'Fear of happiness' in modern society.
Have you ever had the impression that something awful must be about to happen when everything is going really well? Perhaps you've heard the sayings "what goes up must come down" or "after happiness, there comes a fall"? To actually fear things that are going well in your life seems sort of preposterous, doesn't it? You have everything you need to be successful and feel your best, yet something is holding you back. You may have pondered once or twice why you appear to be scared of being happy, whether it's because you shy away from exciting chances when they offer themselves or feel continually constrained by self-doubt. You most certainly are not the only one who feels this way. In reality, almost everyone has experienced some level of anxiety when faced with the prospect of pursuing their goals and finding immense comfort.
It is necessary to define happiness in order to comprehend its underpinnings. In psychological studies, the terms ‘happiness’ and ‘subjective wellbeing’ are frequently used interchangeably. Subjective wellbeing is examined by having individuals rate their level of life satisfaction and whether they experience positive or negative affect.
In the words of Ashleigh Edelstein (Texas-based therapist), fear is an innate emotion that keeps you safe throughout life, it may really be a beneficial tool in and of itself. Being happy implies that you have something to lose, and your anxiety may be the result of a deep-seated need to defend oneself from that loss. It's common to want to continue with what seems comfortable rather than venture out and take a chance, even if doing so prevents you from experiencing actual satisfaction and fulfilment.
Cherophobia is a phobia where a person has an irrational aversion to being happy. The word is derived from the Greek word ‘chero’, which means ‘to rejoice’. When a person has cherophobia, they frequently fear being joyful or engaging in things that most others would consider to be enjoyable. People with this phobia exhibit cognitive signs of thinking that being happy makes you a horrible person. The conviction that it is improper to show happiness out of concern for how it may affect others. As a result, they avoid joyful social gatherings and reject relationships or life opportunities that may bring happiness and success.
THE VALUE OF HAPPINESS ACROSS CULTURES
We may start by looking at how different cultures value happiness to better understand why certain individuals hold that view. Happiness is frequently seen as the ultimate life aim in Western culture and something that ‘all people aspire’ to achieve. It is regarded as one of the most significant goals directing people's life. For instance, in individualistic cultures like the U.S. and Western/Northern Europe, the rights, freedoms, and preferences of each individual are prioritised over the requirements and expectations of an in-group.
Whereas in many non-Western societies, happiness is less important or ranked lower than other societal objectives. In collectivist cultures like those in East Asia and Central/South America, an important in-group's needs and aspirations are prioritised over an individual's principles. Therefore, personal happiness may not be as important if a culture's primary focus is on fostering social connections.
REASONS FOR AVERSION TO HAPPINESS
Superstitious beliefs might be conscious or subconscious thoughts. For instance, Russians frequently hesitate before seeking or displaying happiness because they believe in the ‘evil eye’. The notion that outward success might arouse jealousy or suspicion in others, which would ultimately result in the person's tragedy and sadness. Or that people could feel guilty of being happy because they are aware that others are suffering
It is possible to develop an emotional fear of happiness without any corresponding set of beliefs. Classical conditioning might explain a learned aversion to happiness. For instance, overindulging in a favourite delicacy (happiness) making you sick. Timing and the sequence of events, rather than logical reasoning, determine conditioning. It's possible to be afraid of being happy without understanding why or knowing how one came to have that dread. Logically, we know that being happy doesn’t cause adversity to ourselves or others, but conditioned associations are not the product of logical reasoning.
As always, the origin of our fear may be traced back to childhood. Someone we adored and loved dearly was depressed. Our intense empathy for their suffering caused us to deeply relate to them, and as a result, we have continued to be wary of happiness as a silent homage to them. In a way that would hurt us terribly, to be pleased would mean betraying our allegiance. A significant part of us wants to stay with them beneath the shadow of loss, despite the fact that they may have on the surface inspired us to step forth and embrace possibilities for joy.
Alternatively, we were taught to equate sadness with security and happiness with danger. More generally, we might not have had any realistic examples of happiness to follow. It's possible that we grew up in a setting where feeling nervous and frantic was the norm. Even though we may be aware on an intellectual level that there may be alternative ways to read the future, equanimity doesn't seem like how we operate. We may have layered intellectual superiority on top of this resistance by claiming that sadness is the primary sign of having an informed grasp of the world while happiness is for the lesser people.
In order to attune to joy, we must go back to the past and examine how we came to learn to utilise worry as a defence mechanism against other threats that we were too young and easily overwhelmed to handle. Happiness is not a selfish or silly pursuit. A great psychological accomplishment is the capacity to get appropriate joy from the good times; it is a sign of profound seriousness to be able to smile, spend time in nature or even meeting up with close ones. There are always a wealth of reasons to be sad. Fear is safe as well but the truly brave and heroically defiant action, however would be to occasionally hold out hope that for a while, there might actually be nothing to worry about. Whatever way one chooses to look at it, regardless of your cultural background, personality, or life experiences, we all deserve to lead happy and fulfilling lives. This is a fundamental condition that all inhabitants of the world should aspire to. We should all be happy and full of experiences that give us success, meaning, and direction. Let’s not allow fears to seize and obstruct life’s wonderful opportunities.
Ph.D., J. S. (2020, December 3). Cherophobia Explained: Fear Of Happiness & How To Overcome It. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/cherophobia/
Schrader, J. (2016, March). Are You Afraid to Be Happy? | Psychology Today. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/longing-nostalgia/201603/are-you-afraid-be-happy
Stinson, A. (2018, April 12). Why Am I Afraid Of Happiness? Experts Reveal Why You Feel This Way & How To Overcome It. Elite Daily. https://www.elitedaily.com/p/why-am-i-afraid-of-happiness-experts-reveal-why-you-feel-this-way-how-to-overcome-it-8764015
This Blog on ''Fear of happiness' in modern society.' has been contributed by Diksha Jain. Diksha Jain is a proactive and self-motivated individual with a very keen interest in the field of psychology. Owing to the importance of mental health in today's times has helped her gain a vision of helping people thrive in their lives in its truest sense. Along with gaining more practical exposure to what this spectrum field of psychology has to offer. She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.