Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A lesson in happiness

In the past week I randomly stumbled upon two interesting articles (well, one was a TEDtalk that I transcribed, but I highly recommend listening to the whole thing):
...The effort to try to feel happy is often precisely the thing that makes us miserable. And that it is our constant efforts to eliminate the negative — insecurity, uncertainty, failure, or sadness — that is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain, or unhappy. They didn't see this conclusion as depressing, though. Instead, they argued that it pointed to an alternative approach, a “negative path” to happiness, that entailed taking a radically different stance towards those things that most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. It involved learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity, stopping trying to think positively, becoming familiar with failure, even learning to value death. In short, all these people seemed to agree that in order to be truly happy, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions — or, at the very least, to learn to stop running quite so hard from them. 
Positive thinking is for suckers! From Salon.com 
We numb vulnerability…The problem is, you cannot selectively numb emotion. You cannot say here is the bad stuff: here is vulnerability, here is grief, here is shame, here is disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple beers and a banana nut muffin. I don’t want to feel these…You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects or emotions. You cannot selectively numb. When we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness, and then we are miserable and we are looking for purpose and meaning; and then we are feeling vulnerable and so we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin..and it becomes this dangerous cycle...Practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror…instead of catastraphizing what might happen, say I am just so grateful because to feel this vulnerable means I am alive.
TEDTalks: Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability
Sometimes, I think the brilliant thing about babies is that you can't easily run from or even numb the bad that comes with them. You literally have to embrace it. Babies don't come with a mute button. They don't even come with a fast forward or pause button. They come out screaming, and loud, and needy, and messy. And they stay that way for at least eighteen years (some their whole lives; and they often go on to find successful careers in law or politics. just kidding, lawyer friends. except you know who I am talking about, right?). But babies are also really awesome. They are sweet, and loving, and squooshy, and adorable. And you will never get to all that awesomeness unless you can brave the screaming neediness. And if you can do that (and some days that may feel like a big "if"), then you might just be able to transfer that ability to accept and even value uncertainty, failure, and misery in other areas of your life. If you learn that you can survive a little chaos, stress, self-doubt, and prolonged sleep deprivation then you can probably survive some other uncomfortable things in life. And maybe you'll even learn those uncomfortable things aren't quite as bad as you thought they were. And maybe you will even embrace them because you know they are inextricably linked to something (or someone) you love. And maybe that is part of why parents are so unhappy and so happy, all at the same time.
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