In Greek mythology, Euphrosyne is the Goddess of Happiness, cheer, and tremendous joy. Her parentage is uncertain, but in some accounts, she was a daughter of the primordial gods, Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night).
How can Happiness be a creation of darkness and night? It’s an emotion painted in different colors, attractive, and temptations are regarded as some piece of required fashion accessory promoted on every corner. Wouldn’t it be more rational if sadness (happiness’ antonym) was the child of the parents mentioned above? It is strange, to put it mildly.
But one detail supports this myth because Happiness given in today’s framework of understanding can quickly take us to the dark side. Inevitably as with all things, the concept of Happiness evolved along the way.
Imagine, if Aristotle were alive today, he would surely be unappealing, in other words, an old-fashioned social guru who would hardly have a large following on social media. He equates Happiness with virtue; it is the ultimate value of your life, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being. Something we can hardly revive as a concept these days.
Is Happiness losing its genuineness, its inherent value? Is it becoming a reflection of the broader social image that slowly turns into calculated, pre-defined, forethought emotion?
Today, Happiness is promoted on a propaganda level. Somehow, we have become obsessed with the fact that we must be happy, so we strive to be happy, and since it’s a must, it becomes a burden. Happiness is studied, researched within institutes that deal with this phenomenon. Special courses teach us how to be happy; there are even summits on this subject. Tips are offered, and magic instant formulas on how to reach bliss.
But we cannot turn a blind eye to one more paradox of modern life: the more we try to be happy, the less we experience Happiness. As a confirmation, all we need is to see the reality that exposes two parallel universes. Despite all the ‘efforts,’ a large percentage of millennials and zoomers don’t belong to the group of happy people. Lonely, burned out, and depressed: Research of the state of their mental health in 2020 shows they are less happy than older generations. While many of us are preoccupied with the famous Happiness, it has become a synonym for frustration, failure, disappointment, or just a mask for all other feelings for those groups. So, let’s put down our “happy faces” for a moment and allow ourselves to be sad and show some empathy for them. They are the ones we should be grateful to for changing the attitude on mental health issues.
Anyway, why should there be a hierarchy between various emotions with Happiness put on a pedestal looking down on fear, anger, sadness, love… The answer probably lies in that we feel good and pleasant when happy, so we prioritize this emotion. But all we need to do is just reduce the pressure and stop competing in this game of who’s happier and acknowledge that all other feelings don’t cease to exist if covered with the happiness veil. Let them be. Simply stop hiding them because that automatically reflects on our whole state of being. We hide our emotions because it’s shameful to have them, feel them and show them openly. That first condition for disconnecting from ourselves is met. But there is no need to worry. Millennials and Gen Z are already breaking the stigma of mental health issues.
“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”–Rumi
I have a feeling that millennials and zoomers are our hidden treasure. They are aware that night and darkness offer not only fear but also peace and rest, that we should accept our nature completely, not selectively, and somewhere on those grounds, new standards for Happiness will be set.