Often we treat happiness as a destination, thinking of it only in terms of a place we reach and remain thereafter. Happiness is not a state of permanence, however. We don’t simply arrive at happiness and never have to work at it ever again. We tend to have similarly flawed views of sadness. We think of times of depression in our lives as permanent, fearing they will last forever with no foreseeable end. Yet happiness and depression are two sides of the same coin upon closer examination. Both are temporary. They exist in a balance, in perfect harmony; as one comes, the other goes. We cannot fully appreciate one without the other. Both have something to teach us. And yet, we do everything in our power to avoid one while striving for the other. We have misunderstood the meaning of happiness.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“There is no difference between happiness and depression. They both have the same process. It is just the content that is not the same. Both will come and go. The major difference between them is what we do with them.
We are always seeking happiness. When we see it coming we say, ‘Ah, come here, I see you. Stay with me always.’ Happiness laughs and says, ‘Oh, she’s seen me, I can leave now.’ And it does.
With depression, we see it coming, and we say: ‘Go away, I don’t want you. Not me.’ And depression sighs and says, ‘Here we go again, I’m going to have to get bigger and bigger for her to hear me and learn what I have to teach. So it taps us on the shoulder and says, ‘Over here, over here!’ until it gets our attention. Then it leaves.
Both happiness and depression have something to teach us. Both will come and go. Both will return. It is our response and openness to learn from both that makes the difference.”
As with so much in life, it is our attempt at control—control of our feelings, to hold onto happiness and avoid depression—that causes a problem. We cannot simply pick and choose the feelings that are most convenient for us. Everything in life exists in a balance, and happiness and depression are no different. There are different seasons in life, times to mourn, to feel sad, and times to rejoice in our happiness. Each season in life has something new and different to offer, a lesson for us to learn, a feeling for us to experience. It’s easy to understand the fear that if we allow ourselves to feel bad, then we will never feel good again. This is just not true, however. Often feeling bad is just a part of our journey through life, and it has something valuable to teach us. If we accept the way things are rather than fight against them, if we learn to go with the flow and appreciate life in the moment, to embrace our depression or happiness when they visit knowing that they will not stay forever, we will find peace in our lives.