The evils of the Cult of Happiness

I help people sustainably enjoy their lives, and sustainably live lives they enjoy.

That means if I discover a concept that can help people do just that, dispelling beliefs that are causing people harm and frustration, it’s my obligation to share.

Most people have this belief about happiness that’s hurting them. And they might think it’s okay. And they might even think they understand what happiness really is.

But there’s a difference between thinking it and living it.

It’s not your fault.

There’s a group of people – gurus, self-proclaimed happiness experts – who are sharing harmful information. I’ll call them the Cult of Happiness.

Following their advice will lead you down a path of frustration, resentment and repeated mistakes.

Everyone and their grandma tells you happiness is a feeling.

It means you feel good.

There was this convention between eastern and western philosophies.

Western psychology said good emotions are pleasant ones. Ones that we want to feel.

Bad emotions are unpleasant ones. Ones we don’t want to feel.

Many many books are written to help you be more happy!

Many many books and gurus promise to erase your pain, your anger, your frustration by helping you see everything in a “positive” light.

“Everything is okay. It’s your anger that needs to change.”

Eastern psychology scoffed, rolled up their sleeves and threw a few solid punches.

Good emotions are ones which clear our perception of reality.

Bad emotions are ones that distort reality.

In other words, accepting things as they are is good. Distorting things to be what they’re not is bad.

Being angry because someone hurt us is positive.

Contrary to what the Cult of Happiness tries to tell you, being overly excited because we’ve cheered ourselves up, distracting from the hurt is harmful and bad and wrong and horrible.

And there’s a lot of truth to this.

Rogerian psychology shows that people grow and heal when psychologists just listen to the patient, allowing them to be what they are right then and there. Over time, through the therapist’s acceptance the patient learns he can always accept himself as who he is, and he miraculously changes to become his best self.

“On Becoming a Person” by Carl Rogers is an amazing tome of Rogers’ experiences and conclusions which explains the previous paragraph in exciting clarity.

I recommend it to everyone!

A book I’m in the middle of, recommended to me by a good friend shares another psychological framework – ACT. In it, a key tenet is to be open to emotion – similar to Rogers’ “openness to experience” if not even the same exact concept. Psychological health and resilience is predicted much more by a person’s openness to experiencing their own reality including their emotions and internal world. All of it. The pleasant and the unpleasant.

Plus, it’s been shown in studies that if you repress or distract yourself from negative emotions, you’ll likely do the same for positive ones! You can choose to repress your emotional experience or not to repress, but you can’t choose to selectively repress only some emotions and feel others.

“But Joe,” you ask, “does accepting everything as it is mean you have to accept people hurting you?”

No. Let’s be clear… There’s a big difference between allowing and accepting.

You can choose what to allow and what not to allow.

But if your girlfriend keeps trying to make you feel guilty for saying hi to your female neighbor, you don’t have to put up with that.

But you DO have to accept it.

Here’s what I mean.

You have to accept that your girlfriend is trying to make you feel guilty.

Not hide from it.

Not delude yourself into thinking she’s not really doing it, or she doesn’t really mean it, or that it’s not hurting you.

Truth is, she’s attempting to make you feel guilty and subversely control you.

And you accepting that means you allow her to be what she is.

And then you have the freedom to make a choice. Do you allow it? Do you talk to her to explain how it makes you feel and ask her to stop? Do you break up with her?

That’s the second part, what to do about it.

But you can’t have healthy boundaries – keeping close good things and keeping away bad things – without accepting things as they are.

This means accepting good things as what they are is just as important.

Like an opportunity to work at your dream company.

You can’t say “well they don’t really want me” or “something always goes wrong” if you have no evidence for that.

Accepting it as it is means you accept that you have the opportunity of your dreams!

Only once you do that can you act on it and take advantage!

I hope this helped you more sustainably enjoy the life you live, and more sustainably live a life you enjoy.

Until next time, sign up for my newsletter by clicking on this sentence.

Memento Mori,


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