Does being happy piss you off? It can for me.
I often feel all the talk about needing to be happy is BS. And those smiley faces…don’t get me started.
Now I know I’m not the only one feeling this way, Anahad O’Connor from The New York Times published an article about how faking it can “worsen your mood and cause you to withdraw from the tasks at hand.”
The stress of faking personal development
Feeling one thing and showing another creates dissidence – stress. You’re telling your body and your emotions that what they’re experiencing is invalid. Just the thought of that makes me mad.
Brent Scott, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University who published a study in the Academy of Management Journal, states when the subjects went from a “surface smile” to “deep acting” where they found a place in them to be happy about, they generated authentic smiles.
Scott said women are more affected by faking smiles. His theory is that as men we’re more accustomed to expressing less.
I find much of the self-help advice given is akin to fake smiles. Denying a feeling to look or perform in a certain way will backfire. Not only will you not be feeling honest, others will pick up the duplicity.
Much of my own work and the work men do with me is about disconnecting from how we have worn these masks of happiness. To survive as kids we learn to please our parents and other adults. Then we learn to please our peers; soon that’s who we are. That adapted persona continues to be reinforced for how ‘good’ it is.
Growth comes from feeling it as you do it
I’m not suggesting you go around being some mean SOB. I will suggest that you allow yourself to feel what is occurring as you perform what you need to do. It will take practice to develop the skill of feeling and doing simultaneously.
I suggest you start practicing feeling when there are no external demands or minimal demands. Feel in your body the physical and emotional sensations. I don’t mean just getting a quick sense; I’m talking about narrowing it down to see where it is and what it feels like. Is it expanding or contracting? Does it radiate? What color is it? You get the idea. The more you sense it, the more you own it – and then the more you can release. In juxtaposition to faking it, feeling it requires accepting what is occurring. As you train your body/mind to accept, you will be able to accept your experience as you perform a task.
Once you can accept the unpleasant feeling, then you can also find a place in you that connects to pleasure. Rather than the either/or of being unhappy or faking it, you are now able to maintain dual states. From there, you are able to shift out of the negative to a more positive experience. Your shift is not one of denial; it is one of acceptance and expansion.
There will be times when you won’t be able to shift it, that’s okay. There are certainly times when I can’t shift it. To the best of my ability, I feel and speak what is holding me back. Often after I speak it there is an enough of a release there is either a spontaneous shift or room for me to bring in more joy.
Experiment with sensing what is occurring. Start with what is true for you in the moment. Be honest to yourself. Let go of your masks of pleasing others – you and they will survive.
One of the most powerful gifts of our men’s groups is the space of encouraged expression. We love to see a man lose it. The melt down that happens when a man gives up his mask for a new authenticity melts all of our hearts…then puts a deep smile on our faces. A man who has the courage to surrender to his truth sets all of us free to do the same.
At least once per day, take on being authentic to yourself – feel what is happening. Let us know how it is for you.