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“Is It Possible To Have A ‘Happy’ New Year?”

fireworks“Happy New Year!” – Around this time every year this is a familiar refrain. We ask people how they enjoyed their December break and wish them a happy time for the upcoming year. But do we really want to wish people this?

Among other therapies, I am a neurolinguistic programming therapist (NLP for short). And one of the things I love about NLP is its focus on the words we use and the deeper meaning we absorb from these words. (Some people might say, “that’s just semantics Sam”. Well that is the point considering semantics is the study of meaning of words. But I digress…)

Getting back to the “happy” greeting…

We not only give this “happy” message at this time of year. We also use it for other occasions like, “Merry Christmas”, “Happy birthday”, or “Have a great time on your vacation”.

On the surface these sound sensible. But is it really possible to have a happy year? a year with just happiness? I don’t know about you but I have never experienced such a year and I don’t know anyone who has.

And isn’t it interesting that Christmas is often one of the most stressful times for my psychotherapy clients. What often happens is that family trigger old dysfunctional patterns and they have anything BUT a good time. This is certainly not helped by the tremendous pressure they feel to have a good time because it seems, what with all these “Merry Christmas” exhortations being passed around, that everyone but them is happy.

You may be thinking, “most people don’t actually
believe that “happy” aspiration literally, do they?”

 

Perhaps not intellectually. However most people are heavily influenced by what they see and hear. I can’t tell you the number of people I see who get upset by Facebook pictures. They say they saw their friend or a peer from work on a Facebook page, laughing on the beach on their vacation with their family and friends. It all seems so perfect. And they get upset because they aren’t having as good a time on their break or are jealous because they often argue with their family. Because they see a few happy pics, they assume that the time between the pictures are more or less the same.

And so it is with happy greetings. If many people are wishing people happy greetings, then the assumption is that most people must be happy. I never said it was logical. Logic resides in the conscious mind but that is only in control 3% of the time. Our subconscious minds controls our behaviour about 97% of the time!

roller-coaster-wild-thing-57811-mThe fact is that people can’t even be consistently happy one whole day. We go through a roller coaster of emotions – probably thousands in the course of a day. We are not consciously aware of all of these but they are there nonetheless. For example, if you get a nice card for your birthday from a colleague, you may at first feel surprised. You laugh and feel lighthearted as you read the funny comment on the card. Then a warm feeling comes over you as you read the nice things she said about you. Then a few seconds later, you feel a tinge of guilt because you realized that you never gave her a card on her birthday. Four emotions in the space of 2 minutes and I didn’t even elaborate on this exchange.

So what are we to do?

First of all, stop believing that everyone is having a happy time – all of the time – on their birthday, vacation, mother’s day, etc… And the family you saw in that perfect picture on Facebook probably had a big argument before they left the hotel room about who messed up the bathroom; someone blamed someone else for forgetting to pack their favourite bathing suit or hat; and little Jeffrey and Carol didn’t stop calling each other names in the back seat on the way to the beach. Let’s see that on the next Facebook page! It may not be as pretty but it would damn sure be a lot closer to the truth than the other one.

Instead of pretending that we or anyone should be happy all the time, it would be healthier to learn how to accept ourselves as we go through the roller coaster of normal human emotions throughout the course of a day. There are benefits to unpleasant emotions. Fear can warn us of imminent danger. Sadness can help us mourn a loss. Frustration can be a signal to change some action that is repetitively leading to the same poor result. Anger can be a sign that we are being taken advantage of and is an emotion that can spring us into action. All unpleasant emotions have a purpose. A bigger purpose is that they make us appreciate the pleasant emotions more.

But we have been conditioned in society to fear unpleasant emotions. We have been given glib social demands like, “Cheer up!” or “Don’t be sad” or one of my pet peeves, “Turn that frown upside down”. But what if that person has a good reason to be upset. By denying his feelings, he will never learn how to read or heed the message, which will make him weaker.

Do not be jealous of people who appear to always be happy in social media. It is a lie. We humans are not made that way. What I am saying is that it is okay to have ALL of your feelings – both pleasant and unpleasant.

I wish you a Year of BALANCE of EMOTIONS

 

So I WILL wish you a “happy” new year AND I wish you a year of ups and downs, of joy and frustrations, of exhilarating moments and disappointing ones. In short, I wish you a year ofstone-tower-605544-m full experiential living; a year of BALANCE of both pleasant and unpleasant emotions. Feeling all of your emotions help you experience life to the fullest. They help you connect with others on a deeper level. They make you resilient. They make you whole and healthy.

Do not be afraid of any emotion. Be true to yourself. Listen to your body. Listen to its messages. Feel fully and live loudly and…

Live Your Dreams
Sam Gerstein

P.S. Now I am interested in hearing your opinion. What are your personal experiences with the pressure of feeling happy on the holidays and at other significant days throughout the year? What do you feel when you see people posing in the perfect picture on social media?

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