In a remote training camp, a squad of rookies had just returned to their billet after a days march under the boiling sun. “What a life!” barked one new soldier. “Miles from anywhere, with a sergeant who thinks he’s Alexander The Great, no women, no booze, no leave – and on top of all that, my boots are two sizes too small.”
“You don’t want to put up with that chum,” said his neighbour, “Why don’t you request another pair?”
“Not likely” he answered. “Takin ’em off is the only pleasure I’ve got!”
Nothing To Lose But Unhappiness
We have nothing to lose but our misery and yet we seem so afraid to lose it. It was while writing my how to overcome shyness article that I remembered past experiences I’ve had when writing, or reading an online users positive self-improvement suggestions. Generally the feedback in the forum threads and replies report that many are open to the idea of losing their unhappiness. But often there are those few who will criticize the altruistic advice given with such immense brutality, that you feel as if they’ve just been given quick tips on how to murder their closest loved ones.
This not only applies to the internet. In many cases misery is actually seen as a cultural virtue. Suffering for your imperfect nature is a religious dogma all too present, and even modern romanticized subcultures like Goths and Emo’s jump on the same bandwagon. These people seem to find a certain sense of living ‘deeply’ – deeper than the rest of superficial society – when in touch with their darkest and sorrowful feelings. The more tormented and gloomy a soul, the greater the sensitivity of that person.
It never ceases to surprise me how enthusiastically I hear many people speak of their problems. One could almost presume this zeal comes from some sort of pleasure they feel with telling – and even competing with – each others problems.
There seems to be an investment in misery. If misery only brought us purely negative returns like say, the feeling of flatulence, then we’d endure it momentarily and forget about it once it is released. Some can even become miserable about being flatulent and tell their friends. So what is it that makes us cling to such a feeling and share it with others? The return of our investment in the form of pleasure.
People find it hard to let go of things that make them miserable because they also bring them some type of pleasure. It can come in many forms:
- Sympathy: Our society and social etiquette encourages sympathy as a form of virtue. If you complain about being sick, about struggling with a personal problem, there’s always a sympathetic ear to listen and offer “you poor thing” and “awww”s that will make you feel special and indulge your egotistical need of acknowledgement and attention.
- Desires and Expectations: This is attaching yourself to a misery now in order that your future desires will occur. For instance, you might have some ambition to achieve that is bringing you present miseries. So your expectations of the future are the things causing you problems in the present. Things aren’t going the way you presumed they would.
You might be aware of what is causing you misery, but part of you is still doubtful and cynical that they really are. It is up to you to explore yourself and understand the idea that “these are the things that are making me miserable.”
Misery Makes You Special
Misery makes you capable of attracting other peoples attention. When you’re miserable, you’re attended to, sympathized with, and loved. Everybody starts taking care of you because who wants to hurt a miserable person? Misery is a great investment. For instance, if Luna is miserable and complaining about something, it’s much harder for me to neglect her. But while when she’s happy in her own world and me in mine, it could be much easier forgetting her. Misery makes you special. Happiness is a universal phenomenon, there’s nothing special about it. Animals seem to be happy, tree’s seem to be happy, so they can easily be forgotten and abused.
Unhappiness is so much easier to convey than happiness. When we are miserable, we are immensely more aware of our existence. Since we feel no struggle when we are happy, no tension of pain between us and the rest of the world, we become more open and connected to everything. Man becomes special, extraordinary, and gains an ego when he has problems and misery. We create problems so we can feel that life is a great work, a growth, and you have to struggle hard to earn it. But the truth is, problems dont exist. You create the problems. Then you go in search for the solution.
We make mountains out of molehills because the egocentric sense of self doesn’t want to be ordinarily miserable, it wants to be extraordinarily miserable! If your own problems aren’t enough, you look for bigger problems to solve; you watch the news, listen to the radio and read the papers to fill yourself with more worries. Not that you can do anything about a recent war, murder or rape that occurred – but knowing about it indulges your fears about the rest of the world, adds a boundary, and brings you more misery to keep you busy. We need misery because without problems we feel empty, there’s nothing to do, nothing to fight with, and nowhere to go. The emptiness of our inner silence is so frightening, we become conspicuous and create the outlined boundaries of our identity through our problems.
Misery brings you pain which defines you as an individual: “this pain is mine and no others“, “this conflict and tension I’m suffering serves as a barrier between me and the rest“. Happiness takes all of that away and in doing so, you lose your identity, you become nobody.