Some people come to me for coaching because they struggle to identify what makes them happy, others to explore ways to ensure they have and experience more of the things they love and enjoy.
Strangely though, some people who express a desire for greater happiness, act in ways that would imply the opposite.
They behave as if they want to be miserable and they are can be very effective in making this come true.
This despite the fact that they get very little apparent benefit from the misery. Logically, misery is not an emotion humans enjoy. Right?
So why do some people still behave in this way? Almost as if they’re addicted to misery itself?
Often the person themselves appear unaware of their own tendencies and genuinely believe that they want to be happy and do everything they can to have happiness.
The drivers behind this are the subtle but positive effects of this ‘innocent misery’, such as:
FEELING LOVED When people are miserable, others feel sorry for them. They receive lots of attention and consideration.
GAIN POWER The people close to the miserable one often feel obscurely guilty, as if they are somehow responsible and to blame. Others will walk on eggshells to make sure that they don’t say or do anything that will upset the person further.
PROTECTION FROM FAILURE Since miserable people’s expectations are low and nothing good is anticipated to happen, they can’t fail, be disappointed or disillusioned.
GAIN RESPECT Being miserable can give the impression that someone is a wise and worldly person. This can be especially true if they’re miserable not just about their own life, but about society in general. They can project an aura of someone very intelligent, burdened by a form of deep, profound, philosophical knowledge that others (happy, shallow people) can’t possibly appreciate.
Look around you. Do you recognize some or all of these points in someone close to you?
Are you inadvertently encouraging or enabling this behaviour? Be honest, and shake off the feeling of responsibility, worry or out-of-proportion respect for the other person. Remember, they’re actually miserable themselves so you’d be doing both of you a favour if you can help them break the cycle.
Alternatively, do you recognize any of the points in yourself? It takes courage to admit this.
But being brave enough to be completely honest about using misery to gain something or protect yourself will free you up to the much greater benefit of smiling to the world, expressing gratitude, looking for the silver lining in things and being considerate to those around you. This option really is a win win, for you and those you care about.