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The Discomfort of Happiness

marketI won’t lie.

From time to time, I have been known to overanalyze things.

However, after more than a few months of sincere and wondering analysis, I have to say I truly think I’m reading this one right.

You see, lately I’ve been, well, happy.

Someone very dear and important to me has come back into my life, and as we’ve been sharing our day-to-days, those days have been some of the best I’ve had.


And don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about days filled with diamonds and roses. I’m talking about days filled with yard work and grocery shopping.

Imagine the most mundane daily activities you can think of. Then add more. That is exactly the kind of happy day I’ve been enjoying lately in the company of this other person.

So this is great, right? I’m H.A.P.P.Y.

But here is the problem. You see, I’m now starting to think I’ve been so happy that I’ve been….unhappy.

For instance, sometimes when I notice I feel happy, that brings up waves of free-range discomfort – sort of a cross between anxiety, stress, irritation, and indigestion.

At other times, on the heels of noticing my happy-feelings, what follows is almost like depression – a sort of unwelcome slowing down of time, filled with fairly equal parts doom and dread. 

When I used to play music competitively, I would have to practice daily to build up calluses on my fingers and keep certain muscles conditioned properly. When I first started playing, sometimes it was so painful!

This was because I had soft, tender skin and undeveloped muscles, and they didn’t like “our” new musical pursuits one little bit.

So I kind of have to assume that something similar is occurring – somehow, I have finally encountered some kind of sustained “happiness” practice that is working me out in new ways.

This is the only way I can really understand how unhappily happy (or happily unhappy) I have been and what might be causing it.

I guess I just have to get used to being happy.

What interests me most is that, before now, I never realized that maintaining happiness, like any other discipline, could require so much awareness, effort, and stamina.

While in the past, it has always seemed rather effortless to maintain unhappiness, depression, and anxiety (or even a combo of all three), I can truthfully say I have never particularly been a natural “glass half full” kind of personality, so experiencing happiness has always been something I’ve had to work at.

Now, it seems life is asking me to accept a bit of happiness, then a bit more, and then a bit more, always pushing the envelope just a little more than my comfort level allows for. This, I suspect, is so I will work just that much harder to address the discomfort in healthy ways that make it possible for the happiness to remain and grow.

I have also realized that most of my discomfort seems to stem from feeling out of control – feeling like the happiness could come or go at any time and since nothing I can do can make it stay, it is not worth enjoying too much.

This very experience is also pushing the envelope within, developing my awareness that happiness IS mine whether others come or go or life goes “my way” or the opposite of my way.

In fact, now I want to get so comfortable with – so practiced at – happiness that no matter what my outer life presents, my inner life remains calm, serene, and….happy.

Which clearly means I still have some work left to do!

Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever had an experience like this – where you felt so happy it was actually uncomfortable, scary, or depressing? How did you get used to feeling the happiness? Have you found that now you can experience happiness without the attendant “waiting for the other shoe to drop” that is such a common byproduct of joy in society today?

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The Discomfort of Happiness

Shannon Cutts

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2014). The Discomfort of Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2019, from


Last updated: 26 May 2014
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