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Shippy's avatar

Do you fear happiness?

Asked by Shippy (9857 points ) October 15th, 2012

The last few years of my life have been very difficult, I won’t go into too many details. But most of my day circles around the issues I am having. Real ones. Also phobias brought on by high stress. If all this reality is removed, and I settle into a place that is peaceful and calm, I am terrified of looking back and understanding how stress almost wrecked my body. For example, eating badly, smoking too much. This almost makes me afraid of impending happiness. Does this make sense to anyone?

It is almost like you were speeding down a crazy highway, with bumper cars and mad pedestrians, then suddenly you are idling down a country lane. Has anyone experienced a change in their lives that went from bedlam and calm. How did you cope? I know this is an odd question, but it is very important to me. Thank you.

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17 Answers

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

It is an interesting question really. Personally I often look at things that would make me happy and I see this amazing thing ahead of me, but then I kind of fear more how to get there than the happiness itself. For example, I will set a target connected to work of what I want to achieve and I think about what it will mean, but then I get hung up on how to get to that point and in a way fear the path that has to be taken.

I’ve never experienced going from bedlam to calm, but perhaps its about the unknown aspect? You are used to the bedlam and chaos that for that to suddenly change it can be scary.

Ron_C's avatar

I’ve been struck with a bout of PTSD. I previously thought of myself as a relatively happy person. Now I can act it but not really feel it. The best I seep to get is numb. I need to fix this because it is harming my wife. We’ve been married more than 46 years and this isn’t fair for her. She should not be worried about my moods and unhealthy thoughts.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m a nut, and sometimes I want to screw things up. Sometimes my life seems too stable and I want to go out and do stupid things and I know they are stupid and I know they could ruin my life, and I get this feeling that it would be all right. I might get away with it. I might not. Either way, life will get intense and I care more about that than being happy.

Well, so far, it’s just a feeling. I’ve never acted on it without being manic. But I just can’t explain it. It’s like a well of desire rises inside my stomach and my chest and I want, I want, I want. I don’t even really know what I want. A spark of some kind. I just want to go out and scream. And I never scream. Never. So it’s like this part of me that I don’t even know, and I don’t know where it comes from and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t even know if I should worry about it since mostly, it doesn’t do anything… except the one time, when I was sick.

Maybe I do fear happiness. Happiness seems deadly, in some way. I want trouble. Problems. Isn’t that why I like fluther? People have all kinds of problems to work on, and when I work on other people’s problems, I don’t need to make up any of my own.

Do you fantasize about running? Surely everyone does at some point in their life? I’ve never done it. I’m too fucking responsible. But I want to. There are people I want to see. Things I want to do. It’s this energy and it is demanding and I don’t have any place to put it.

Sometimes even depression seems better than being stable. Even dying seems better. Crazy. I know. I can’t explain it. I know I don’t really want to die, but when I’m really desperate, things matter more, even if I can’t hold them together. So there I times when I crave that desperation, even though I don’t let it come near me.

Sorry. I have no answers. Just more questions. I think a lot of it is the feeling that people don’t understand and don’t approve and are afraid of me when I feel this way. Or afraid of anyone who feels this way. They don’t know what we’ll do. And I don’t know if it matters than I’ve never done anything that crazy. I’m as socially conformist as anyone could be. But beneath my bland exterior lies… lies… who knows what lies beneath the surface the world sees?

Shippy's avatar

@Ron_C Yes you have hit the nail on the head. I was wondering what I was asking at the time. Now I realize this could hit me, big time. I feel almost like a soldier about to go home from war!

Shippy's avatar

@wundayatta Interesting comment. I don’t get that feeling, but then for years I have lived on adrenalin. So didn’t need that feeling? Perhaps you describe boredom? It’s an interesting concept, happiness, contentment, do they equal boredom? Are those terms even associated?

I know people who are addicted to adrenalin, a lot are ex addicts some are not. The addicts I know, do rap sailing, jump off buildings to get a rush. I have another friend who takes steroids and uppers as she calls them. I am just so anxious, all I want to do is not experience adrenalin. I just know, as I have experienced it before, that when internally there is a lot of noise going on the stillness is terrifying.

Shippy's avatar

@TheProfoundPorcupine Is it because the paths are unknown? On a literal level, new pathways are often difficult to walk and offer views we have never seen before. But to me that is what being alive is about. The opposite of living and life is death. Not so much on a physical level for this purpose but more on a psychological level.

flutherother's avatar

I went through a period of uncertainty and stress that lasted years before settling down into a calm and secure situation. Some people might not appreciate what I now have but I do. Going through the difficult times has made me value what I have. I feel relieved and grateful every day.

A more severe experience might have a different result. I imagine you might feel you can’t escape the horror of it and you fear it may recur. The experience might spoil your enjoyment of the present and even make happiness impossible. This is what PTSD can do but there are treatments for it.

Shippy's avatar

@flutherother I am so glad you have found a new peace and happiness. Yes, at least now I understand my own question, in relation to PTSD. Just another on my list!!

