To meet someone who has never heard this advice or something similar would be shocking. I think as human beings we are capable of changing our outlook on many situations. This being said, I ALSO think that there are infinite variables tossed into the equation, making it a far more complicated decision than:
“Do I want to be happy or sad?”
One ingredient in this heady cocktail of a choice is the element of surprise. When something is surprising, we often feel out of control. This was not something we were expecting to deal with — now, today, this month, in our lifetime. Sometimes we spend a great amount of time dwelling on how surprising something is or how unprepared we were/are for the onset of this challenge. It’s a paralyzing shock. By the time we exit this stage of shock, it feels too late to change anything, let alone our perspective.
Another ingredient is shame. We can think of the initial shock or surprise as a burn. As the shock wears off, the old skin is peeling, and we know that we are beginning to heal. What’s left is how we are feeling now, our new skin. We’re vulnerable. We feel we should be over it by now (whether it’s been years or minutes), and we’re ashamed that sadness remains a force strong enough to bring us to our knees.
Time becomes an essential ingredient at this point. If we deny ourselves of sorrow or time to grieve, we prevent any kind of healing. Look at yourself for where you are now. If you are in shock, if you are mourning, allow yourself to be there. Be gracious to your soul. Choosing to be happy is absolutely a part of self-love, but if you try to go this route before you’re ready, it will be a temporary victory. When the moment of joy passes, you will feel as though you have failed. Give yourself time.
So rather than “choose happiness” try “be honest.” Be honest with yourself, and learn to understand what you’re feeling. Don’t shame yourself for being human and having fluctuating emotions. Honesty is not a cure, but I think it’s the first step to true healing.