Cherophobia: An aversion to, or fear of, happiness and the act of taking steps to deliberately avoid experiences that may invoke overtly positive emotions or happiness in one’s self. An aversion to the emotional state of happiness. An exaggerated or irrational fear of gaiety or happiness
People suffering this believe that should they experience happiness then something negative will occur in order to punish them for their sense of satisfaction. It is believed to be more prevalent in non-Western societies where personal happiness is less valued in comparison with the West. Western cultures are more driven by an urge to maximize happiness and minimize sadness. Failing to appear happy is often a cause for concern. Its value is echoed through Western positive psychology and research on subjective well-being.
In non-Western cultures it may be considered that being happy provokes bad things to happen or that being overly happy makes you less considerate of others and thus a worse person overall. Expressing or pursuing happiness is bad for yourself and others around you.
It is perhaps more about how in certain societies ‘worldly’ happiness is seen as sin be it the Buddhist view that those obsessed with acquiring financial wealthy over spiritual enrichment or the Roman Catholic view of the seven cardinal sins the concept of ‘that which brings immediate happiness in the physical world distracts you from a higher spiritual goal with sin, shallow understanding of life and the decline of society through selfish agendas’ is echoed across many cultures. Thus using the personal happiness of an individual, at any given time, cannot be considered an over simplifying yardstick for long term satisfaction, and attitudes such as aversion to happiness have important implications for measuring happiness across cultures and ranking nations on happiness scores.
My view on this? It is instilled in a person through negative reinforcement, most likely in early childhood, which colours their perception of what is ‘correct’ when considering positive experiences and having an ever present need for self control to ensure the negative consequences of previous experiences do not reoccur.
A simple comparison might be to give the following example: Two people go to a music concert. When asked if they enjoyed the first says enthusiastically yes speaking in hyperbole but very little factual detail. The second agrees but is more reserved in their comments. They discuss the technical side of the event and weight the experience against previous similar events. The first is visibly happy while the second sounds as if they are being polite but didn’t actually enjoy he event. However they may not wish to sound as enthused as in some previous experience when asked the same question they experienced a negative reaction to a voiced opinion.
I think cherophobia is more about the perception of those who freely display their emotions casting judgement on those who are more reserved in their emotional displays. They try to judge the person’s experience through their own and thus seem to be unable to conceive that people have different behavioural patterns to their own and thus try to label it. In this case with a Greek word compounding which sounds more authoritive than it is as there are few, if any academic papers, which use the term cherophobia when discussing the psychology of emotionally introverted people. In my personal experience growing up I was always weary of being ‘too happy’ as it led to a loss of self-control and there were times where this had negative consequences.
Society demands people not be happy and thus we find ourselves not being through a constant influx of negative reinforcement regarding what an acceptable appearance, mind set or lifestyle is. It is a vicious circle. As Mary Shelley discussed in her novel Frankenstein monsters are not born but moulded by society’s creeds, prejudices and pride.
Ultimately you are responsible for your own happiness. It shouldn’t be at the cost of others but, at the same time, you should not let others dictate to you who you are and how you should enjoy experiencing your own, unique, life.
This was a short piece. A throw away piece. Let’s see if it floats.