Anyone who has experienced grief of any kind is probably aware of the five stages of grief, first outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. I’m certain everyone who is everyone experienced grief in the same way long before that.
I also know that these five stages of grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, don’t happen in order, they happen in a circle, sometimes circling you all at the same time.
No one that I’m aware of ever explains the opposite though.
You get your big break, your dream job, your book sells, you meet the love of your life, buy a dream home, make ends meet, you do it. You wrestle through life and in some moment, you’re happy. Or maybe, you just get what you want. Finally.
People tell you how to get through grief. How to push through, get through, batten down, suffer it out, but no one ever says: here’s happiness and how you get through it, because once you are happy you can just be happy? Right? When you’re happy you don’t need instructions? What now?
THE FIVE STAGES OF HAPPINESS – which are quite similar to grief, but without all the angry parts:
1. Infatuation (approval)- YES, YES, YES, more of this please. I need more now, I want it all, all, all. I will marry you today. yes. I will do this forever. yes.
2. Elation – over the moon, I can’t believe this is true, true, true. I love this feeling. WOW!
3. Insecurity – will it happen or won’t it happen? or continue to happen? This is a fluke, cling to what you know, you know how to struggle, but you don’t know how to be happy, someone will take this away from me. This can’t be possible! Save some of this for another day, don’t use it all now.
4. Reality – you begin to realize maybe this is real, it’s not over the top, over the moon anymore, it is real. Things calm down, you sink in, you’re good. It’s good. This can send you right back to insecurity.
5. Depression or Clarity – this can go either way – on the one hand, you’ve got what you want, but on the other you aren’t striving for more, better, faster anymore. That’s what you wanted – right? You might start to sink down into depression. It’s disappointing to let go of an old way of thinking. It’s disappointing to have failed all of your old ways by breaking through and believing in what you want and going after it. If you go the depression route, you’ll end up back at the top after you fight your way through it – again. Or you might realize all you’ve left behind was for good reason. This new reality is good, you’ve changed and maybe you can sit with it and be okay without striving for anything more. That can come another day. I’m clear this is real – and good – and I’m okay. Clarity.
After sitting with this piece of writing for a bit, I realize these five stages of happiness apply to lots of things, new babies, new jobs, new loves, new houses, life in general. Most of us are looking out at the world screaming I’m not happy yet! What happened!? Meanwhile we’re looking for something, someone, some experience to MAKE US HAPPY NOW.
And the point is – happiness isn’t out there waiting for you – it’s right here. We’re all circling all of these things all the time. Right now. It’s all the same process.
*After writing this I searched and found other people are talking about the five stages of happiness. Different from my view, but it’s out there.