If they feel happy and think theyâ€™re happy, how is that different from BEING happy?
That was Rebecca’s response to her Mormon mom who dismissed the possibility that an exmo friend might be happy (“Oh, she only thinks sheâ€™s happy”).
Now, I agree that Mormons often want to be a walking advertisement for the church, so they feel pressured to put on a happy face even when they’re not happy. Plus, the standard solution to various problems is to pray harder and study the scriptures more, which kind of implies that if youâ€™re unhappy, itâ€™s because youâ€™re not doing a good enough job of living the gospel. So if you’re unhappy and can’t psyche yourself into being happy, then the church compounds your problem by adding a dose of guilt and inadequacy.
On the other hand, I’ve occasionally dealt with a very similar problem as an atheist. As an atheist, I know that life is finite, so every day is precious. Thus, it’s imperative to seize the day! Yet, I’ve had days when I felt lethargic and blue, and — not only did I not accomplish anything towards my goals — but I didn’t even do anything enjoyable by myself or with my family. In other words, a day went by that I did not seize! And I only have so many! Then I felt worse, until I convinced myself that no one can reasonably expect to seize every single day.
But anyway, even if we need to accept that we can’t always force ourselves to be happy, it may well be true that telling yourself you should be happy works more often than not. In a Mormon context, it comes out as “Count your many blessings.” In a secular context, it’s the power of positive thinking and a positive attitude! So maybe not all the Mormon phony/forced happiness really is fake — if they feel happy and think theyâ€™re happy, how is that different from being happy? It’s obviously not 100% (since we have plenty of counterexamples of people who were/are faking it), but maybe it works some of the time.