Being Happy Is Overrated, New Book Says; Try Being Interested Instead


Cover image from St. Martin's Press.

The pursuit of happiness just doesn’t work for some people, including the author of a new self-help book.

Society has a zero tolerance policy for negativity, but sometimes you need to give yourself permission to feel emotion without judgment, Augusten Burroughs writes in the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). Just wanting to be happy can be an elusive goal unless you figure out what it means to you, and you can develop a plan to achieve it.

Then there are people like Burroughs. “I am not a happy person,” he says. “There are things that do make me experience joy. But joy is a fleeting emotion, like a very long sneeze. A lot of the time what I feel is, interested. Or I feel melancholy. And I also frequently feel tenderness, annoyance, confusion, fear, hopelessness. It doesn’t all add up to anything I would call happiness. But what I’m thinking is, is that so terrible? …

“Happiness is a treadmill of a goal for people who are not happy by nature. Being an unhappy person does not mean you must be sad or dark. You can be interested, instead of happy. You can be fascinated instead of happy.”

The essay is adapted from Burroughs’ new book, This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. A Washington Post reviewer isn’t impressed. “Mostly, Burroughs says a lot without saying much,” the review concludes.

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