kid hiding on pillows

The Fear of Being Happy – Cherophobia

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.


Seneca in a few words summarised that only when a human being understands the very nature of existence can spend a joyful life with full potential.

What is the fear of being happy?

Defined as an attitude rather than a disorder, cherophobia (the scientific name for it) is, as the term suggests, a fear.

The cherophobic person defines himself, in a certain sense, the author of unhappiness from which they cannot escape. In addition, they tend to use their fear as a defence mechanism from those situations that they believe they must avoid because they cannot control.

Those who fear being happy tend to self-sabotage, implementing a series of attitudes that will lead to an inevitable distance from happiness.

Causes and symptoms of cherophobia

What causes cherophobia is certainly an experience of one’s childhood that has generated a link between happiness and the fear of being so. This is probably because moments of happiness when you were a child have been followed by punishments rather than approvals, teaching you that happiness is not a positive aspect of life but something to take take distance from.

The cherophobic person learns that happiness is something undeserved and that it is better to stay and watch it from afar. The cherophobic is a spectator rather than a participant in life itself.

There are personalities more predisposed to cherophobia, such as those who are narcissistic, immature, depressed, and those with a huge sense of unconscious guilt. This last attribution was given in 1916 by Freud, who outlined the cherophobic as individuals doomed to failure, who carries with them an enormous sense of unconscious guilt towards members of their family and friends because they are scared of surpassing them in terms of ability, prestige, and visibility.

Therefore, those who suffer from cherophobia tend to always take disappointing paths for themselves, running into toxic friendships, relationships unable to blossom and refusing all those opportunities that could bring them success, as if it were aimed at a purification to compensate for sins never committed.

The cherophobic persons lives their life full of rationality and devoid of emotion, to such an extent that even the brain suffers. Actually, the brain of these individuals, as it is no longer being accustomed to the normal neurochemical functioning of some mechanisms (in this case inherent to the sphere of well-being), will no longer recognize them and puts in place defences that, from the somatic point of view, may result in panic attacks.

Treating Cherophobia

Treating cherophobia is possible, through the adoption of specific attitudes such as:

  • write down your emotions in a personal journal
  • play sports, go out, take time for yourself, engage in actions / activities that have no particular purpose, except to learn to enjoy them
  • surround yourself with healthy relationships, and avoid toxic ones
  • learn to interact with your emotions, and your state of mind
  • communicate with people to whom you are particularly attached
  • practise breathing and meditation exercises.

The alternative would be undertaking a therapeutic path in which you will learn to welcome happiness, rather than to reject it. Psychotherapy is necessary to learn to understand how important it is to face emotions rather than repress them, and above all to change your script of life, making the child who lives in you a consciously happy adult.

What about you? Are you afraid of being happy? And if you were asked when it was the last time you were happy, what would you answer?

You can find more on happiness on my blog crisbiecoach.

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11 thoughts on “The Fear of Being Happy – Cherophobia

  1. I would say I had this fear. It was very debilitating, for I feared the “punishment” the “payback” I would experience after I allowed myself to be happy, for it was ingrained into me as strongly as case and effect.

    Only when I deliberately set out to teach myself to like myself was I able to disconnect the 2. It takes a lot of mindful work to move forward from that state, but when we are damaged from our past, it seems like a good survival tool to hold onto in order to protect ourselves from more harm.

    1. Thank you Tamara for sharing your experience. I agree that damages from the past are difficult to overcome. I just finished watching a movie called -To the bone- and I have seen some references to my today’s article. If you have the chance, watch it, some images may be disturbing, but the story shows that there is you a way out.

  2. This post reminds me of what Brene Brown calls foreboding joy. That feeling of fear when you consider something dear to you – like looking in at your sleeping children at night. She relates that foreboding joy feeling to vulnerability. I wonder if there’s any relationship between cherophobia and foreboding joy?

    Great post Cristiana! You’ve introduced me to a word and concept I’d never heard of before!

    1. For sure it’s something we should consider, above all because it comes from Brene Brown! Thank you for commenting and instilling this thought provoking question!

  3. Great post Cristiana – I’ve not heard the term before. I often think we self sabotage out of security. We are unwilling to let go of the things that make us unhappy because they provide us with security – we’re afraid to lose what we know – even if it’s a toxic relationship or career. It’s a survival thing.

  4. Facing emotions is indeed a difficult task for me. Sometimes I become insecure in accepting the reality of ‘let go’ my loved one. Perhaps, I am fearful of being happy…

  5. Thanks Cristiana- I was not familiar with this term but have seen many of the characteristics in some people I’ve known.

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