The same thing happens when we examine Elly's stalled career ambitions. Her job allows her to feel superior to an Annie Nichols whose identity is "just another worthless housewife hopelessly dependent on a man who by definition can never respect her" but also allows her to feel guilty about leaving her entitled children who want her to wait on them hand and foot in the lurch. The key is to feel horrible and selfish and conflicted about trying to make herself feel good. While Elly herself might furiously deny it, she seems to be fixated on the idea that she isn't actually allowed to enjoy anything. What this strip about Elly's need to pile on the preconditions to being happy with herself shows us is a woman trying to avoid a happiness she doesn't think that good people are really allowed to feel. It seems to me that the frightened and angry child in her noticed that her tormentors always seemed to be very happy when they were ganging up on her and thus came to the belief that the only reason that people are content with their lot is when they're deliberately tyrannizing someone because he or she cannot fight back. Since she doesn't want to feel like a monster, she has to suffer her way through life in order to be worthy of a happiness it would be criminal and wrong to feel.
Of course, the corollary to this is that it's okay to be happy if the people you're inconveniencing by enjoying life are extra-bad people who want to hurt you and make you slaves to their family politics. This is why the Elly of 2014 is very happy indeed. She's defeated a domineering ethnic who wants her to crawl in the mud AND an evil career woman who wants to make her baby chase a distracting star so is quite content with her lot in life.