staying numb is a dumb solution anyway.

Because all said and done – I can say it now – I do have an amazing life. What about you?

33 thoughts on “Shh! Don’t Tell Anyone I’m Happy…

  1. Happiness is indeed a choice! 🙂
    I think everyone feels the same way, “don’t say it..” but as you truly said, the next moment will be born out of this moment! Good to read!

    • Thank you Swati… I vaguely remember reading this concept in a book by Osho many years ago… I just now managed to trace his original talk. It’s beautiful and worth sharing:

      “Perfection is a mind-demand, an ego-trip. Life is beautifully imperfect. Once you understand this, you start enjoying right now. And the more you enjoy, the more you become capable of enjoying.

      “Let me tell you: happiness needs no cause – happiness needs only a habit of enjoying, just a natural quality, a capacity to enjoy. Nothing else is needed. And that capacity comes only by enjoying; by nothing else can it come. If you enjoy, you become more capable of enjoyment. The more you become capable, the more you enjoy. And this goes on and on; it reaches a higher and higher crescendo, a higher and higher peak.

      “Every moment comes out of this moment. The next moment will come out of this moment. If you have lived this moment totally, loved, delighted, the next moment will come out of this moment, and you will be born out of this moment. The next moment will open more possibilities and it will make you more capable.”

      – Osho, The Search

  2. I love reading your blog very much! How wonderful inspiring and yes happy it is! I am happy with the life I have, not everything is perfect and some people are trying to push me down because they are jealous but that doesn’t stop me from living an amazing and happy life and I am not afraid of saying it as it is like you say – ah how much I love this sentence: “Maybe if I celebrate my life, then the happiness will definitely stay for at least for one more moment – this moment! And the next moment will be born out of this moment. And moment by moment, a virtuous circle of celebration will be created. A rolling snowball of joy that resonates with others who also celebrate their lives.”

    • Thank you Beatrice…Your phrase “not everything is perfect” actually captures the whole point, which I missed in my post.

      It reminded me of that joke about the man who was looking for the perfect wife. When he was 70, his friend asked him: “Seventy years have passed. Death is already knocking on the door. When will you settle?”
      He said, “What can I do? How can you be happy without a perfect wife?”
      The friend asked, “But you have been searching so long, couldn’t you find one?”
      He said, “Yes, once I did find one woman.”
      Then the man said, “Then why didn’t you marry her?”
      And the seventy-year-old man became very sad. He said, “It was difficult: she was also in search of a perfect husband!”
      So thanks for the reminder that happiness in this moment doesn’t need perfection!

      • 😉 This is more than just a joke it’s actually a very good metaphor – and very true too! LoL

  3. was reading something beautiful this morning about the “Laws of attraction” and how in life your thoughts lead to feelings which lead to manifestations…! so the more you think that anything negative might happen or some evil eye will hound your happiness, you end up attracting it in your life, its important to be alert and “shift” this thought to a positive thought and end up attracting that. “your wish is my command” is what the universe follows and universe is not partial so anything you invariably think might happen, truly happens. and you are the magnet who has attracted whatever it is that you have in your life right now 🙂
    Just thought of sharing with you as your post is a wonderful example of the same thought in a d2d life.

  4. Good one Aalif 🙂 part of the problem may come from the training we receive… potential problem analysis encourages us to anticipate worst case scenarios. So reminding ourselves it won’t last seems the safer thing to do.
    You may remember I had shared an EFT script for those having a hard time accepting a change for the better…hope you dont mind me sharing it here for anyone who may feel that way:
    http://serenereflection.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/high-time-eft-script/

  5. I can totally resonate with this idea of ‘hiding’ your joy in front of others… my Mom’s favorite dialogue: “Nazar lag jayegi!” 😀 haha!
    It takes a lot of effort to let go of this idea and enjoy the present moment but I keep at it 🙂

    • Yes, that’s a good one! I remember my dad also teaching me: “everything in excess is poison”. The mind imbibes these things and misuses them…

  6. Wonderful post Aalif! I know what you mean too. Seems like peace kind of snuck up on me when I wasn’t paying attention. One day I woke up and thought, huh I feel at peace with things. True bliss 🙂

  7. Thanks for a great message, Alif. Given how we are inundated with the negativity far outweighing the positivity, in the media especially, to choose that happy moment again and again is not only good for us, but a small victory for all of humanity. Lets all do our bit for the collective whole by making the Happy choice. “Life is short. Make it sweet.” The reverberations of that happiness keep going and going. Bless you!

