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LINK Against cheerfulness: Practising the Greek virtues of wisdom and courage is one thing. But being cheerful the American way borders on psychosis

This is an excellent read (IMO) and exemplifies why I don't get into alot of the well-meaning "inspirational" memes (often posted here). As noted in the article, vulnerability is a risk and a gift. I have the utmost respect for people who risk vulnerability. Their authenticity shines through and I feel a connection with them.

Some excerpts:

Cheerfulness advocates still find virtue in this charade. America’s unchecked faith in cheer abounds in our proverbs: ‘You catch more flies with honey,’ ‘Think happy thoughts,’ ‘Life is good,’ ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ and ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ are all cheer-filled variations on Baden-Powell’s theme of forced bright-sidedness.

Cheerfulness conceived as a virtue instead of a spontaneous feeling is a pretense. It’s not an action but it is an act. Whistling while you work might be worth defending, but forcing yourself to smile when you don’t feel like it amounts to lying to the people around you.

Fake it till you make it’ has brutal consequences when applied to the emotions. When conceived as the attempt to trick others into thinking that you feel cheery, cheerfulness is far from a virtue. It’s a vice. It falls on the deficiency end of the spectrum of trust.

Forced cheerfulness is a denial of life. All experiences taste different, and if we force a smile through the sour ones, we are not living honestly.

We might want to lock out certain people from our fragile hearts, but cheerfulness is an equal-opportunity vice; it keeps even my loved ones out of reach. Whoever gets our cheery selves does not get our true selves.

[snip]

Giving up a commitment to cheerfulness would mean risking judgment for being ordinary, human, mortal. If, however, we could learn to share in the misery of others without trying to cheer them up and send them packing, and if they could do the same for us, then we’d have a shot at true fraternity, the kind that Aristotle prescribed when he said we should live with our friends.

Profound human connection and communion – in other words, love – has no use for forced cheer, and is often sabotaged by false faces. If we want to love better and seek true happiness and friendship, it’s time to cultivate honesty instead of cheer."

VictoriaNotes 9 May 4
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33 comments

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2

Some of us are HAPPY WARRIORS fighting criminal theocrats with jokes and shaming laughter....yet I agree making nice to everyone is an act that all of us politicians put on our happy faces....I have other faces: RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION and vilifying sneer for rapist priests and 2 living popes protecting some rapist priests globally

9

not all cheerfulness is fake or insincere. you can be cheerful by nature and still be angry or upset about certain things, or even about many things. comedians who point out society's ills do so by making us laugh but we laugh because we recognize the truth of what is being pointed out. as for laughter's being the best medicine, that actually has nothing to do with cheerfulness per se. laughter is LITERALLY good medicine. i have felt physically better after watching an episode of murphy brown. it WORKS. it isn't hypocritical, psychotic or fake. if you don't take care of your mind and body, how can you fight the injustice of the world? now the insane cheerfulness i see in the pinwheel-spinning eyes and frozen smiles of evangelicals is another matter. ugh!

g

Wouldn’t entrainment fall into a different aspect of being cheerful when we aren’t? I laugh at comedy and I smile at birds drinking from my birdbath, and I can do this when I feel less than happy. But, if someone inquires about how I am doing, and I don’t want anyone to know that I am feeling wearily on the inside...and just pass it off as ‘doing fine.’ That is my vulnerability...and I don’t want to appear weak, in some way.

@Freedompath of course assumed cheerfulness can be useful and it can be harmful; context is everything. the idea that cheerfulness itself is fake and bad is the object of my objection.

g

"not all cheerfulness is fake or insincere."

True. The article says "If you have to tell someone to be cheerful, they aren’t feeling it. Cheerfulness spontaneously felt and freely given is brilliant, but it is no more virtuous than acting courageously when one isn’t scared."

@VictoriaNotes okay. i was responding to the post and that portion quoted in the post. i am glad the article does make that concession.the post etc. does not make it seem as if that would be the case.

g

@genessa Thanks for taking the time to read the article.

@VictoriaNotes i didn't, nor based on the post did i feel obligated to do so, since i was commenting on what the post contained. i do not have to, nor do i want to, read every link every person posts, and yet i may actually have an opinion on the topic and on the actual post. there is no need to get sarcastic.

g

@genessa Sigh, I wasn't being sarcastic. I was sincere because I know it can be time consuming to read every link, which is why I express appreciation when people do.

@VictoriaNotes but i hadn't... okay i thought you were chastising me for not reading it. my bad for mistaking your tone. at least we're not pretending to be cheerful lol (except with lol, which some of us DO overuse, but maybe that's a story unto itself).

g

6

A good essay...I'd trade honesty for cheerfulness any day.

6

I don't trust people who are too cheerful.

I observe so much cynical half hearted dating ....I won't give up my romantic vision for love transforming a violent believers world IMAGINE by John Lennon is our Atheist Anthem and Yoko opens the white curtains to heavenly white sunlight on John's white piano on the video

6

I'll never forget a college professor (from around 25 years ago) said she would never go through the McDonald's drive-thru again because the cashier was entirely too cheerful about an egg mcmuffin at 7AM.

