Why are you Angry about Happiness?

So, I’m speaking at a conference about happiness and leadership, and I’ve just finished describing a practice for sharing Gratitude to build a more positive workplace.  I invite everyone in the room to experience the power of gratitude, so they are to pair up and share something from the past 24 hours for which they are grateful.
As the room breaks into an excited buzz, I notice one woman sitting in the middle of the room, on the aisle, who is… is she actually Glaring at me?  Yes, that is a look of fierce anger.  So I switch off my microphone, walk over to her and ask, “is there something wrong?”
Through tightly pursed lips she hisses, “yes!  This is totally inappropriate!”
Taken aback by her intensity, I ask, “what is?”
“this is totally inappropriate to have people talking about such things during a lecture!”  She is very visibly angry, now, and her voice is rising.
“um… this is an interactive conference session, not a lecture,” I offer.
“well, this topic is totally inappropriate!”  and she looks away, dismissing me.
“OK,” I think.  “Apparently this conversation is over!”  I literally back away from her, as I am afraid of her anger and do want to turn my back to her.
It takes me a second to shake off her mood, and then I bring everyone back together and continue… and frankly, do not give this woman another thought until the very end of the program, when I ask everyone in the room to stand up for somatic exercise.
At first, she sits rigidly. Then she slowly stands up, but while everyone else in the room is facing me, she pointedly turns to face the side wall of the room.  And she does not participate in the exercise.
As soon as I finish, she picks up her things and races from the room.
Frankly, I want to follow her and give her a hug, and ask, “why are you so angry about happiness?”  Wow.  How much anger can a person hold, such that a conversation about happiness and positive culture cause such an intense, negative reaction?  And what sort of Victim mindset must she hold, that she could be so unhappy and yet feel she could not leave the session?
But she’s gone.  I feel really badly for her.
What’s my point?  I don’t know.  I guess I’m wondering, What must it be like to work with someone that gets upset when other people are happy?  Ick.  And she works in Human Resources!  Yikes!
I just hope someone offers her a smile today.  And maybe a hug.



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