When someone said this to me, I absorbed it in a couple of different ways. The first way was the way they probably intended it: the simple fact that happiness is less dramatic than suffering. How many operas have you seen about people having pleasant lives and untroubled relationships? Great writers and artists have spent millennia spinning human pain into beautiful tapestries of vision and thought, and it can’t be denied that without said pain a great deal of beauty would not exist.
Then, of course, I thought about it from a therapist’s perspective. When I was in the field, I sat with a lot of people who said they wanted to be happy but routinely sabotaged any progress toward a life that might make them happier. (Then, of course, I went home and did the same thing.) We (most humans, but especially those who got imprinted with drama growing up) are wired for drama, and when things remain the same we get antsy.
Now that I live with bipolar disorder, I get to see my brain play out a version of this in my cycles. When coming out of a depressive phase, I start to feel happy, even content. Ordinary pleasures have a new intensity as I rediscover them. I can focus on tasks, and I get a lot of satisfaction from completing any. Life takes on a calmness…aaannndd then I’m hypomanic. The calm phase never lasts; my brain is wired to build the good energy up into problematic energy.
My brain does what we enact in our lives. “Things are too quiet around here. I need something to happen.” So we make something happen. We act out with a problem behavior, so we can have the drama of guilt and trying to get back on the wagon. We text that ex. We’re late to something important. We get furious at something that might have barely hit our radar if we weren’t subconsciously looking for a fight.
And we’re back in drama. Familiar, interesting drama. Interesting to us, anyway. Not so much to those who have to watch us spin. Again.