I realized recently that after years of struggle, I am at a place where things, in this present moment, are fine. In fact, they’re better than right. My personal relationships feel good, I have never enjoyed work more, I am getting rewards and rewards for the years of hard work I put in here. My life is going…very smoothly. I have been so pleasantly surprised that things are going well that it has now turned into doubt as to what is inevitably going to happen next!
It’s like I’m constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. There has to be a catch, my mind is telling me; Doesn’t it feel like the calm before the storm? When running is good, why does it feel like a set-up for a ‘tough’ time? When I’m enjoying the (very rare!) good times, with the dismay that I’ve been thinking about so much that these troubling questions have been worrying me for months!
‘You’re not alone’
To process my feelings, I did what I usually do when I’m feeling too much: I expressed. Obviously, on Instagram. I asked others if they too got happiness ‘wrong’, and whether we really knew how to be happy.
I wasn’t expecting hundreds of DMs on my post who wrote in to say, ‘You’re not alone’. I told the DM ‘I feel guilty for relaxing and wondering why I’m having a good time’ and ‘When good things happen, with it comes a sense of dread. I feel comfortable only in chaos and filth’. There are people who said, ‘Whenever I get success, I feel like I don’t deserve it if I didn’t struggle like my friends’ and ‘I feel sad when something good happens’. It’s hard for me to accept that anything good can happen’. One person even wrote, ‘Sometimes, I break the spontaneous phase because of the thought of impending doom!’
A lot of people explained it as the ‘Indian mentality’ of pursuing ‘functionalism’ and ‘capitalism’. That as Indians, we are wired to never be satisfied with our present, and are always striving, struggling and striving for more, ‘even if we don’t know what we are really striving for. are’. This struggle gives us something to look forward to, especially for those who constantly seek to be ‘better versions of ourselves’. That we’ve come to like being uncomfortable so much, that the feeling ‘relaxes our minds!’
patterns of negativity
Others called it the curse of being ‘more thinkers and more thinkers’. And several people gave me the terms to learn more about: ‘survivor mode’ and ‘trauma conditioning’ and how we are conditioned to chaos and we romanticize ‘pain and conflict’ so much that we now have ‘negativity bias’ ‘ It’s hard to accept where things are good. One person wrote in a touching way, ‘What are we even chasing? We seek closure even when we are happy.’
Some people sent me the same video of famous public speaker and author Brene Brown, in which he called the struggle a ‘foreshadowing of happiness’. She said that ‘we are trying to prepare the rehearsal tragedy so that we can beat the vulnerability to punch.’ That ‘when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability’, we are no longer able to ‘soften happiness’. It’s great to know what ‘happiness’ should be, it’s not just me who reacts weirdly. That these patterns are so deeply ingrained in us that we haven’t even begun to learn them.
But it is also gratifying to read that we have identified the challenge: Even though it has taken us so long to be vulnerable in the moment when we are in pain, we now need to embrace the vulnerability in times of joy as well. We’re starting to get comfortable telling each other that it’s okay to be sad. Maybe now we even have to tell ourselves that it’s okay to be happy.
Nikhil Taneja is a writer, producer, storyteller, public speaker, Feeling the Emotions, Men’s Mental Health Advocate, and co-founder of Youth.
That Feeling When is a fortnightly column that provides a relatable take on mental health and emotional well-being.
From HT Brunch, September 24, 2022
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