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

@Shippy I think in reflection it may be a fear of what happens if you do not achieve that happiness for me. I will need to go and think about it more

bookish1's avatar

Good question indeed, @Shippy. I think I do sometimes “miss the comfort of being sad,” as a Nirvana song says. I was able to function at a very high level while depressed for a decade. Aced high school and college, got into grad school. I am just very accustomed to being depressed, although my reasons for severe general depression are all gone, and I am living the life I never thought I could. I am very happy and grateful to be where I am, but it still takes getting used to!

I wouldn’t say my life has gone from bedlam to calm, but it certainly has been a new experience for me not being constantly depressed and suicidal, having more energy, having my emotions shift greatly in general. I guess recently I’ve been trying to pay more attention to my feelings, and allowing myself to feel them rather than repressing them or discounting them. Whether that is sadness (I came home from work today feeling all twisted up about a number of things, acknowledged I was feeling bummed and probably couldn’t get any work done, so I took a short nap and I feel better now), anger (I lift weights or play violent video games to dissipate the energy), or happy (I listen to happy, uplifting music and try to be thankful.) It’s a slow process training yourself to adapt to a new emotional regime! I was just telling my therapist about this last week, actually.

Shippy's avatar

@bookish1 Isnt it interesting how we cling to familiar situations or feelings even if they do us harm? it reminds me of an eight year relationship I was in. The bond was so strong, so powerful yet so dysfunctional. I like your use of the word ‘comfort’. Comfort in stress, comfort in anxiety and fears, somehow my wires or our wires get crossed surely? It is an interesting concept.

Ponderer983's avatar

If I am honest with myself, I can’t say I have ever really been happy in my life. Being bullied as a kid until the time I went to college, college got better, but I wasn’t over the moon, and since college my life has been in some form of shambles from one day to the next due to a myriad of things. I’ve pretended to be happy and put up a front to that effect, but when sitting at home alone, I just existed. And now, honestly, I fear being happy because I don’t know what it is like. I know how to live life ho-hum and always dealing with exorbitant stressors. I don’t know how to just be happy. I feel like I would have a major identity crisis and not know who I turned into. So yeah, that scares me.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
JLeslie's avatar

I don’t fear happiness. When I found calm after chaos I was extremely glad. I did have a tinge of regret, of wasted time, is that what you mean maybe? During my bedlum I did go through things and do things that I truly believe shortened my life. I try to think I did the best I could at the time.

I also didn’t do some things in my life during the chaos, because I felt unable to handle it, or other people talked me into thinking I couldn’t handle it. Not listening to my inner voice has caused me regret too. What is odd, is even when things got much better, I still didn’t do some of the things. I became afraid to ruin the happiness I was in the midst of by complicating my life. I just wanted to revel in feeling better.

Not to mention there is a Jewish tradition of believing when things are good something bad has to happen. One should never speak of good things happening, because you might jinx it. I don’t really believe in that superstition, but I still kind of play along with it.

Haleth's avatar

I had been hungry all the years-
My noon had come, to dine-
I, trembling, drew the table near
And touched the curious wine.

‘T was this on tables I had seen
When turning, hungry, lone,
I looked in windows, for the wealth
I could not hope to own.

I did not know the ample bread,
‘T was so unlike the crumb
The birds and I had often shared
In Nature’s dining-room.

The plenty hurt me, ‘t was so new,—
Myself felt ill and odd,
As berry of a mountain bush
Transplanted to the road.

Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.
-Emily Dickinson.

bookish1's avatar

@JLeslie: Wasted time. I have been feeling a little of that. I had to grow up so fast. When I was 17, I knew what I wanted to do in life (and hey, I’m doing it!), because I knew I couldn’t rely on my parents’ support. I’ve been feeling kind of sad recently, that I had to act and think like an adult when most people my age were still having fun, because they could take things for granted that I could not. And now, I am in a very good place in life, but I have more work to do than most adults can handle… Good thing I’m a masochist is all I’m saying…

JLeslie's avatar

@bookish1 My natural personality was to be rather grown up and responsible, so I don’t feel like I missed having fun when I was very young, because even though my parents were fine in the scheme of things, I still was not a let loose, party harty girl. I did go clubbing, and hung out with friends, and did not have many responsibilities, but I also worked since I was 14, didn’t drink, was pretty lonely as a young teen because my friends were starting to drink and party, and do wild things I didn’t want to be around, let alone do myself.

I don’t remember how old you are, but what I can tell you is if you are still under the age of 35, I truly believe the best is yet to come for you. Especially if you can be for the most part financially in a good place, as you get older you will feel more and more free, and more like a child in some ways. A child in the sense of seeing the world anew. New experiences. Learning about things you didn’t even know existed.

I say be in the moment! Try not to dwell on childhood too much. Looking forward to happiness is much more fun than looking back at regrets and injustice in our lives. Plan vacations in advance, so you have it to look forwards to. Plan meeting up with friends. I still dwell on regrets too much, but I am trying to get better.

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