“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” ~ Winston Churchill
I enjoy people watching. What I find equally fascinating, is tuning in to what people are saying when they don’t think others are listening. Not secretly eavesdropping but in public or with passing conversations. Comedian Bill Cosby brought to light “Kids say the darndest things.” Well, adults do too.
It amazes me how often people, when communicating, complain and criticize. It is as if they choose negativity because it is familiar to them or makes them feel safe. Fortunately, we have the option not to participate in negativity and to shift those conversations in other directions. You can always set an example and in doing so, create a positive environment.
In a November 2013 online article (alternet.org), Cloe Madanes wrote about habits of highly miserable people. Madanes, a psychotherapist and author, is a teacher in family therapy and the strategic intervention field. She asserts that some people act as if they want to be miserable, and they succeed remarkably at inviting misery into their lives. You likely know one or two of these people.
Regular readers of this blog know that it almost always focuses on choice, ‘things positive,’ possibilities, and significance. And I intend to stick with those themes. But every now and then it helps to remind, when opportunity is taken to the opposite extreme. So I have chosen three of Madanes’ tongue-in-cheek habits to, hopefully, keep you focused on what really matters. 🙂
- Practice sustained boredom. Cultivate the feeling that everything is predictable, that life holds no excitement, no possibility for adventure, that an inherently fascinating person like yourself has been deposited into a completely tedious and pointless life through no fault of your own. Complain about how bored you are. Consider provoking a crisis to relieve your boredom. Exercise: Force yourself to watch hours of mindless reality TV programs every day that leave you feeling soulless. Avoid literature, art, and keeping up with current affairs.
- Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to help someone, contribute to a charity, or participate in a community activity. Don’t do it, unless there’s something in it for you, like the opportunity to seem like a good person or to get to know somebody you can borrow money from some day. Never fall into the trap of doing something purely because you want to help people. Exercise: Think of all the things you’ve done for others in the past that haven’t been reciprocated. Now list three things you could do that would make you appear altruistic while bringing personal, social, or professional gain.
- Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. Taking pleasure in things like food, wine, music, and beauty is for flighty, shallow people. Tell yourself that. The same applies to nature. If you accidentally find yourself enjoying a beautiful view, a walk on the beach, or a stroll through the forest, stop! Remind yourself that the world is full of poverty, illness, and devastation. The beauty of nature is a deception. Exercise: Once a week, engage in an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but do so while thinking about how pointless it is. In others words, concentrate on removing all sense of pleasure from the pleasurable activity.
If you periodically drift into that space of misery loving company, remember that awareness is the first step to change.