I think an appropriate acknowledgment of obviously bad circumstances makes me feel much better than cheerfulness. I remember Christmas Eve of 2013 I had to take my dad to the ER for heart failure problems. He ended up being ok, but I had to get some prescriptions first thing Christmas morning from the pharmacy in the basement of the other hospital in town, as it was the only pharmacy open. When they finished the prescription, the pharmacist gave me a questioning, "Merry Christmas?" and a smirk, which was exactly what I needed right then. Just a rudimentary human acknowledgment of how shitty my day was.

6

Cheerfulness seems to be the main ingredient to popularity. I don't respond to silly Hallmark type memes, but, instead post my own favorite quotes. Some of them are slightly anti religious or at least frank and honest. It seems that posting about divinity as opposed to honestly questioning popular beliefs is considered more wholesome and Noble. Because of this, I don't have many followers on Facebook. So, I recently decided to embrace my unpopular status and just really be outspoken. Those who don't like it will unfriend or unfollow me, and that's ok. As Morrissey wrote " And you find that you've organized your feelings for people who did not like you then and do not like you now". I refuse to do that.

Be popular with Green Party people and vote for an honest Atheist President @HowieHawkins20 building on 8 years of www.jill2016.com

6

One thing I like about Caucasian American culture in general is that they typically leave you alone if you seem to be in distress, or very sick. I didn't realize this until I left Thailand (where nobody meddles in your business, unless asked) and found myself fighting for my life in a Wichita Falls hospital after a month in a Thailand immigration prison with fourth stage cancer..

Hospital staff women with obvious Mexican American roots, kept trying to force me into fake statements by prompting me, "Feeling better? Feeling great today? Thank Jesus!"

If I had enough energy as I shuffled past, dragging the IV frame, tubes down my nose, I'd say "NO." A Hispanic woman who came in my room to clean it, started in on me, trying loudly to "coach" me to say I was better and to thank a fake diety, when I suddenly had enough. With a burst of ambition I told her off.

"NO, I don't feel good, NO, I don't feel better; if I did, why would I be in the hospital covered in IVs and tubes??!!"
Next, I attacked her culture.."Why do people of Mexican American culture think sick people should be forced to say they're better when they're not, and to thank a diety? Caucasian nurses just leave you alone or ask if they can get you something."

She seemed taken aback, not sure what I was..she'd taken me for a fellow Hispanic, but I was talking like an annoyed outsider. I didn't look Caucasian, and also referred to Caucasians as though an outsider with them as well (My dad has Mexican American relatives, and my mom has Cherokee relatives, but I was raised in Haiti, in a French culture).

Confused, she considered aloud, "You're right! Why DO we say that to patients when they're obviously sick? I guess that could be annoying."

*"Confused, she considered aloud, "You're right! Why DO we say that to patients when they're obviously sick? I guess that could be annoying.""

Wow, talk about being an inspiration with your authenticity. Thank you for sharing your experience.

5

I agree... as a high-functioning Asperger's person, I see cheerfulness as an indication that the person is oblivious to what the world is really like.

5

Wow! I just posted that article from Aeon Essays. Timing!

I didn't realize you had posted it already. I did a search and it didn't show. Probably because you used the URL title and I used the article's title or it was still awaiting approval. Thanks for posting.

5

I believe this makes good sense. When I am forced to watch some commercials, they shock my senses. Overexcitement, from a roll of toilet paper...just shows how ‘fake,’ we have become as a society.

5

Hannibal Lecter was cheerful!

A great book is Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich. She and Mariana Alessandri must be soul sisters!

Also, shared to Facebook.

Thank you for the book recommendation. I'm going to order it.

@VictoriaNotes you won't be sorry.

Excellent recommendation! I especially like the author's research into the religious roots into the whole "put on a happy face" craze.

4

I'm cheerful. Almost all the time. I like that about me.

The greatest gift we can bestow upon ourselves = joy.....good 4 u being of good cheer....just don't encourage the hell threat and heaven bribe crowd

4

While volunteering at two nursing homes, I learned:

  1. Cheerful people make more friends. Everyone wants to be their roommate.

  2. Positive people heal faster. With a positive attitude in physical therapy, they recover and go home with a walker or crutches.

  3. Negative people have more post-surgery complications than positive people. It's well-documented. Negative people are more likely to give up, and wind up in a nursing home.

Welp, I know where I’m spending my twilight years then!

Some good points. My uncle was a negative person but he put on a cheerful face in public and was the life of the party. Everyone wanted to be around him (myself included), but his cheerfulness wasn't authentic (which he eventually admitted). Inside, he was miserable and never wanted people to see his vulnerability. In his mind, "real men" are suppose to be stoic. It wasn't until his last days that he removed the facade, and because of it, he said he felt connected to his humanity for the first time in his life. His negativity was the result of suppressing his emotions --- fearing he'd be considered weak for merely being human.

