Fear of Happiness and How to Overcome It
Cherophobia – The fear of happiness. Yes, it is a real thing and sadly it affects more of us than we would probably realize. Of course, this can be a difficult concept for us to wrap our minds around. After all, there’s no way that happiness is as scary as a snake, or a clown, or a 1000 foot drop – is it? Well, to some people – yes!
And just as our fears of snakes, spiders, and the like are obvious to us, many people realize that they have the fear of happiness – but many don’t. To some, the fear of happiness is disguised as “introvertedness”. People like this often avoid going to parties or enjoying outings where the ultimate goal is fun and happiness. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all introverts have a fear of happiness. Some people are just introverted. But when the two worlds collide, a sad a dark place can arise.
So why does Chreophobia exist? According to Psychology, there are several different factors that can lead to an ultimate fear of happiness. Let’s take a look:
Our mind is an extremely powerful thing. If we can change our mindsets, we can change our beliefs. When we condition our minds to think positively, this can be a great thing. But when negativity takes over, fears like Cherophobia can arise. So how does our mindset play into the fear of happiness? It’s simple. Many people associate the feeling of happiness with negative outcomes. This is usually something that happens at an unconscious level, and often arises out of conditioning. What do we mean?
Imagine you are dancing around the house and listening to your favourite music when the phone rings. You’ve just been notified that your best friend was in a serious car accident. Well, the next time you are dancing around and listening to music you may now have an impending fear that something bad is going to happen.
Again, this isn’t always something that happens on a conscious level. Overtime, this fear may start to develop without you even realizing it. And eventually you will start to believe that happiness will ultimately lead to disappointment – and you will be afraid to be happy.
2) Cultural beliefs
Our cultural beliefs may also tie into our fear of happiness. Let’s use the Taoist culture for example. This culture holds a Ying and Yang perspective whereby everything in life balances itself out. In return, if you are too happy now, unhappiness may be right around the corner.
The Islamic culture is another good example. In this culture, there are two types of happiness: that in life and that in the afterlife. And it is commonly believed that if you are overly happy in life, you may find unhappiness in your afterlife.
It’s not difficult to see how beliefs such as these can lead to a fear of being happy. Others may simply believe that they don’t deserve to be happy. Similarly, happiness can often be linked to guilt – “I don’t deserve to be happy while so many people are suffering”.
Research has found that a tendency towards reaching perfectionism may be related to a fear of happiness. Why? It may be because people who attempt to reach perfection status associate happiness with activities that are unproductive or lazy.
But regardless of the reasons why someone may have a fear of happiness, the fact remains that Cherophobia is real. And the only way we can combat it is by changing our mindsets. As you have probably already guessed, this is easier said than done. The fear of happiness isn’t something that develops overnight, it builds up over our entire lives. So to say that we could cure it overnight would be unrealistic. It requires effort and practice. We have to train our brains to think differently. Because luckily – everything that is learned can be changed.
So how can we do this?
Start small. You need to change your brains response to happiness through exposure therapy. Let’s use spiders as an example. Many people treat their fear of spiders through exposure therapy. They start out small, by looking at a photo of spiders. Once they become comfortable with this, they may begin picturing a spider crawling beside them in their minds. Once comfortable, they may move to having a real spider in a container beside them. And so on and so forth until they reach the eventual goal of holding a spider. Over time, as the person realizes the spider is not actually a threat, their fear begins to subside.
The same can be done for happiness. Start small – if you like the sun, recognize the positive feelings associated with it. If you have photos of a loved one, take a look at them and feel the positive emotions. After practicing this over and over again, you will eventually grow to learn that no huge disaster is going to arise just because you enjoyed the feeling of warmth from the sun.
If your fears are linked to a negative event, you may have to overcome that specific fear. Let’s revert back to the dancing example. If this is where your fears started, you may need to recondition your mind to believe that dancing around the house isn’t always going to lead to bad news. Start by listening to some calm, relaxing music. Once comfortable, start listening to more upbeat music. Then progress to dancing in a chair, and so on and so forth until you eventually find yourself dancing around the house again without worries.
Changing your beliefs
As we said previously, the fear of happiness doesn’t always arise as an effect of conditioning. Sometimes it can be intwined into our belief system. In such a case we need to take a step back and reflect on our beliefs. If you are a perfectionist, ask yourself – “is going to that party really going to hold me back from reaching my goals?” or “does a week of vacation really mean I am lazy?” And then start to change your way of thinking – “maybe a vacation will actually help me to relax and reset so that I can return to work with a clearer mind” or “maybe my friends at the party will have some great ideas that I can incorporate into my business”. And so on and so forth.
Your mind is a powerful thing. And if you believe you can change your mindset – you can! With hard work and practice you can rewire your brain to battle any of your deepest fears – including the fear of happiness. Because here’s the truth – we all have limited time in this world and we all deserve to find happiness during that time.