Does Expecting Happiness Ruin It?
Updated: Apr 2
Looks like it’s that time of the year again. Where Santa Claus runs wild, capitalism does what it does best, and an unnecessarily large meal is served. Exciting, right? To an extent it is. But at the same time, it isn’t.
From what I’ve experienced, the holidays bring this expectation of a perfect, happy family gathering around a large meal where we have exciting, loving conversations. All holding hands, singing kumbaya as one, the best people in the whole world gather together and have a lovely meal together. But… that’s how it works. That isn’t reality.
No family is happy at all moments of the day and they most certainly aren’t always civil with each other. And at least for me, it can be awkward sometimes. The bonds of family are unique. With most other relationships sharing common interests and/or goals as the central force holding everything together, family operates a bit differently. Instead with a commonality of blood, biology and last names, no family is guaranteed to be as perfect as the Brady Bunch.
With this high expectation, it is common to feel as though the holidays are a time of inevitable disappointment since they are rarely as perfect as we make them out to be. My question is why is this the case? Why do we put these pressures on ourselves? Why do we feel that any emotion other than happiness is an issue, especially during the holidays? It seems we have this idea that if something is not living up to its expectation, then it’s a complete bust. That if we’re not happy, then we are the problem, not the expectation.
I believe the problem lies not just in happiness, but in the expectation we have for all emotions. When people die, we expect everyone to be somber and grief-stricken. When you ace a test, we expect people to rejoice, but at the same time maintain a certain level of humbleness. Take the Amanda Knox case for example. According to police, she wasn’t mourning the death of her roommate in the way they felt that she should, which then caused them to accuse her of the murder of her roommate. Even with no evidence, no motive, and a strong alibi, Amanda Knox and her boyfriend were prosecuted for a crime they did not commit, all because they did not mourn in an acceptable way.
So not only are our expectations of emotions affecting the success of the holidays, but it is also affecting the way we act on a day to day basis. We let these expectations control our thoughts, emotions, and actions. They dictate our norms and make us only show and address the feelings we are supposed to. I believe this is why “negative” feelings are mostly ignored and never revisited. Not only does this cause a level of numbness, but it also causes an inability to truly address and heal the problems we experience.
The thing that many people forget is that sadness exists for a reason. We biologically learned to feel sadness so that we could properly feel a certain way when things that matter to us are taken away. It creates an understanding of what we care about and what is worth fighting over. To not have sadness would mean nothing could get you sad. Nothing could disappoint you, nothing could bother you, but most importantly, nothing could matter. Something not worth fighting for is nothing at all. And a world with nothing is definitely one I don’t plan to live in.
So yes, holidays are filled with ridiculous expectations. And yes, most families do not meet or experience anything close to how we feel the holidays should be. But this doesn’t mean that they should be tainted or unenjoyable. We just simply need to let go of expectations and take advantage of the fact that we live in a subjective world. To let our emotions be present no matter the situation and address them accordingly. Whether it be getting ready for the inlaws, or waiting for Santa to do his thing, just remember that you should feel however you want to feel, not how you’re meant to feel.
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