“But I’m A Happy Person”

Note: Any references to clients indicate general themes I see over time or are fictionalized. This blog does not contain specific references to any of my clients.

Sometimes when clients talk about depression, one thing that frustrates them is that they see their mood issues as fundamentally at odds with who they are as a person. I have heard many people express confusion about their depressive symptoms because “I’m a happy person.”

positive young black guy laughing near graffiti wall with rainbow flag
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

The thing is, “happy” is an emotion, not a permanent state of being. When I took Spanish in high school, we learned two different words for “to be.” “Ser” referred to permanent states, who you are fundamentally, and “Estar” is a temporary condition. Since no one feels one emotion continuously forever, happiness is always a temporary condition, just like sadness, anger, fear, and all other emotions.

Feelings are communication from our brains. Anger, for example, can be a cue that someone is mistreating you. Sadness after losing a loved one can be an expression of how much that person meant to you.

Toxic positivity refers to when we insist on optimism, hopefulness, and positive outlook in all situations, with no space for nuance or the broad spectrum of human emotion. Sometimes things just suck, and denying that only serves to invalidate real feelings rather than addressing them.

If you struggle to let yourself have these less pleasant feelings, it can help to explore what being a “happy person” means to you. Do you get overwhelmed by the discomfort of holding those emotions? Is there a judgement you make about yourself if you can’t live up to the expectation of being a “happy person”? Have you been punished in the past for expressing other feelings?

Unfortunately, denying feelings will not make them go away. They demand to be felt.

If you are struggling with your emotions, it can help to work through it with a therapist. Even though you can’t be happy 24/7, you can develop skills to handle upsetting emotions in a healthy way and address underlying issues. Remember that your feelings do not impact your worth, and you deserve support.

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. She completed her internship at the National Psychology Training Consortium with specializations in assessment and rural mental health. Currently, she specializes in trauma-informed and neurodiversity-affirming care, and she is certified in telemental health. Dr. Marschall runs a private practice, RMH Therapy, where she provides individual and family therapy as well as psychological assessments across the lifespan. Dr. Amy Marschall is an author and professional speaker.

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