Happy. Sad. Conflicted. Complicated. Content. Simple. Angry. Depressed. Thrilled. Ecstatic. Hysterical. Terrified. Trepidatious. Loving. Dramatic.
These are only a handful of emotions that every person has, yet, with the advent of Pinterest quotes, Facebook updates, tweets and Instagram inspirational pages, we see day in and day out the mantra that we “only have room for positivity” in our lives. We come from a stoic society wherein our ancestors were taught to “Keep Calm and Carry On”, and gradually, in North America, we learned to share and express our feelings. We are taught that sharing our thoughts is healthy, and healing. This, naturally, lead to something of which I am terribly guilty – the over share. I am sure that the cult of positivity is a reaction to the rise of TMI (Too Much Information), but does that make it right? Is it fair to expect that no one ever express an emotion that is not outward cheerfulness and boundless energy?
We all have bad days, and sometimes we need to vent. In the world of social media, most often this involves a tweet stating that “ughhhhh! I have an awful case of the Mondays!!” If this happens once in a while, the person is often told to cheer up, or that they are not alone; should this continue on to a terrible case of Friday FOMO (fear of missing out) the person’s friends begin to roll their eyes and think they may need to unfollow the ‘Debbie Downer’. The truth is that everyone needs to care for themselves, and when a person’s negative moods begin to impact you, it is understandable to need to back away temporarily, but have we become so plastic that we feel it is desirable have only happy, positive things in our lives? Why are we not allowed to be sad, or mad, or stressed?
Those who have read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or have so much as seen Pixar’s Wall-E, know that we can “positive” ourselves right into oblivion. Insomuch as negativity is handled in small doses, maybe it is time to remember that only having positivity in our lives does not make us grown ups, in opposition to one image I saw today, stating that “as I grow older, I know that I need only happiness, positivity. I know that I don’t have time for negativity or stress.” We need all of our emotions and feelings in order to be well-rounded. Pretending to be happy is not the antidote to stress, but rather the surest way to lose one’s temper when the straw breaks the camels back.
In the 1990s, we enjoyed angst. Musicians, filmmakers, clothiers, and amateur poets lived their sadness to the point of excess. At the turn of the millennium, we turned to sparkles and pop and color. We have gorged ourselves on the desire to be happy. Who doesn’t want to be happy? We all do. But that is not to the exclusion of anything not pleasant. I have seen far too many “inspirations” lately about only having happiness in one’s life, and knowing far too many people to whom this, in itself, causes stress. We fear sharing our stress or negativity, as we have seen our friends post “ain’t nobody got time for that” time and time again.
If that is so, do we ever truly feel positive? Even the youngest child knows that these cannot be darkness without light. Moana faces Tefiti; women stand up for our rights; Americans stand in solidarity with their Muslim neighbours when unjust laws are written. Sometimes, there is stress, and sometimes, we feel negative. It is my belief that we need to embrace both.
“Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World