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Stop asking me if I am happy

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happy | Contemporary Psychology St Kilda

Yes. That thing.

If I wanted to get a sense of how are you going, right now in your life, I might ask, you…. Yes you – “are you happy?”
*I have one eyebrow slightly raised as I ask.

Before you answer, let’s look at what that happy word might mean.

In the Oxford dictionary, happy means “showing pleasure or content”.

In the Cambridge dictionary it means “feeling, showing or causing pleasure or satisfaction”.

In the Free Dictionary it is termed
1. Enjoying, showing, or marked by pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. See Synonyms at glad.
2. Cheerful; willing: happy to help.
3. Characterised by good luck.
4. Being especially well-adapted; felicitous: a happy turn of phrase.
5. a. Characterised by a spontaneous or obsessive inclination to use something. b. Enthusiastic about or involved with to a disproportionate degree.

And for further clarification, just to make sure you can realllllllly think about this properly before you answer. The term happiness comes from the Old Norse (language spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia in 7th-15th century) term happ, meaning “luck” or “chance.”

So. I ask again. Are you happy?
*This is where the popping head emoji emerges*

There are so many different ways to interpret the word happy that it makes me question why am I asking you the question at all? Should I clarify and ask if you are feeling lucky or….. contented? Are you experiencing pleasure or feeling cheerful? And by the way, do you stay feeling that way or do things keep changing for you? Maybe when you woke up your felt refreshed and excited. Then you found you dogs vomit in the kitchen and felt worried. Then your friend calls to tell you they miss you – feeling better etc.

Maybe life keeps changing and so do your feelings? Maybe instead of someone being happy, that might often be happy, or some form of happy throughout a day? I suspect you are not in fact happy or unhappy, but a changing form of different feelings throughout a day.

So why do we often aim for happy? As if it is a place we need to be heading toward.

The exercise of me asking you if you are happy (or the act of you asking someone else) seems somewhat unhelpful. Not only does the term technically imply so many different components to experience, it is this reflection, on noticing that nothing actually stays the same (and that one word could mean so many different things) that asking a person if they a happy, a bit silly.

So can we slow down on these exceptional expectations of need to be happy all the time? Because tomorrow is a new day.

Now I will take a different approach and ask you. How are you feeling right now?

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