CONNECTIONS – VOLUME 8
BY Julie Kraft, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
As a therapist, I have seen my fair share of misery. There is the kind you can’t avoid – the heartbreak and loss that come with every human life. And then there is the misery we seem to choose for ourselves. Here, in five easy steps, I will teach you how to increase your misery to its fullest. (This blog is for the masochist in you, or the part that likes a little sarcasm).
1.) Find something slightly out of reach, or completely out of reach, and decide that you cannot be happy until you have it. For example, take some time to drive through a neighborhood that is out of your price range. Select your dream house. Alternate between fantasizing about the perfect life you would be living if you were in that house, loathing the place you are in now, and calculating all the reasons you can never afford to move. Other good options are jobs you are not qualified for, sexual partners who are clearly out of your league, and physical appearances that differ greatly from your own.
2.) Worry about money. A good way to accomplish this is to spend more than you make, but this is not mandatory. You can live well within your means, even have a lot in savings, and still be miserable over finances. All it takes is a little imagination! For instance, have you thought about what it is going to cost by the time your grandchildren go to college? How in God’s name will they afford that? Also what if that leak in the kitchen sink is really the beginning of $20,000 in plumbing repairs? Do you know how much it costs to fix a roof? Do you know that some computer hacker could be stealing your identity and preparing to max out all of your credit cards even as you are reading this sentence? How will you pay for that miracle drug that your insurance does not cover and is the only thing that will save your child’s life if God forbid he gets infected with some bizarre super-bacteria? Repeat after me: I will never have enough money to be safe. Feel the panic set in!
3.) Eat a lot of fast food. Also, eat it quickly. Eat it in the car. Shove it into your face between meetings. Be convinced that eating this greasy, dripping slop is a well-deserved reward for how hard you work, and is going to make you happy. (Being convinced that things will make you happy is an excellent way to get miserable). Bask in the stomach problems that follow. Spend a lot of time complaining that you are fat. Feel ashamed and out of control. This will lead you back to eating fast food so the cycle can repeat.
4.) Compare yourself to other people. Useful comparisons are weight, annual income, attractiveness of one’s spouse or partner, and success of one’s children. However, you may want to look for details like specific body parts (butt, thighs, facial wrinkles, hair loss) or material belongings (car, shoes, purse, boat) to do a more thorough comparison. This technique is useful in that no matter your determination – whether you feel you stack up better or fall short of the mark – you will increase your misery! In seeing yourself as lower than others, you can begin to self-criticize and/or bathe in a deep, gooey pond of self-pity. In seeing yourself as better, you may temporarily decrease your misery. But do not worry! Your misery is a foregone conclusion as you lose friends due to your smug and judgmental attitude. Moreover, as your sense of self is built on a shaky and illusive perception of being better than other people, you will live with a sense of almost intolerable uncertainty and emptiness. Bingo!
5.) Ignore the good stuff. This is very important! If you continue to feel gratitude you are never going to hit the depths of misery you are looking for. You have to get rid of all that. Do not pay attention to the quiet moment when you got to take a lovely, deep breath. Definitely do not tell your spouse about that moment. Skip over it and instead list every single thing that was irritating about your day. Telling the story again and again will increase your misery all the more. One frustrating experience can be relived over and over – more bang for your buck!
Stay away from nature. That includes sunsets and stargazing. If your children draw pictures on the wall in crayon, do not find this endearing or innocent or memorable. It is important to become livid and yell at the children. Do not see the humor in almost anything, Do not give yourself credit for the things you do well. Do not give your spouse or children or friends or colleagues credit for the things they do well. Refocus your attention on all the ways everyone is messing up all the time. Point out people’s mistakes and absolutely pummel yourself for your own.
When something pleasant happens or things seem to fall into place, don’t get all spiritual about it. Do not believe there is a connection or a greater purpose or that some Higher Power is looking out for you. Try something like “Everyone gets lucky once in a while I guess” or “There’s no such thing as a free lunch; I know I’ll pay for this later.” This will minimize hopefulness. Hopefulness is an antidote to misery and must be stamped out.
So there you have it – 5 simple steps to a profoundly miserable existence! I know you can do it.
Of course, if misery is not what you are looking for, you can always try the opposite.
*this blog was originally published by The Huffington Post
*Julie S. Kraft is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the co-author of The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction and the upcoming The Gift of Recovery: Mindfulness Skills for Living Joyfully Beyond Addiction. She sees couples and individuals in her private practice: www.juliekrafttherapy.com