Happiness Terrifies Me

“It’s not time to worry yet”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

A few days ago I was talking on the phone with someone I love very much. He was sharing with me all the wonderful things that were happening in his life. He literally said that he was sitting in the sun listening to the birds chirping. And, before I knew what I was doing I was raining on his parade. I brought up an extremely painful subject related to his life.

Why? What? How?

I think that happiness and joy are some of the most vulnerable feelings we can experience (I’m pretty sure I learned that from one of Brene Brown’s books but I can’t remember which one). In some cases it feels like the balance is off and something bad needs to happen to set things right (I get crazy thoughts, man). So, instead of allowing myself to feel that level of vulnerability associated with happiness or joy or even have awareness around that is what I am feeling. I rush to fill the vulnerability with “what could go wrong” or “worst case scenario.”

I feel much more in control when I’m problem solving than when I am at the mercy of happiness and joy.

As I was talking with him, I was trying to prevent future pain. I was looking for problems when there were none in an effort to prevent them. Our brains are wired that way: Problem solving machines. We are constantly scanning the environment for problems to solve. This is pretty awesome for survival on the plains but not great on the telephone with someone you love after work. I could feel the tone of the conversation change and my fear and anxiety spilled over onto him. We were no longer talking about sunshine and birds chirping. After the conversation ended, I knew exactly what happened.

We just can’t prevent future pain. There is no way of knowing what is coming down the road for us in terms of challenges or joys. There is no way of solving problems until the problems are actually sitting in our laps.

Sure, you can make healthy (and legal choices) and that may limit the odds of ending up in bad situations but life is not fair and bad things happen to good people all day everyday. You and I are no exception to this rule.

What might be the solution:

Slow down to notice what I’m doing

Allow myself to feel fear.

Allow myself to feel vulnerable.

Enjoy the happiness while it lasts because it won’t last forever.

Bask and savor the good moments.

I apologized to this person and I’ll keep working on it.


“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
Dalai Lama XIV


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