  8. I agree !!!
    I am a little paranoid too 😉
    I always was afraid to jinx to myself and others, for example, when I was saying that my kids were well, they were sick , that I was well with my husband it was war, happy to go on vacation and finally enjoy the sun, RAIN……….and much worse than that !!!

    Now I say hamdoulillah for all & what needs to happen will happen

    😉

    • I like the phrase: “If so be the Will of allah, beneficient and merciful” 🙂 It’s a good way to deal with our own guilt, unworthiness and fear of receiving joy

      • thoroughly 😉
        You know As we say in arabic
        “koulch bel Mektoub Allah ta’âla al-Rahman al-Rahim wa ma mennou ahrob”
        (Everything is written by Allah the exalted,the Gracious, Most Merciful and we can not escape)
        But human beings are all free and each have their beliefs & their awareness of things

  9. So much resonance here Aalif… so grateful for your writing, as always. My current partner is all set to make me conscious of my fear that the good things in life won’t last, and I am so grateful to him. I was reflecting, lying down on my bed (since I read your posts the first thing), and instantly had that flash when things were going very well in my childhood when suddenly a lot of turmoil struck home. Since then there has always been a nervousness, an anxiety, a despair that the good times won’t last. I could tap into that moment and atleast begin to soothe myself.
    Last Sunday, I found myself wondering why I come with a list of things-to-be-fixed for the Sunday sessions. It took some consciousness to share the positives in the group session!
    Incidentally, acknowledging happiness has made me a target of jealousy and I am still not ‘over’ the feeling of being accused of being happy. However, reading this article, I am aware that I am not the only one who is celebrating her happiness. I’m sticking to people in the same boat… thanks for being a ‘sanghi’. 🙂 Love

    • 🙂

      While writing this post, I came across a concept by Gay Hendricks called “The Upper Limit Problem”. It’s like an inner thermostat programmed in childhood which determines how much joy, love and success we can allow ourselves to experience.

      So when you push through your Upper Limit thermostat setting by making more money, experiencing more love, or drawing more positive attention to yourself, you trip your Upper Limit switch. Deep inside your mind a little voice says, “You can’t possibly feel this good” (or “make this much money” or “be this happy in love”). Unconsciously, you then do something to bring yourself back down to the thermostat setting you’re familiar with. Even if you do achieve a glorious new height, it is often short-lived.

      I thought it was interesting… what do you think?

      • Was totally about to say that you have just described exactly what the book ‘the Big Leap’ by Gay Hendricks is about – in which he goes into ‘the Upper Limit Problem’. Only today I was musing on mine. Love your fresh take on it. Thanks!

      • I’ve been pushing up this thermostat consciously. So yes, really grateful to you for bringing this to my awareness. I realise I can also share this with my clients. 🙂
        For now what seems to work is conscious self-talk, telling myself, “it is safe to be happy”.
        Love.

  10. My fiance and I both have felt exactly this as our lives have become exactly what we’ve always wanted them to be. We’re afraid something bad is going to happen if we say it out loud how happy we’ve become. And it’s not just because we’ve found each other, but because we’ve both put in a lot of work to follow our paths and everything has begun to fall into place, making the path a surreal journey. Yes there are still obstacles, yes, sometimes life sucks, but overall I have found myself feeling a continuous sense of awe and gratitude for the life that I have. And as that sense of awe and gratitude became the predominant patterns, the fear has subsided.

    I’m enjoying your blog.

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