The Tyranny of Gratitude

ma's had these rubber floor mats for as long as I have a memory

(photo by Michael W. May)

I agree that gratitude is good. But the Happiness Pushers aren’t necessarily doing everyone a service. Some people are going through terrible hardships: the loss of a loved one, the incarceration of a loved one, a serious illness in the family, divorce. The list goes on and on. We can’t always be happy and “on” with bells jangling, lights beaming.  So the Happiness Pushers become unwanted enforcers of levity, not merely optimists and cheerleaders.

With people suffering from depression or other mental disorders who don’t feel that sparkly all the time (myself included), the enforced happiness / gratitude attitude can simply wear us down, make us feel deficient and shamed–not at all a positive.

There is a time and place for everything, to everything a season. Your happiness can be my sadness, and conversely, your sadness, my happiness. I agree (most of the time) with the “fake it till you make it” mantra and other positive self-talk. I subscribe. But if I’m not beaming with joy all the time, please don’t try to make me feel bad about it. Ah, I almost caught myself saying “don’t make me feel bad about it” which would also make me co-dependent.  Heaven forbid! Just trying to be real here.

And by the way, Happy New Year!

17 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Gratitude

  1. I hate when people say…you have to be positive, well no, I don’t. Sometimes its really ok to feel like shit. There’s one thing for sure in life, and that is nothing stays the same…we’re in little boats riding scary waves, and it’s sometimes fun, calm or damn right miserable. So yes…Erica, feel the pain!!! It’s real, but then when the sun shines, dance, dance, dance!!


  2. I hate when people insist that we all be positive…feel gratitude all the time. Life is suffering…it’s full of losses and fears…that’s real. Keep it real Erica, always…and we know the pain is not forever, because life is always changing, so feel the pain and misery, embrace it…but when the sun shines once again, dance, and sing it from the mountain tops. We all have to keep it real.

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    • Yes, there is a falseness to so many of the Happiness Preachers/Pushers – a lot of them on social media. It’s almost as if you are to be condemned if you aren’t happy all the time. Are these people themselves truly happy or are they simply putting up a false front to feel superior or because they can’t allow themselves to truly feel?


  3. I especially “love” when people seeing you feeling kinda quiet or sad make the comment: “Gosh, you don’t seem like yourself today.” I’ve always wanted to say, “Well if I’m NOT myself today, who the hell am I?” Any way, this is a great season for “highs” and “lows”….thanks for the post. (((Hugs))) Lucie

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  4. You’re spot on. Personally I believe the happiness pushers are some of the most unhappy of the lot, and they push happiness more to convince themselves / avoid looking at the source(s) of their happiness than on the individual(s) on whom they are pushing happiness.

    One thing I remind myself is that there is a difference between joy and happiness, and would feel joy (which contains authentic gratitude and the success of others) than happiness (which generally is about one’s own situation).

    My response to happiness pushers when I feel inclined to respond with more than a glare of you-are-so-annoying, is to say that serenity is represented on the Buddha statues with a half-smile. The upturned side of lips represents the joy of being and living of all things, the flat side of the lips represents a recognition that there is suffering in the world.

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