That Feeling When by Nikhil Taneja: Do we know how to be happy?

I recently realized that after years of struggling, I am in a place where things, at this present moment, are going well. In fact, they are better than ok. My personal relationships are healthy, I have never enjoyed working more, I receive rewards and recognition for the years of hard work it took to get here. My life is going … pretty smooth. I have been so pleasantly surprised that things are going well that he has now turned into suspicion about what will inevitably come next!

It’s like you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. There must be a problem, my brain told me; Doesn’t it feel like the calm before the impending storm? When the game goes well, why does it seem like a preparation for “difficult” times? These petty questions, combined with the frustration that I’m thinking so much about when I should just enjoy the good times (very rare!), Have given me more anxiety than I’ve had in months!

‘You are not alone’

To process my feelings, I did what I usually do when I feel too much: I expressed. On Instagram, of course. I asked others if they too find happiness “wrong” and if we really know how to be happy.

I didn’t expect hundreds of DMs to my post from people who wrote me to say “you’re not alone”. I received DMs that said things like “I feel guilty about resting and wondering why I’m having fun” and “When good things happen, there comes a sense of fear. I only feel comfortable in chaos and chaos. ‘ they are people who have said: ‘Whenever I am successful, I feel I do not deserve it if I have not struggled as much as my friends’ and ‘I feel sad when something good happens. It is difficult for me to accept that something good can happen’ One person even wrote, “Sometimes, I end up sabotaging the smooth phase due to the thought of an impending doom!”

Many people have explained it as the “Indian mentality” of the “labor worker” and the hunt for “capitalism”. That as Indians, we are programmed to never be satisfied with what our present is, and we are always fighting, fighting and pushing for more, “even if we don’t know exactly what we are fighting for.” May the struggle give us something to look forward to, especially for people who constantly want to be “better versions of themselves”. That we have now started to like being uncomfortable so much, that this feeling ‘comforts our brains!’

Models of negativity

Others have called it the curse of being “over thinkers and over feelings”. And many have given me terms to learn more about: “survival mode” and “trauma conditioning” and how we are conditioned to chaos and “romanticize pain and struggle” so much that we have now developed a “negative bias” in which , when things are good, it is difficult to accept it. One person wrote touchingly: ‘What are we looking for? Even when we are happy, we seek closure. ‘

Some people have sent me the same video from well-known public speaker and author Brene Brown, in which he called this fight an “omen of joy”. She said that “we are trying to experience the tragedy so that we can beat the vulnerability to the punch.” That ‘when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability’, we are unable to ‘soften to joy’. It was bittersweet to learn that it’s not just me responding oddly to what should be “happiness”. That these patterns are so ingrained within us that we haven’t even begun to unlearn them.

But it was also gratifying to read that we identified the challenge: that while it has taken all this time to be vulnerable when we suffer, now we must also embrace vulnerability in moments of joy. We started to feel comfortable telling ourselves that it’s okay to be sad. Maybe now we also need to tell ourselves that it’s okay to be happy.

Nikhil Taneja is a writer, producer, storyteller, public speaker, sentimental enthusiast, men’s mental health advocate and co-founder of Yuvaa

That Feeling When is a fortnightly column that offers a recognizable insight into mental health and emotional well-being.

From HT Brunch, September 24, 2022

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