Happiness can be a hard sell

August 08, 1999|By Dallas Morning News

DALLAS -- If Pam Johnson has learned one thing over the last year, it's that some people hate happiness.

During that time, the founder of the Secret Society of Happy People has been cursed on national television, received veiled telephone threats at home and participated in a very public dispute with columnist Ann Landers.

"It isn't always well-received. You tell people about the organization and they roll their eyes," she says. "But I don't mind the hostility. That tells me there's a need for the organization."

The society, which Johnson says has about 800 dues-paying members, celebrates its first anniversary today with a proclamation of "Admit You're Happy Day" and a small reception at Johnson's suburban Dallas home.

Its purpose is to organize and encourage the openly happy -- people who often are mocked and taunted by their peers and, Johnson believes, sometimes harassed in the workplace.

For $30 a year, members receive a T-shirt, lapel pin, bumper sticker, subscription to the society newsletter and a personal pen pal. (Their Web site is www.sohp.com.)

Johnson, 33, a publisher's representative and part-time motivational speaker, says the anti-happy climate is partly fostered by the self-help industry and its "woundology."

"There are 100 12-step programs that support your wounds, but there's nothing to support you if you ... had a great lemonade, or you had a great golf shot and you want to talk about it."

She encourages her members to concentrate on such simple pleasures and to share them with friends. But she hastens to add that even happy people have their off days.

"We don't expect you to be happy all the time. There are days when you stay in and eat a gallon of Haagen-Dazs and watch sad movies," she said. "I think there's some people who say, 'You're telling me I have to be happy,' and it's not like that."

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