We are five years into this process of recovery after many years of crisis, trauma and all of the after-effects. It has taken time to come to a place of peace, strength and confidence.
As well, it takes time to find consistent calm in life. It was often hard, soul searching work.
Early on in my efforts to improve my life I was asked by a seasoned recovery expert: “Do you really want to get better?”
Strange question. Shouldn’t that be obvious? Doesn’t everyone?
But, we have all known someone who has a slew of problems, often unloads them to you, yet has a reason to doubt every possible solution. While repeatedly returning to their mess only to come back later with a new round of similar complaints.
I’ve seen it countless times. More than a few times I’ve lived it.
The natural questions that come to mind are, does this person want a better life? Or do they just want to be comforted. Do they simply want attention and company as they remain in their misery?
Getting better is hard work. It takes effort to change and create a more peaceful, healthy life. It’s not easy breaking out of the very problems we are sometimes identified by.
An Article in Psychology Today written by David Sack, M.D. mentions the theory that people like negative feelings. A study by Eduardo Andrade and Joel Cohen, which evaluated why people enjoy horror movies, concluded that some of the viewers were “happy to be unhappy.”
Researchers found that people experience both negative and positive emotions at the same time, meaning they not only enjoy the relief they feel when the threat is removed but also enjoy being scared. This same theory, they argued, may help explain why humans are drawn to extreme sports and other risky activities that elicit terror or disgust.
As people we are layered. What might present on the surface as misery, could subconsciously be a familiar, comfortable identity we fear moving out of.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHRONICALLY UNHAPPY
How do you know if you’re one of these people who live in a perpetual state of unhappiness? People who are addicted to unhappiness tend to:
- Find reasons to be miserable when life gets “too good.”
- Prefer to play the victim role and blame others rather than take personal responsibility for their choices.
- Have difficulty setting and achieving goals, or conversely achieve goals only to find that they can’t enjoy their success.
- Struggle to bounce back when things don’t go their way.
- Distract, escape or cope by using drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or other addictive or compulsive behaviors.
- Stop taking care of their basic needs, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.
- Feel enslaved to their emotions and powerless to change.
- Feel dissatisfied even when life is going well.
- Have dramatic, unfulfilling relationships.
When someone is in the midst of misery and trauma it’s understandable to be a mess.
When trauma and triggers reoccur, we can naturally return to misery.
When we live chronically miserable, there can be a medical issue. Or maybe it’s time for a wake-up call.
I have a friend who lived for a great length of time understandably swallowed up in sorrow over the circumstances of her family. Addiction was ravaging more than a few people she dearly loved. It was affecting her terribly; to the point she almost couldn’t function.
One evening she sat with a group of women who listened again as her tears, pain and worry poured out. One of them leaned in to her and said “At some point, you’re going to have to stop the mourning, stand up tall and figure out how to fight!”
My friend was at first startled and offended. But then she felt empowered.
After that day, she continued to allow herself a span of time to melt down when the weight of life felt crushing. But after a few minutes, she’d take a breath, straighten her back and fight through it.
Sometimes pulling out a notebook to write down ideas of what she could do to make progress.
Sometimes she turned to trusted counsel for advice. Sometimes she simply prayed (or breathed) her way through the situation moment by moment.
Whatever was needed to find peace, strength and serenity.
And to not remain stuck.
RECOVERY IS NOT ONE SIZE FITS ALL.
It’s a different process for everyone. We have to figure out what gives us strength and courage to take steps toward progress. Sometimes it’s melting down for a while, sometimes we need snapped out of it.
Whatever it takes, recovery, peace and positivity are possible.
Happiness is complicated. Some people find happiness even in situations that would challenge the most optimistic person. Others are unhappy despite having it all. For some, happiness is fleeting and depends on their present circumstances, whereas others seem to be generally happy or generally unhappy no matter what is happening in their lives.
There are people living in the midst of great suffering who are positive and grateful. There are those who have every need seemingly met, surrounded by family, friends and wealth and yet are full of misery. It can often traced back to their mindset.
Tony Robbins often says our mind is not built to make us happy, it’s built to keep us alive. Therefore, it’s naturally trained to look for what is wrong, that is a survival skill. It takes discipline to direct it out of negativity and onto what is positive and hopeful.
There will always be bad days, pain, difficulties and challenges.
What we do with the hand we’re dealt is what matters.
Think of life (and recovery) as a marathon. The race always hurts. Expect it to hurt. You don’t train so it doesn’t hurt, you train so you can tolerate it…and keep going.
“You can’t be grateful for crisis, grief, tragedy or misery. But at every moment you have an opportunity to do something with what life has given you. Grateful living means learning to avail yourself moment by moment to that opportunity.” ~Brother David Stendl-Rast
Author of Unhooked