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.
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.
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."
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
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!
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.
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.
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."
While volunteering at two nursing homes, I learned:
Cheerful people make more friends. Everyone wants to be their roommate.
Positive people heal faster. With a positive attitude in physical therapy, they recover and go home with a walker or crutches.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.