Human

Subconsciously happy

Has your brain ever delivered you a clear lesson from a dream?

I was having a particularly vivid dream involving my favorite high school teacher. (It’s interesting what bizarre topics my brain thought he’d be quizzing us on; there was an extra credit history trivia question that was a nonsense combination of real world events). As the dream progressed, the teacher joined me for a walk that morphed into a stroll through a store, with me excitedly describing one of my favorite video games to him.

Then an associate at the store came up to us and said, “Are you happy?” The two of us quietly nodded, and I thought to myself in the dream, “That’s a nice way of asking someone if they needed any help.” The associate laughed and said, “Well, you don’t look too happy,” pointing out our dour faces – this teacher didn’t smile often. “We’re happy,” I assured her. I was on a stroll with my favorite high school teacher after all.

Just then a customer rounded the corner, and it was clear she was upset and downright pissed. She had been with the associate. “I’m NOT happy,” she said. “I can’t find my purse.”

And then you know what my brain did? In the dream, I turned to the woman and said, “Oh, I have lots of things going wrong. My hard drive just crashed, for instance. But I’m still happy.”

My brain started making a longer list of all the things going wrong (hello, pandemic anyone?) and that’s when I woke up.

It’s one of my core beliefs that happiness and joy are paths one can choose. I’ve learned that there are exceptions; mental illnesses like depression cannot be willed away, and emotions like sadness and grief are necessary to process bad things happening. And telling someone who has lost their purse (or much worse) to be happy isn’t exactly polite or helpful. But overall? When the choice to be happy is available… why not be happy?

There’s joy in choosing happiness even in the face of challenges.

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