I am surrounded by people who look so happy so I was surprised when I discovered the truth about them.
This couple who treats us to nice dinners has a persistent concern. Husband and wife are both in their mid-60s and they don’t know who will take care of their autistic son after they die. They have not yet answered the question but they are not postponing their happiness.
Another couple has two sons in and out of drug rehab. The family does not have a predictable income, too. But this husband and wife continue leading joyful activities in our Catholic community.
I personally know people who have debts in the millions, who need a blood transfusion every week, who have lost loved ones, etc. and I can’t tell them apart from people who seem to have no worries in life.
Then again, maybe all people have their own problems and no one is really spared. Maybe some people who look cheerful and content on the outside are actually weeping when no one is looking. Nobody really knows.
We may all be going through something but we find ourselves in different paths of coping.
Some of us may become withdrawn, irritable, angry, bitter, vindictive, anxious, pained, helpless, indifferent, in denial, in self-pity or constantly sad. Doctors say that prolonged sadness can lead to clinical depression. It is a state in which the brain can no longer produce the hormones that make us experience joy.
I can’t judge people who get depressed. If something really bad happens to me or any of the people I love, I may bounce back immediately or I may be inconsolable for a long time. I don’t really know. Sometimes people cannot control the downward spiral because they are not even aware they are already on it.
As of now, I think I will protect myself by taking inspiration from people who have shown ways to cope.
There are those who find therapy in an engaging hobby, some vent by writing or painting, many search where their soul will be comforted.
The other day, I was moved by a viral video about a young woman who found purpose after donating bone marrow to an infant with a rare kind of cancer. Before her kind act, she recalled she had been drifting through life with a feeling of emptiness.
Dr. Martin Seligman is known to be the Father of Positive Psychology. He said that a life of meaning is the source of the deepest and most lasting kind of happiness. A life of meaning or purpose is a life that has a positive impact on the lives of others. He wrote, "Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something larger than you are."
Some people overcome sadness by focusing on things to be grateful for. Counting through our long list of blessings may outweigh the feeling of being defeated.
One day in Church, I asked an officemate why he hears Mass every day. He confided that after his newborn child died in the hospital because of some medical error, he was enraged and was suicidal. It was only by going to Church every day, thanking God for his other children, that he eventually learned to accept, forgive and move on.
The couple that I mentioned at the beginning of this article admitted that they were so bitter after learning that their son was autistic. After seven years of blaming God, they found emotional healing in the Couples for Christ Catholic community. In a recent conversation with them, I sensed pride as they talked about their autistic son’s exceptional skill in ice skating.
Everyone is going through something. The statistic is not exactly something to celebrate but, strangely, it is reassuring to know that we didn’t have the bad luck to be singled out. It is also reassuring that while people are hurting, they can be happy. Every now and then at least. Until time and God have wiped away all pain.
Suggested Readings :
Authentic Happiness by Martin E.P. Seligman
Choosing Happier by Jem Friar
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
The Upward Spiral by Alex Corb
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About the Author:
Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.