Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wholeness Rather Than Happiness?

"I actually attack the concept of happiness. 
The idea that - I don’t mind people being happy - 
but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness 
seems to me a really dangerous idea 
and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, 
which is fear of sadness. 
It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying 
“write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep,” 
and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. 
We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. 

Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for 
and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; 
all of those things which make us who we are. 
Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, 
but they don’t teach us much. 

Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain 
they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” 
I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness”
and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” 
Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?
and if you’re having a bad day, it is."
Hugh Mackay

For those of you who have been following my blog, this quote may come as a bit of a surprise, especially after my previous obnoxiously happy 5k post. At the same time, however, I think the words written above need to be given some thought. 

Life, especially life in recovery, is far from perfectly happy all the time. In fact, most days are really, really difficult and there are several emotional breakdowns involved. Sure, there are brief moments of pure bliss and I think we need to cling onto those moments in order to keep pushing forward, but the truth is things really do have to get worse before they can get better.

Maybe if we shift our focus and strive for wholeness rather than happiness, accepting those bad days as a part of the process might not seem so unbearable. I absolutely, one hundred percent believe my worst days have taught me the most. As the quote states, we live in a society that fears and looks down upon sadness rather than accepting it as a part of life. No one is immune from the sadness bug and that's okay.

Trust me, I have spent way too many years of my life putting on that happy face and pretending like everything was great in life, but it got me nowhere. I'm not saying we should wallow in our hard times, but I do think an important aspect of recovery (and life in general) is to acknowledge these difficult times, learn from them, and grow - adding to our wholeness.



  1. as always Kels... I love this. Happiness is great, but being happy all the time is completely unrealistic. and if it wasn't for the experiences we go through where we were unhappy, sad, unfulfilled, disappointed, etc., I don't think we would truly be able to appreciate the happy moments. It also comes down to appreciating every emotion and experience in our lives, happy or sad, because they made us who we are today... and your experiences made you who you are today, and I think you're an amazing, strong, compassionate (and passionate) woman. and you would not be where you are today if it wasn't for those not happy times, and your ability to overcome those and appreciate your wholeness :)

    1. So true, Carly. Thanks so much for you kind words. You know that you are one of the people I look up to and hope to be as strong as someday, so that means a lot coming from you! :)

  2. When I heard for the first time, "happiness is a state of mind, and we decide to be happy...", I was confused... because isn't it a feeling? Then, I googled about what happiness was, and I found it out that it is based on gratitude. We can name anything that we like for our feelings, and happiness can be a feeling of excitement, success, fun, and etc... but I have heard that it can exist consistently... and now I am understanding that deep true happiness comes from being grateful for what I have. True happiness is within peace. I used to say, "yes I am happy as much as I can be today." Then, I was not lying, but it sounded positive =)

    1. You're so smart, Kyoko. Gratitude really is the key here. I like your "I am as happy as I can be today" thinking. It makes me think that whatever I do today IS good enough and I should be proud of that. Period. Even if it is a bad day. You always make me think about things in a better way... :)

  3. Amen!! I've been learning more and more about the important distinction between "happiness" and "joy", and as you said, happiness versus wholeness.

    I've learned the most about myself, others, life, and God, during trials. We can't expect to be happy all the time. It's not genuine, it's not possible. We do have to find ways to process and get through trials in healthy ways. Sorrow, grief, anger, confusion are inevitable. Joy is possible throughout anything, because it trumps happiness. Joy comes from hope. It all depends where we place our hope!

    You were so right to post your really happy 5K report. We should celebrate happiness. But, you were also right in posting what you did today! Happiness is real, but it comes and goes. We need something deeper! Great post, Kelsi! --Alison

    1. Thanks Alison. I really like your use of the word joy - I had never really thought about the difference between joy and happiness until now, but it makes perfect sense. Hope and joy are two of the greatest gifts in life, so we might as well hold onto the as tightly as possible!

  4. I have to say -- I needed this today. Work has been running me into the ground, and because of that, a job that I love has me close to tears most days. I'm no longer putting up a front -- I'm pissed and I'm at the point where I'm going to really need to start looking out for my own best interests, no matter what. And while that upsets me, it will be far better than being so tired and so upset all of the time.
    Because being rested while help me be whole, and being whole will help me to be happier overall. If I pretend to be happy, I won't achieve those other two steps, which in the end mean infinitely more than fake-it-til-you-make-it smiles.
    Thank you for the lightbulb moment. I know what I need to do now. xo

    1. I have been in work situations that have driven me into the ground as well. It's no fun at all, but it does get to point where it is extremely difficult to do what is right for your health. These past experiences actually drove me to my breaking point. Learn my from mistakes (haha) and do what is right for your health. Long term goals/happiness always trump short term people pleasing. You got this girl! <3