I’ve been trying to figure out lately what happy is so I can know if it describes me. Now I have a very clear idea of what it means to be unhappy in fact I know what it means to be crushingly miserable but this is not about that. This is about happy, something that I always thought was the opposite of unhappy. I’ve never felt the complete opposite of unhappy so does this mean I’ve never been happy? I don’t think this is the case but I do find this very confusing at times, I do understand that emotions do not exist in isolation and that it is possible to slide from one to the other experiencing more than one emotion at a time, but how do you know which one describes you and does it really matter?
I think if only for your own self image it does matter how can you know? Say I am having a hard time at work, am perpetually tired and unable to find a way out of the cycle of negative thoughts, that would make me unhappy? Now say during that same day I have a cup of tea with a colleague and enjoy a nice chat and laugh about something that happened, that sounds like I’d be happy? But I’m not I don’t think or maybe I am. So this is where I am, I’m not happy, not unhappy and not ambivalent and at the same time I can be all of these. In addition I completely understand the theoretical construct of emotions whilst not having a working internal model.
I work out how others are feeling by using a kind of map to decipher behaviours, actions and words. In doing this I can get a reasonable idea of how people feel, I then use the other side of the map which has a flow diagram to help identify an appropriate response. This is great until I get it wrong which happens with shocking regularity resulting in confusion for all involved. Now I try to use this model for myself as well and have discovered that it does help me pass as having a good idea of how I feel, turns out very few people really pay that much attention beyond the basics. So now having applied the model to the scenario I described above I might be 65% unhappy, 30% happy and 5% other of indeterminate origin. So am I then unhappyish? Am I happy when having a nice time and unhappy when this stops? Is there a general emotional state versus a immediate one and which one takes precedent?
As I said it’s all very confusing but I do have a solution and it’s one I think will not be overly popular with many. It is however frighteningly simple, just three little things (ok they may not be little).
1) Don’t generalise, when asked how you feel or when sharing a thought say what you mean not some generality like “I liked it, it was ok” said with only a little enthusiasm your words and sound and probably behaviour don’t match. I can tell they don’t match, I can’t tell why they don’t and will assume the worst.
2) The response to anything like, I don’t know how to tell them or they upset me and I don’t know how to tell them. In general if you don’t know how to say something then I would always go with the truth in a straight forward uncomplicated way.
3) Don’t lie, now I get it when people say things that aren’t accurate or that are not what they really mean then it could be that there are any number of reasons for this. That said if I ask you how you are I do not mean hello, if I did I would have said hello. What I mean is how are you feeling, is everything ok. You may not mean to lie and you wouldn’t call it that, but telling a falsehood is surely the definition of lying?
I still don’t know if I am happy or not but I will settle for I am not unhappy.
Aspie and Proud.