Life is made of joys and sadness. Ignoring the sad, painful times neutralizes the joyful ones.
One of my office managers keeps insisting that we not talk at all about the negatives of our job. He would prefer that the staff and physicians only project happiness, sunshine, and roses at all times. I am not sure that is entirely healthy.
This is the way of life lately. No one wants to hear or even acknowledge the negative. Sadness makes us uncomfortable. It is painful. It is a natural thing to want to avoid it.
Why can’t you just be happy?
The problem is that completely ignoring it promotes isolation. It keeps us from recognizing who is suffering, who is at risk, who needs help. This is a tough job for all involved. What is wrong with acknowledging that so we can all work through it together?
Am I the only one who feels this way? What is wrong with me?
And it takes away the drive to get better.
If everyone is happy, why do I have to do it right?
The worst part is that it takes away the celebration of the real triumphs.
What? Can we BE more happy?
It is OK to feel fear, doubt, sadness, frustration. It is what we do with those emotions that is the key. How do we respond and use them constructively?
I see this in patients, too. So many believe they should not have to feel any negative feelings, that such feelings should be avoided at all costs.
I know I should still be happy. I am going bankrupt, my wife left me, and my son is in jail, but I should be happy. Everyone tells me I should just be happy. Make me feel happy.
Doc, I am really, really trying to stay positive. I have metastatic cancer and I am in pain all the time and chemo is kicking my butt. Everyone tells me I should stay positive or I won’t beat this but I really just want to cry. I need to cry.
You know what? Being sick sucks. Having cancer sucks. Sometimes life just sucks.
And it should be OK to say it sucks. It should be OK to grieve and be sad and to cry if need be, even if it makes others uncomfortable.
What we need is balance. Not a cult of happiness.