Does anyone else have problems with the word 'happy'?

“Are you happy?”

I freeze

Like a rabbit caught in headlights

The question becomes too big

It opens up the universe

I panic


I remember the moment


That's a poem from a few years ago but it's come up again - working my way through a meditation course and one of the meditations, on befriending, uses the wording 'may I be as happy and as healthy as I can' and I just go cold at the word 'happy'. I just feel so uncomfortable with the word ... too much fairy-tale and 'happy ever after'. I'm not sure that I want to be 'happy' - its a word that either conjures up an illusion or an unattainable ideal. I'd much rather be contented.

May be I'm just being far to Aristotelian about this: unhappy at one end of the scale; happy at the other; but the real goal is in the middle where you find contentment.

Anyway, it totally stumped me and I had to go back to a meditation on 'dealing with difficulty to calm down the first time and even after a couple of goes I can still feel myself cringing when it is said.

Sometimes I can be a right daft old bat :)

Last edited by

21 Replies

  • Hi Gambit. I don't have a problem with the word happy because I see happiness as only lasting fleeting moments and not forever. I see contentment as being the desired emotion with bits of happiness thrown in. Happiness can lots of things ie waking up one morning very early and hearing the birds dawn chorus or for me seeing someone with a cute puppy/baby. I don't think sustained happiness is possible for anyone. Thats just my view anyway.

    Bev x

  • Thanks Bev - sounds like we there is a common core for us in seeing contentment as more desireable. I'm quite fond of the dawn cacophony that I get to hear when I go out for a morning run (though generally that's in the winter and spring ... not that early in the summer.

  • This has really made me think! How exactly would I respond to someone asking me if I'm happy? I suppose the word has different meanings for different people. Happiness for me may well be someone else's misery. And vice versa. I have bursts of happiness within a given day, but probably less happy moments than unhappy ones if I'm being honest. I need to think about this one. Hope you're ok x

  • generally okay.

    Really need to let go of some work crap that came up today - can think about a solution to it on Monday :)

    Not quite sure what you mean by your happiness being someone else's misery. do you think the things that make you happy make someone else miserable? or that you enjoy things that other people don't enjoy? or do you think that there is a finite amount of happiness in the universe so there isn't enough to go round - bit like energy not being created or destroyed ... and having happiness and anti-happiness like matter and anti-matter?

  • I didn't explain myself very well. I was thinking about how relative happiness is. For me, happiness might be enjoying a take-away and watching a film. Someone else might have been so desperate to go out that staying in with a take-away is not even a consolation prize. I feel happy if my children let me sleep until 8am. To a stroppy teenager, an 8am start would be horrendous! I love that idea about a finite amount of happiness in the world. It would go a long way towards explaining why, if there is a God, he can't let everyone be happy all the time ...

  • Thanks for the clarification ... there's a bit of me that likes the idea of a fixed amount of happiness and there being happiness and anti-happiness so it was nice to have the opportunity of the ambiguity to come across that idea. Would be good to use in a story. Might inspire me to get some creative writing done.

    Actually I think unhappiness is something we do to ourselves by having expectations that we should be happy rather than contented ... so may be that is why I feel so uncomfortable with the word 'happy'.

    Desire is the root of all sorrow

    The root of desire is the illusion of self

    Let those who do not know the whole

    See the whole

    Let there need be not the need of the one

    The need to be one

    But the need to be whole

    The need to be whole

    For desire is the root of all sorrow ...

    Really ought to use that for a meditation!

  • I desire for nothing but has just become a burden that I carry for the sake of a chosen few people. How long I can carry the burden before I jump is anyone's guess. Those who are closest to me know and acknowledge how I feel and are always aware that, for me, there might be no tomorrow.

  • Sorry to hear that but can relate. I can't remember a time when I would have plumped for being alive over being dead if given the choice.

    Good that those closest can and do accept the situation.

    Its truly amazing how much we can put up with because of other people.

  • Omg! Lucky how I relate to that! For me life is like that but unlike you I don't have anyone close enough to me to share that with. Being alone and unloved is the worst thing in the world.

    Bev x

  • OMG Bev,

    I can't begin to imagine what I'd do in your position. I can only applaud the strength of mind you must're a lot braver than me!

    I try never to give up hope of a 'cure' but after 20+ years of suffering I don't know where I'd begin to even put some sort of normality into my life.

    Keep on keeping on!


  • No one is happy for long, but little moments of happiness add up and can make your day a good day - then you will be content! :)

    Moffy x

  • Thanks - its strange that the word spooks me but it does - expectations that can't be lived up to. Really do prefer contentment so I'm trying to think contented when they say happy in the meditation :)

  • For me happy is being glad to be alive. When I feel that I am happy, when I am not then I wish I were dead and that's not happy.

  • Thanks.

    Not sure that I ever quite get to the glad to be alive state. Lots of times when I enjoy what I am doing and feel very calm. May be it's a little unfair to say that I'm not glad to be alive - just that if I was given the choice between being alive and being dead I don't think I could ever remember a time when I wouldn't have plumped for being dead ... guess that makes me a life-long depressive :)

  • I was a bit tongue in cheek, I mean feel like being dead, not actually wanting to be.

  • Happiness to me tends to mean love and friendship. I've never been very good at either and have little control over that. In someways once I accepted that I was more content and found things about myself to like.I have made some really bad mistakes in my life since and the feelings of guilt have made me far less content. I suppose I gave up on the be nice to be liked in return philosophy., which quite frankly didn't work.

    The problem with this however is that people now have genuine reasons to dislike me.In some ways its easier to deal with.

  • Hope you manage to find that place of contentment again.

    You can't change the past so guilt isn't really that much use to anyone.

    Know what you mean about it being easier, sometimes at least, to cope with being disliked than being liked.

  • I agree with everything you say there lilliput. You are not alone. I am just like that too.

    Bev x

  • "Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon" - Susan Ertz

    I think happiness is a lot like that as well. It's become this mythical ideal, a utopia that people believe they can get to. Some magical state where it will all be marvellous. They have no concept of what it would be, or why they want it, or how they will get there. But they like the idea of the fairytale ending. It's a lot like notions of some perfect afterlife. When people talk about being "happy" and "fulfilled as a person", I get the same sense of nausea I get when couples say they "just knew" or it was "meant to be".

    In my optimistic moments, I like to think of life as being like a huge infinite metropolis, a cityscape with no end. And you just keep on driving round, not in any particular direction, just exploring, seeing different things, having different experiences, meeting different people, trying to see as much of the city as you can before your time comes. That would be a "happy" life for me, to have experienced as many different things, and sensations, and emotions as I'm able to. I don't expect them all to be positive, or to feel upbeat all the time. Or even to feel like it was worth it all at the end. But there will be good friends and interesting and enjoyable things along the way.

  • Thanks for this.

    Glad that you have your metropolis to explore in your happy times. Hope you have many of them because it sounds as if you have a lot of exploring to do.

  • I think, therefore I am; I am, and therefore I think.

You may also like...