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What about pretending to be happy?
Often, when I work with clients on issues related to happiness, they believe mistakenly that by pretending , or ignoring issues that need be addressed, everything will work out. The maxim fake it till you make it is often something my clients will bring up. The idea of faking it until you make it is helpful in terms of dealing with anxiety and insecurities that are unwarranted when you are undertaking challenging tasks. It doesn't remedy problems that need to be addressed in the moment. Or, the idea that you if you just act positively and think positively all will be well. Thinking positively is a useful strategy but not so helpful that it will make you happy and all your problems go away. This actually can be used to justify avoidance and denial, to very unhelpful strategies for dealing with stress.
In life if you are unhappy it is a sign that you need to do some exploring , investigating and reevaluating. For example if you are in a job, and you try pretend like you like it, but your boss is abusive and your coworkers untrustworthy, thinking positively will not make your stress go away. Pretending is a strategy that wont effectively solve your problem. Below are some common situations where clients seem to get into dilemmas where pretending makes a greater mess of things.
Pretending to be happy: Ignoring issues in romantic relationships.
Many clients I work with have stress and anxiety because there are problems in the relationships they are in and they are afraid or unwilling to look at them. We don't like change, and we don't like to be alone, both of those fears are triggered when we look at addressing issues in romantic relationships. Pretending to be happy when there are clear issues that need to be addressed in a relationship is a sure way to cause yourself trouble down the road. Positive thinking is not an effective way to address issues that require more direct measures, but people often use that as an excuse not to.
Pretending to be happy: Ignoring issues in friendships.
Another way in which we often sabotage ourselves is by refusing to address issues in friendships. We may not be addressing communications problems, hurt feelings or things that have mounted up for so long that it appears challenging to go back and revisit them. Ultimately this behavior puts us in a dilemma where we may run away from the friendship, because we haven't addressed and worked though issues that need to be attended to.
Pretending to be happy: Ignoring the issues that you need to work on
People who have anxiety will after use avoidance and denial to deal with the stress they experience when they are not living life in accordance with their values. For example 75 percent of parents of overweight children will not acknowledge their child's obesity. This is a good example of how pretending that things are okay , when they are not, serves to further unhappiness.
People often do this when they are in an unhealthy work environment, but are unable or unwilling to make a career change. This is an understandable way to avoid some very painful work( looking for a new job) and the possibility of rejection. However, if there are real issues that need to be addressed, pretending to be happy at work is an ineffective strategy down the road.
Other ways we sabotage our happiness by pretending to be happy is through the use of substances and addictive behaviors. Although in the long term these habits will be destructive to our well being and happiness, the immediate sense of escape or pleasure is prioritized in the moment by many of us . Smoking is a great example of this. How can people continue to smoke when they know the damage it is doing to themselves? Pretending that this okay sets up a tension and conflict. This tension and conflict in the mind causes mental stress and unhappiness. Or, the energy required to maintain the denial behind this behavior becomes draining.
Most of these situations stem from our tendency to avoid pain and discomfort in the moment. We don’t want to do the difficult work that is required to have happiness. Unfortunately happiness doesn't result from living a life where we have constant pleasure, but from thoughtful and intentional choices and lifestyle.
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