Strictly Ballroom poster

Do We All Need Our ‘Happy Face’?

Where's Your Happy Face?

Where’s Your Happy Face?

Those among you of a certain age may recall the Australian romantic comedy ‘Strictly Ballroom’, directed and produced by Baz Luhrmann. In it Scott, the top ballroom dancer, ends up being paired with a clumsy novice Fran. Together they go on to win the National Ballroom Championships with his maverick style that upsets the more conventional among them.

There is so much inspiration to be found in this upbeat film but I want to just focus on Scott’s mum who, when everything is going up in smoke around her, manages to see the positive, saying “I’ve got my Happy Face on!”

Whilst you’re unconvinced she’s attaining a real sense of peace and tranquillity (in fact her denial of Scott’s and his Dad’s albeit alternative but passionate talent, is the cause of a lot of drama in the film), her refusal to ‘give up and give in’ is admirable.

Whilst I’m not condoning an ostrich approach to facing challenges (far from it), recognising we have a choice to ‘put on our happy face’ is helpful – to a point.

It is important to count our blessings, practice gratitude and to seek the positive as it all helps to counter our natural hard wiring to just remember the negative. Smile when you don’t feel like it stimulates our bodies to release our feel good hormones, which then does make us feel better.

But we don’t want to deny ourselves our emotional distress either!

Brushing things under the carpet works as a temporary fix but sooner or later, we’re going to face that dis-stress we’re storing up in our bodies. One of the ways I help myself process and let go is booking myself into a day where I’m being taken through the healing process developed by Donald Epstein*. His three fundamental steps echo what I share with my clients when supporting them work through the emotional blocks in their career or life transitions.

  1. Awareness – Allow yourself to really feel what is going on. Where is it in your body? Name the emotion, pain or ‘sense of’ that is sitting there.
  2. Acknowledgement – In naming the emotion, the feeling, allow yourself to acknowledge it. You’ve probably been dismissing it or passing it off as ‘just nothing’ so for once, acknowledge what is there. Tell yourself ‘Thank you for coming to my attention. I am now listening”.
  3. Acceptance – In bringing your attention to what is underneath, surrender to that. Accept what is really going on and allow yourself to open up to new possibilities. ‘I am open to learning more of what I need to know”.

Whilst our ‘Happy Face’ has it’s time and place, doing the deeper work, following these steps, helps develop a sense of peace that our “Happy Face’ has a better chance of authentically emerging from.

*With thanks to Dr Tomasina Craster, for another beautiful Clear Day.