When others’ happiness leaves you sad

Others’ happiness “shouldn’t” deprive you of yours… but darned if it doesn’t remind you of what’s missing!

At times it’s impossible not to be envious, jealous, or sad at a reminder of what you’ve lost.

“What happened?” you reason… Maybe you were doing okay before, suddenly, tears sprang up at the sight of some ad or another. Or you saw a real-life couple and tried to “be happy for them.”

You wonder what broke the dam…

What to avoid.

How to stop the tears from starting.

How to regain control.

Feeling bad feels bad. Period.
But it doesn’t mean you’re bad.

Wanting Happiness is Not a Moral Failing

Even wanting others’ happiness in their stead isn’t amoral. It says nothing about who you are deep down. It’s a temporary symptom: an indication that YOU need empathy. Let me administer some.

It’s normal to not feel capable of caring for others at times. I’ve certainly had periods of not wanting to exist. Being unable to deal with reality for a while…

It’s a strange headspace to be in: it can feel never-ending. Like aliveness was never real.

Like isolation is the only reality.

When all you have is a hammer, you can break a lot of stuff.

Most clients who came to me feeling bad at the sight of a happy couple, for instance, reported it’s a very uncomfortable, “negative” mood they wanted to end ASAP.

They were in a hurry to use their brains to end their pains. Makes perfect sense!

Why waste time feeling upset
if upset can be avoided by
figuring out a logical explanation!
Disaster averted! Right?

Yes! Totally! Huge time-saver! Huge energy savings! Great default strategy!

Except… and this really sucks…
Once you’re already upset, the think-your-way-out-of-it strategy is rendered ineffective.

Rhetorical Questions

What many of us do in these kinds of moments, is ask ourselves questions that are – absolutely accidentally – unanswerable.

Q: “What’s wrong with me?
Q: “How can I avoid this?!”
Q: “How to stop the tears from starting?”
Q: “How to regain control?!”

A: “I’m broken” (interpretation: this is a direct quote from the mood itself, and that sense of brokenness will only pass if it’s permitted space and airtime for healing.)
A: “Be alone” (interpretation: this is one of several non-viable strategies to “avoid this” without healing… but tenaciously mapping your pain would grant you lasting access to your more responsive, more present-tense, more ‘alive’ intelligence with which to strategize more viable options on the fly.)
A: “How to stop the tears from starting?” Once “it’s too late” feels like your gut response, I believe there are kinder, more effective quetions to ask.
A: “I just need to zone out for awhile” is a solid strategy for waiting out a mood. I’m all for it! To the degree that it creates a dependence on a behavior or substance, it will probably frustrate your desire for control or predictability long-term, though, because, well…

Coping isn’t as rewarding as healing.

Self-reflection is a sign of intelligence, but it has to be done intelligently. Thinking and feeling at the same time is an innate skill that can be recalibrated so as to stop throwing everything further off-kilter when emotions get the upper hand. Recalibration can be done through a familiar process — The Scientific Process, in fact.

When I speak of recalibration, I mean calibrating yourself to yourself.

It’s not as immediately available as self-flagellatingly drawing the same conclusions as the last 10,000 times you and 10,000 other men asked yourself a doomed rhetorical question… (but where has that been getting you “fast?”)

What are you up to next weekend? That’s how short it can take. (See Services.)

There’s nothing wrong with you.

You just want a steady vantage point,
a calibrated identity,
from which you can always make sense of yourself.

But until you have proper support in healing, please be kind to yourself, and consider how absurd it is to expect yourself to feel happy for others. You did that for a while. Now you can’t. That’s not amoral. It’s too much work right now. That’s okay. You’re allowed to rest. Recoup. Recover. And maybe look into recalibration.


If others’ happiness makes you sad, I want to urge you to register for First Aid for Heartache. Everyone who pre-registers will get the recording, as well as the option of a free Zoom coffee with me one-on-one. No sales. No strings. Please click the link First Aid for Heartache.

If that moves too fast for you, I suggest you subscribe, to get to know me over time –>

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