It may sound silly that a person would be afraid of being happy but it is more common than most realize. There is a type of comfort that comes from believing nothing will change or improve. It requires less energy, can spare future rejection, and avoid disappointment. But this is no way to live. The key to overcoming the fear of happiness lies in understanding how a person got there in the first place.
How does it happen? Trauma or other life altering events cause a person to enter the grieving process. Similar to dealing with the death of a person, there can also be the death of a marriage, innocence, a dream, or vocation. At first the reaction is to feel numb, then angry and anxious, and finally depressed. During the darkness, a person has limited emotional responses except for sadness and fear. This curtails the desire for regular activity including things commonly enjoyed in the past. Happiness becomes something for other people, an allusive fantasy reserved only for the naïve. Yet the longing for it gnaws away at the heart despite the resistance from the head.
Period of darkness. After a period of time, the head and heart become accustomed to the darkness. There is a sense that it is a better way to live because there are no expectations to be crushed. All additional disappointments confirm the safety of doubt, distrust and hopelessness. Happiness becomes a dot of light at the end of a tunnel which frequently disappears. While there is a desire to move towards the light, there is also an intense fear that it is nothing but a mirage. This process gives birth to the fear of being happy.
Surging storm. In the infantile stage, the fear is more of a passing thought that is quickly discarded. Eventually, the occasional indulgence transforms into an obsessive justification. With each added obstacle, mistake or failure, the fear gains hurricane like strength. Just like a surging storm, the person takes cover from happiness. Every additional mishap along the way reinforces the need for avoidance of joy because it will end in disaster.
Comfortable indifference. As with most fears, the more it is indulged, the stronger it becomes. Unknowingly, a person rescinds to accepting the new norm and abandons even more dreams for the future. This is not a state of despair, rather it is indifference. To further complicate the matter, any signs of happiness spark fear that an even worse trauma is around the corner. So the belief that it is better to remain on constant guard expecting the other shoe to fall.
Survival mode. But this state of anticipatory doom is not living, it is surviving. Happiness requires a person to take risk. Whether it is risking a new relationship, taking an adventure, or shattering an image, future joy demands commitment and conviction. Both of which are necessary ingredients to overcoming fear.
The remedy. Believing that the light at the end of the tunnel is real requires hope. The seeds of hope are sprung though the recovery process from the initial trauma. New understandings and meanings from the event can transform negative experiences into life lessons and greater awareness. It takes commitment to want to improve and conviction to follow through to the end. Those that do this process find their happiness returns slowly at first and then in abundance later.
The light is not a mirage, it is a lighthouse that can direct the way forward. Those who focus on hope find their way out of the darkness faster. Eventually the fear dissipates and happiness is restored.