I’ve taken a liking to Joker, a movie about a man who descends into madness with the help of his brain injury and his environment. For most of his 30 years, Arthur Fleck tries to be happy. Even his mother calls him Happy. In one scene Arthur tells a clerk on a psych ward it’s hard to be happy all the time.
I try to be happy (and positive) as often as I can but last week all my goodness came into question when I ran across an article about research that shows happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Author David B. Feldman Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today that happiness can be achieved not just by enjoying a sunrise or eating cake but by personal meaning experiences such as making a difference in the world. Dr. Feldman also says negative emotions can make our lives better. Research shows if we feel happy all the time, we might miss out on opportunities to improve ourselves. On the other end of the spectrum, too much kindness doesn’t necessarily produce positive results. For example, we can become a pushover for colleagues aiming to take advantage of our kindness, i.e., take on a portion of their workload. This can lead to serious stress and exhaustion – for you - not your coworker.
Considering the world around us, the death of a black man at the hands of law enforcement, the COVID-19 pandemic and sweeping racial strife, it’s understandable to feel negative emotions.
Watching the upheaval on TV may not be a pleasure but it opens us up to the reality of what others are experiencing. At the same time, situations such as these can lead to a dialog that may be difficult but could ultimately lead to positive change. It could even start at home.
Our community was shaken a few weeks ago when a young black businesswoman captured a voice message that contained a racial slur. The words were hurtful and to be honest a reminder that we have a long way to go. However, instead of rioting in the streets, we came together in unity, as one, in a march that concluded in front of our historic courthouse with guests from all walks of life asking for healing and peace.
I was moved as both blacks and whites revealed their genuine pain and empathy for those devastated by the awful words left on the voicemail. Some say it came at the worst time, but I believe it couldn’t have come at a better time. It was a turning point, an “unhappy” moment but one that may lead to open discussion about racial progress. Only time will tell.
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