Newsweek ran an article in early February about the backlash against the happiness movement. The movement toward “well-being,” it seems has gone amok, with everyone from parents to to politicians to executive coaches viewing happiness as a key indicator of life quality and a key component to success.
From an emotional intelligence perspective, well-being absolutely includes happiness, but it also includes other human emotions — such as sadness, disappointment, irritation, fury, and jealousy. What’s important is being aware of those feelings and being able to manage them in such a way that you can handle your relationships with sensitivity and skill. I.e., we’ve probably all worked with Big Clown types who joke around all the time but are actually miserable inside (and end up drinking too much, procrastinating too much, yelling too much andotherwise undermining themselves and others). Those “happy” people aren’t successful; they’re tragic.
As the Newsweek article points out, “negative” emotions, like fear, sadness, and anger, evolved for real reasons and shouldn’t be smoothed over (or smothered) for the sake of trying to be happy. In fact, “the blues can be a catalyst for a special kind of genius, a genius for exploring dark boundaries between opposites,” one of the article’s subjects claims. Such “dark” emotions also allow us to develop empathy for others, another key component of emotional intelligence. In my own experience, some of the most emotionally intelligent people I’ve met are the ones who have suffered the most in life and have come through with a profound understanding of the human condition — and what really constitutes “well being.”