Once I had a very interesting discussion with a friend about why very often sad and miserable people get more attention than the happy ones. Yes, you read it right sadness vs. happiness. We simply noticed that most of the people get attention by complaining and telling their sad stories rather than sharing their happy stuff and achievements. On one hand it might sound weird because why would someone like to be around sadness, pain and misery but the more we think the more we realise that more often it is the case.
The feeling of power
Very often the small talk between people is really small 🙂 If the answer to casual “How are you” is “Fine thanks, you?” conversation could be closed and parties can depart or start talking about something completely different without having a feeling of honest sharing. If the answer is
“I’m really good“ you can even expect to get “Very well“ with some sort of irony behind it. But more often the curiosity stops there. But just imagine that your companion answers that he feels OK/so so/not so good/bad/miserable… In most of the cases we’re all ears then. He/she gets our immediate attention and we get curious about the reasons behind such state – out of a sudden we want to know all about it…
But why?.. Why the reasons behind the happiness are less important than the ones behind the misery? Why when we see a wide smile on someone else’s face we don’t want to explore the logic behind it? We (sometimes) pretend that we don’t even care too much. But as soon as we hear the sad story the situation changes completely.
One of the versions is that whether we realise it or not we compare ourselves with other people. And depending on our inner state that comparison can make us feel better or worse. Therefore we choose our conversation partners wisely. Asking a successful/happy person about his/her good state brings a risk not only to realise that we are not as good as we thought but also a risk to hear that he/she puts way more effort to be that way. Maybe he/she follows some sort of practice, has his/her rituals, maybe he/she achieved an important goal or is progressing with his/her career as planned. All of this should be a good stuff, right? However at a wrong moment in life such news can bring our insecurities and imperfections to the bright daylight. We might notice the things about ourselves that we’ve been hiding or deliberately “forgetting”.
In the meantime talking to so called unhappy ones could make us feel opposite. When we hear sad/unsuccessful stories we might realise that our state is not that bad after all. Strangely enough it somehow feels better that there are people who feel worse than us. It might even bring a relief. Most of the time we start helping those people without even being asked. We start giving our advice, sharing our stories – we connect to them and feel useful. Realising that our state is better than theirs or that a certain situation is in our past empowers us! We have a strong reason to direct our focus outside (instead of inside) because there are so many people who need our help. And by saying we I mean I because at a certain moment of life I really felt super useful by volunteering in saving people.
What’s the point?
Hence I am thinking – do I always need to be broken/sad/in pain to have an honest conversation? Is it necessary to publicly bleed in order to get care and attention?.. Most of the time answers to these questions were “yes“… One of my friends honestly told me – “Yes V, it is true, because if you’re OK than why do you need others?” Em… That was a good question. Why do I need others?… What is the real need behind it? If I am so happy with myself then I should simply accept the situations as they are and continue in my own “zen”.
Many people truly think that happy chaps don’t even need others – they are all good, they know how to take care of themselves so why do they wanna mingle that much? And this is where I get really curious… Do we really think that happy people are not people after all?.. That for some weirdest reason they need less honest interaction? Following Christopher McCandless’ words “Happiness is only real, when shared.” Hence from my perspective sharing happy thoughts multiply the feeling. Remember water ripple – one drop can have a massive effect!
But… Does anyone (besides me) want it? Well, there are always a few 🙂 however the fan club of unhappy ones is always bigger. It could be that some people feel less useful for happy flappy ones. They don’t feel they can help them with their stories or advice to reach another lever or to find a happier path. And therefore they choose a place with more convenience to themselves.
On the other hand happy people can be very intimidating. If they voluntarily start saving and fixing us we just want to run away from them and never come back! All our insecurity alarm bells start ringing, saying we’re somewhat not enough! It’s simply too painful…
But… if we think about it… isn’t it the same we do for people who feel worse than us? We become their “happy people”, don’t we?
A way out
At the end of the day the question is what’s it all about? Is it about being “happy”/“unhappy” or about “unauthorised intervention” and the fact that someone starts healing us without us even feeling sick? For me the latter seems more painful. In my opinion if we eliminate the involuntary interference and simply start being there for other people, without evaluating/diagnosing/categorising/judging them the mutual satisfaction and honest contact have way more chances.
I believe that respect and compassion play key roles in this case. I do not need to be enlightened/super balanced/in constant “zen” to be respectful and compassionate. It helps, of course, but it is not a mandatory prerequisite. When I am respectful and compassionate I ask whether my companion wants to hear my opinion or about my experience in a similar situation. Because if I share something with my own initiative he/she might think that all I want is to talk about myself. When I am compassionate I give someone space to be happy or sad, depending what that person needs. And yes, I ask what they need instead of deciding from my own perception.
“It’s too high level” someone says. “It’s easier said than done” another adds. True, it is easy to say, but difficult to do when, for example, your heart is broken. A friend once asked: “But what about me? Do I always need to put enormous effort because of someone despite of how I feel?” In all honesty I don’t think so. There’s no point in faking it because it simply won’t work. But then, at least, be honest and instead of avoiding interaction with a “happy friend” tell you do not feel too good to be there for him/her. It might be not easy (even scary) but at least it saves both sides from bitter sweet taste of interaction and shows that love and caring is there instead. At the end of the day it’s all about that 🙂