Does Misery Love Company?

“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. πŸ™‚

  • 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.

29 thoughts on “Does Misery Love Company?

  1. Good blog post! I’m pretty sure I’m just going to stay up late and catch up on all those reality shows so I can make myself more a little bit stupider. Why would I want to be smart and fulfilled? Nor do I wish to help others unless I get something out of it!

    I would also suggest that if you do have a beautiful view (while walking on the beach or hiking on a mountain trail) that you whip out your phone and text a friend and not pay attention to that moment around you.

  2. Another great posting, Eric. I always remember this old man saying, living on my own is the type of community I like. We called him “the self-appointed martyr”.

  3. Complaints and criticism are too much common practices. If only more people realized thoughts and actions are choices and just chose positive thoughts and happiness…oh, what a beautiful world!

  4. Great post! I agree with you. Being around negativity will bring out negativity in you, whether you want it to or not. It doesn’t mean everything is always going to be great, but striving to keep positive vibes, positive things in the forefront of your life will keep you on the right track and away from the misery you talk about here. Have a great day, Eric!

  5. A good post πŸ™‚ It’s a sad state of mind for many. I suffered terrible depression for many years so know this misery well, it makes shit company but people don’t choose it intentionally and not everyone has the skills to recognise it for what it is. It creeps up so slowly they are not aware of the pessimism they live and expect daily. It wasn’t till I got up one morning feeling the same old way and moved about the kitchen making coffee etc that I realised how robotic I had become, I suddenly observed myself going through the motions and accepting that, not thinking otherwise. I was going through life half asleep, making the right sounds and doing enough to get through each day (badly!) but not consciously thinking about any of it. I was genuinely unaware until I realised I had to wake myself up, I had to put some life back into my mind, not just ruminations and self reinforcement of how bad life is. I now work in mental health so of course see it everywhere and can now see why the saying “Oh for God’s sake…wake up!!” I would add please if I could say it at all :):) We need to wake up to what life really is, full of potential but only when we know it is and knowing it…well, knowing comes from what we have learned and some of us have just learned life can be not so great, and learned it exceptionally well… so well it’s a well reinforced belief. To support we need to inspire, to see the face of someone who has just actually registered there is another way to think about this and to see their eyes light up, you realise they WANT better they just couldn’t see it for the clouds. Then there are those who will always be just who they are, often because they got down and never could get back up.

    • Wendy, thank you so much for your poignant and thoughtful comments. Yours, I believe, is the longest piece of feedback posted on this blog. And I love it! Were I to extract and herald one remark, it would be your “Oh for God’s sake…wake up!!” It really is that simple. And yes to inspiring others who may not have clarity about how to effect desired change. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks Eric, I needed a laugh. It’s good to not take everything so seriously. Tip #4. Never laugh or smile. If you feel a smile coming on, slap yourself. If you are tempted to to laugh, pinch yourself until you feel pain. Exercise: Practice frowning in the mirror for 1 hour a day. 😦

  7. Great post, Eric. It’s easy to reflect on the negative, and it’s sometimes difficult to see the positive of a situation or challenge. However, you can utilize the negative approach to churn out a positive feeling (which is a delightful challenge). Often times, when I’m feeling down in the dumps, some of my best work can be written.

    Every feeling, situation, objective is give-and-take.

    Thank you for following my blog, sir. I can’t wait to continue to read your work as well. Have a great week.

    • Absolutely, Christopher. Awareness of being in a negative space or situation can catalyze one to shift, sometimes abruptly.

      Ditto to looking forward to learning more from you posts/sharing. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Excellent!! This is what I would call the ultimate in satire!! The smile it brought to my face is still lingering! I fully agree with you Eric…misery is many times self-perpetuated, positive thinking needs to be cultivated but only few people really help in that…the best help lies within!

    • I had to give myself permission to go with this post, balroop. It is clearly not the messaging I typically advocate/espouse. I’m glad that you and others read it in a satirical light. And yes, positive beliefs have to come from within!

  9. Well, the Smiths are now wearing elastic bands on their wrists. Every time a negative thought or word is spoken, we snap our wrists. It is best to look on the bright side. Si?

  10. Hi Eric,

    That is a great post.

    What is it really that keeps us mired in criticism and blame? Is it when we choose not to take responsibility of our own lives? As we do this, how many of us hold the awareness that we are in effect handing over the control of ourselves and our lives to those nameless others who we criticize and blame? How many of us would choose to remain in such a dis empowering space were we to hold the awareness?

    Shakti

    • Wonderfully explained and acknowledged, Shakti. In simple terms, this is about awareness and personal choice versus relinquishing ourselves to others. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughtful comments.

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