In a conversation this morning one of my companions said, “If you want to be happy choose to be happy.” I suppose for normally functioning people that option is intellectually available under moderately stressful times, although I also suspect that for many, maybe most, it isn’t. I am involved with people who are in sufficient control of their destinies that they can choose their emotions and thus can be happy for a few minutes if they choose to be happy
As that conversation was developing I expanded the options to other emotions and asserted that most of the time the emotion of happiness wasn’t the most desirable emotion to be having. Most of the time being happy and laughing would be a little strange and when we see people walking down the street acting happy with no obvious cause we assume they are a little crazy. As I walk along the street I notice the expressions of people coming my way, and here in Bend, about a quarter of them will notice that I am coming their way and we exchange pleasant greetings. The other three-quarters of the passers-by avoid eye contact and proceed past with variations of glum expressions. It appears to me that that is the emotion that they prefer to have because that is the emotion on their face.
It makes sense to me that people are always expressing the emotions that are appropriate to what they feel is their present circumstance. If something makes them feel sad they should be expressing the emotion of sadness. If they are bewildered they should look confused. It is all right to feel the emotions that are appropriate to your moment, I said to my interlocutors in that conversation. Forcing oneself to be happy is probably counterproductive because it distorts the reality of the way you are actually feeling.
I sometimes think what I say is profound but usually the conversations just flow and that’s what happened today.