I agree with those three points. However, I don't think they constitute a counter-argument to what Ms. Alessandri is arguing in her article. I don't recall her saying we shouldn't act positive, or that there are anything essentially wrong with being positive or cheerful. She is saying we shouldn't feel like we have to be cheerful (I'm not sure how to make italics on here.). It's only a forced attitude of cheerfulness that is bad. We have no obligation ever to feel cheerful, or to try to cultivate an attitude of cheerfulness.

Having said that -- yes, it is often good to "put on a smile" and to try to behave or speak pleasantly when with other people, as long as you're still not being someone you're really not, or being fake or phony. And thinking positively can be a legitimate way to get your mind off ruminations or overly negative, preoccupied thinking.

4

I don't like saccharine memes, either.

4

Truth. This country was founded under delusion and nothing has changed.

4

Could not possibly agree more.

3

I watched this School of Life video just yesterday:

That was excellent, especially starting at the 2:42-minute marker. Thanks for sharing.

I watch this channel frequently... always food for thought.

3

I agree with the assessment of forced cheerfulness. The overly cheerful kinda have a slightly crazed look at times. Like they are perpetually finding the best deal on the discount table.

It should be noted that cheerfulness is not the same as happiness.. Faking happiness, at times has helped me through more than a couple less than cheerful days.

3

Your founding fathers once wrote. "The pursuit of happiness. " It always seems from this side of the pond, that that was wise, but that sadly it turned into a poison chalice. Because it is so often misread as the right and obligation of happiness. Not pursuit as something to chase, but as something like a job to engage in all the time.

(Please forgive this little whimsy, it is not of course my place to comment on another culture, but it just seemed good to point out something that seems so strange to a foreigner.)

Your observation is spot on.
Americans are kind of stupid about stuff like that.
I can say that, I'm an American.
Too many fallaciously believe we have some sort of a legal, Constitutional, "right" to be happy, we do not. All we have, is the "right" to pursue it.
There's LOTS about the Constitution most Americans do not understand.
And yes, I most definitely meant STUPID.

@KKGator The one crumb of comfort I can give is to say that you certainly have not cornered the market in stupid. We have got plenty if you ever need some more.

@Fernapple I really appreciate the offer. We're good though, we have an abundance. Asking for more would be greedy.
😉

Excellent points.

Thanks for sharing. I eventually abandoned the pursuit of happiness for a much rougher road less traveled... the creation of meaning. Peace.

3

I find that , while people say they want honesty , when you are honest with them , they suddenly discover they don't want to deal with what ever your problems are . So , if you want to add depression and loneliness to what ever you're already dealing with , then go right ahead , be fully honest.

I have always appreciated your heartfelt posts and your willingness to be vulnerable. I'm sorry that you've had negative experiences when you shared so honestly. I agree that there can be repercussions. Dr. Brene Brown discovered in her research that there are risks that involve pain and that if we share with the wrong person or people, it can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.

However, she also found that when people trade their authenticity for safety they can experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.

"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen." Brene Brown

I think you are very courageous.

3

Have a nice day😊

And you as well. Feel better? 😀

@VictoriaNotes why yes thank you I feel fine.sunny side up

3

Great Post!

3

Polly Anna (and Chicken Little and Henny Penny) rule in this vacuous culture! I make apple trees. Smile (but only if you feel like it)!

2

Thank you, Victoria, for having the honesty and courage to expose the saccharine, feel-good, I'm okay, you're okay, law of attraction, chicken soup for the whatever nonsense that passes for wisdom in the self-help section of the bookstore. That's all well and good for the EASY problems in life, but has no place in confronting the hard problems... disease, death, racism, rape, terrorism, racism... to name but a few. I, for one, have seen too much unnecessary suffering, which has rendered me incapable of happiness. It seems to me that the only way to be happy is to be ignorant or unmoved by the plight of others. I cannot, and never do I wish to, make that leap of detachment. Thanks and peace.

2

The forced aspect of cheerfulness in the US is what I find annoying. People always ask “how are you today?” To which I generally respond, “I am all right.” And then I get lectured on why I need to quit being such a negative person 🙂

Yeah, being real takes a lot of people out of their comfort zone.

@VictoriaNotes my sisters husband always says "peachy". I quit asking how he is doing.

@VictoriaNotes Marianne Williamson is running for prez on the feel good "leadership" training feel good huggy Tony Robbins circuit....she has signed onto our Green Party GREEN NEW DEAL of 2011 plagiarized by most dems and lied about by fake news instead of ending censorship of our GREEN PARTY DR JILL and now strong NY leader @Howiehawkins20

Yup how r u has an answer in a food place I SAY HUNGRY

@believeinlove Me too! Hi or hello is plenty. ...and lovely smiley lady in the supermarket, please don’t ask me “how has your day been today”. while gazing at my shopping or the queue she will have to contend with!

Platitudes and insincerity get me. I’m not going to be your friend so you don’t need to know!

2

Very interesting article, and it gave me an awful lot to consider regarding myself and some of my own attitudes. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing this.

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