Thursday, 9 August 2012


When were you last really happy? This question was put to me recently and I'm still pondering... I didn't think I would have to dig deep, but let's be honest I'm shovelling. Sometimes you have to go back to go forwards, at least that's what I've read and been told. The problem is I'm always happier looking back and never venturing forwards. Forward is unknown and I have a strict comfort zone. What one person may think nothing of will tie me in anxious knots. I'm unable to relax in any unusual circumstances: places I haven't been before or where I don't know what's expected. How should I act? 'Just be yourself', I tell myself, but I'm tense and ill-at-ease. At social events, all I can think is 'God, please help me look as though I'm enjoying it!' My eyes turned up to the sky beseechingly as I'm thinking it. Poised like a cat, my body never slacks. Does anxiety lessen the effect of happiness? I think it does...

I've always been a people pleaser. A chameleon: changing my response to suit the situation, mood or person. An on-the-surface copycat which is a form of social etiquette; I know what behaviour is expected. It's not being false, but it's not altogether genuine either. Sometimes circumstances require a mask to hide or protect yourself, or to be accepted. Have I gotten so good that I no longer feel real happiness? Do I recognise when it belongs to me? I don't know... Perhaps it's contained somewhere, gathering dust. Maturing. Cork popped, the bubbles will froth and spill over. Is it possible for each of us to experience happiness differently?

Happiness is subjective I thought, yet we treat it as a commodity. There's a Richter-type scale to indicate where we are and how we compare to other countries. For policy making and as data research, this is interesting, but aren't we trying too hard to quantify what makes us happy? Happiness is the buzz word: how to get it and how to improve upon it. Er, isn't that missing the point? Isn't happiness somehow meant to catch you out? Creep up on you? If we constantly measure our own and strive to experience it, aren't we diluting it? Should happiness be taught? Well, we're trying. Covertly informed how we should react to life-changing events and how we should display it. A competition to find lasting happiness and doggedly hold on to it; nobody yet coming forward in their claim of it.

Why? Because happiness doesn't work like that. In being a copycat, you imitate how you think this emotion should look, but you don't really feel it.