Misery Loves MORE Than Company

Originally sent to The Tribe in our weekly emails on 2/23/20. You can subscribe here:

It's possible to become addicted to unhappiness.

Misery is complicated. Misery is like Big Brother in George Orwell's terrifying dystopian classic, 1984: it delivers nothing but suffering, is concerned only with growing its own power, and can mercilessly get you, if you're not paying attention, to love it. Have you ever been around a group of people who compete for who has it worse? Or how about people who just seem like they can't or won't be happy? You know the ones... They shoot down the ideas before they even get off the ground. They tell you that thing you want to do isn't worth it. They ask you who you think you are when you share your big idea. Not matter what good is happening, they find something to hate, complain, or gossip about. Why do people do that? Psychology Today writes in Are You Addicted to Unhappiness, "There are a number of possible explanations..." and goes on to list ten possibilities including things like: "Deep rooted insecurity or lack of self-esteem... growing up with a parenting style of excessive discipline and unrealistic expectations... lifelong struggles with trauma... and, dissatisfaction becomes a motivator to work harder." The same article goes on to say that, "for about 20 percent of American adults, mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety may mean that happiness is just out of reach." And "the unfortunate reality is that most chronically unhappy people refuse to get help. Nearly half of those with mental illness never seek treatment." Like we said, misery is complicated. It loves power. It can be very manipulative.  So what can we DO about this? First, we must do some personal inventory and identify what “misery” means to us. What defines misery in our eyes and in our  head? Next, we must consider the other person's definition of misery. Is it the same as ours? If it isn't, it can create senseless friction and pain. Conversely, through practice, where we initially cast judgment we can instead lighten the burden by offering the benefit of the doubt first, can't we? For instance, what equates to "being miserable" to me is much different than my wife's definition of being miserable. When she and I identify and remember these differences (it's not always easy in the heat of the moment) we can bring balance back to the other person instead of more misery. Once the definitions are in order, we can look at the context and impact of misery. How is this misery affecting your growth, your output, and your peace of mind? As noted above, some people use misery to "work harder". Is misery "bad" in this sense? Maybe yes, maybe no. If it's bringing other members of your Team down as you rise, is it good? Can you go as far as you want with a disjointed Team? Do we not control most of "context and impact" ourselves, even when the other person, the gods, or Fate delivers its message? How we internalize (and act on) people and events is, eventually, our decision isn't it? And what if the person is simply a miserable jerk? Good point. Do you know what misery hates? Love for something other than itself. You are not responsible for fixing everyone and everything. And you don't have to try. Just love yourself, first. Dr. Aziz Gazipura asks what really makes people upset in his book, Not Nice. He answers the question this way, "We get upset when we perceive our needs are not being met." He identifies the six human needs, gone into much greater depth in Tony Robbin's Awaken The Giant Within, as Certainty, Uncertainty, Significance, Love/Connection, Growth, Contribution. And goes on to write, "once we've let go of taking responsibility for others' feelings, it frees us up to focus on them and really give them what we can in the moment. We're no longer focused on ourselves, tense and worried about whether they will like us or not. We can show up more powerfully, and serve more deeply." It takes great self love to do this. And a simple, utilitarian phrase for people who are constantly tossing their misery in your direction is to answer it with the sincere delivery of these words, "That must be really hard for you." You have listened and you have given their issue(s) back to them. Well done. And what about cutting the most toxic people out of your life? Do it if that's what needs doing. Sometimes, changing your environment is the right thing to do. What about the toxic people you work with? Be professional or get a new job. That's it. What about toxic family members? Move out or don't answer the door/phone. That's it. What about a toxic spouse? Move on. That's it. What about toxic friends who will talk shit about you once you stop responding to them? Who cares? That's it. Are these things easy? No. They can actually be quite painful in the beginning. But they are simple. And they all feel better in a short span of time. But before it's the miserable person's fault they are making you miserable, ask yourself this: is it them, or is it what I am letting them do to me? And do not take that question lightly. If you do, your change of environment will do nothing for you. Misery is a complicated topic. We could write a book on it. For now... ask yourself: What character traits does a miserable person have? Do I have any of them? Who, with these traits in mind, is the most miserable person I know? How many hours a week am I near them? Is my suffering because of them or because of what I am letting them do to me? Misery loves getting you to love it. It loves getting you to feel like the victim. This gives it its strength. It is a serpentine master. There are no victims here. If you choose wisely...


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