3.8 Editor's Pick
February 5, 2024

No, You Don’t Have to be “Happy” All the Time.


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The latest craze being touted by the Wellness Industrial Complex is “Happiness.”

Plenty of books, articles, and podcasts have been dedicated to this theme and although I have not accessed them all, I gather that our natural state of being is to be a walking, breathing, smiley-face emoji.

Online, there are plenty of sites advising us of the “10 Things You Can Do” to encourage permanent happiness and the habits of “Happy People” (not you) that we can emulate. Conversely, it is unspoken but assumed that if we aren’t happy all the time, we’re doing something wrong and need to analyze our life to see what our emotional deficits might be.


This latest fad reminds me of the late 1990s when it was common in New Age circles that if you wanted to stay young, beautiful, and healthy forever, the key was to constantly immerse yourself in positive thinking. With the opposite being that if you came down with a terminal condition, it was because of the negative thought patterns that you allowed to dominate your life. I never believed that, having seen too many of my truly saintly friends die of cancer before the age of 50 while many decidedly un-positive individuals were already in their 90s. I could name names, but I’m sure readers can supply their own.

True, positive thinking and peace of mind are lovely goals to attain but everyone—no matter how evolved they are—experiences one of Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days. I bet even Jesus of Nazareth and Gautama Buddha had times when they just wanted to curl up in bed with a teddy bear and cry. And no doubt Mister Rogers also suffered days when he wished his neighbors would go stuff it.

If you (like me) are in this category, there is nothing wrong with you.

As we used to say in the spiritual community I once lived in, it’s the energy. The definition of this might sound fuzzy, but it’s the overall vibe of the day. The closest I can compare it to is when the computer is on the fritz, the kids are whiny, and the dog poops on the carpet—and you blame Mercury in retrograde. Whether a planetary orbit can cause such chaos is grounds for debate, but the idea is that the mood of the day is influenced by forces beyond our control. But there is a logical system to this, namely the laws of Expansion and Contraction. In short, this is the universe’s version of mood swings, so it’s not surprising that we can have a day of utter bliss followed by one where we want to bang our head against the wall.

Every high has a low, but the good news is that both are temporary.

After you’ve lived a long life, one sees the pattern of expansion and contraction as a series of oscilloscopic waves. You no longer freak out over the lows, nor become overly euphoric during the highs. I believe that one reason why teenagers suffer from depression is because when they experience their first low cycle, they believe they’re trapped in a permanent condition. They have yet to observe that wave.

One benefit of being in the contraction phase is that it forces us to face ourselves more honestly without pretensions or false fronts. We come as we are. It was a common joke in my spiritual clan that on days when you felt like absolute sh*t, others would say to you, “Wow, dude, you’re putting out some very strong positive spiritual vibrations today.”

And yes, we really did talk like that.


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