It’s April 1st, so I thought I would do a reverse-post. Rather than telling you how to have a rewarding life, I’ll focus on how to be miserable. It might be more illuminating than you imagine. Ready?
If you would like to be miserable you must be prepared to be committed. Suffering requires much more dedication than peace. It’s not a natural state, you must create it with your will and determination. Otherwise each new moment is like an open net through which all of your bad feelings can escape. You must aggressively re-capture all of your negative thinking if you hope to maintain sadness, anger, bitterness, resentment, guilt, anxiety or fear for any duration.
Since your natural unthinking state would be peace it is important to be vigilant. Think often and think a lot. The longer you can go all day and still stay talking to yourself the more in ego you’ll be. It’s easily dissatisfied with what its critical comparisons of virtually everything and everyone, but if you don’t turn that disappointment into emotional chemistry you can experience what’s the point?
If you want to be release this painful chemistry you have to be prepared to invest a great deal of your time thinking about–and telling others about–your misfortune. You don’t have to have more misfortune than anyone else–in fact statistically, sad people often test as more fortunate than happy people. You can easily have lots going for you and you can still ruin it. You’ve got guilt, self-hate, tragedy-stretching, blame, even basic complaining.
Even the most dedicated person can get really tired of thinking of new things to complain about, so it can be helpful to find something in your past or future to feel bad about today. Future worries and fears are great because they can convert to anger the fastest. While the past may seem more finite with fewer opportunities, in reality it’s just as open as the future.
The way your memory works is that you essentially rewrite it every time you revisit it, and any memories that brush against your old ones can also influence them too. Memories can easily be adjusted to be better or worse than the event that took place. You can even remember things that never happened. It’s up to you, but you can guess what the people really good at misery choose. They remember bad times. Often.
One of the best ways to use memory for misery is to find someone in your past–an ex lover, an ex boss, a bully at school–someone that there’s no real reason for you to think about, plus your thoughts about them are very consistently painful. There’s your answer. Drag them into your daily thoughts for weeks, months, years or even decades and you have one of the easiest and most effective routes to a bitter and wasted life.
If you can, find an angle to play that can last a lifetime. You can turn that into a broad identity. This is very valuable because initially others can be annoying by rallying around a sad person in a foolish attempt to cheer them up. If you’re able to dodge this by resisting their kindness then you can really set yourself up isolation, which in turn helps you fortify your very deep and effective identity of suffering.
The very best route to long term suffering is victimization. By placing yourself in that state of official suffering you remove people’s ability to motivate you toward something better. Victims and the afflicted are given a hallowed status in our society and it’s possible to play that like a fiddle if you’re good at it. Any story will do but, whatever you do, don’t go competing in the Olympics if you’re lucky enough to end up with a story as good as being in a wheelchair.
Victimization and misfortune work really well to keep happy people at bay and thereby protect you from their influence. Even better; your dedication to your sadness will eventually attract other sad people who recognize your skills. Just watch yourself find each other at parties! You’ll be able to turn nice events into sad ones in no time at all if you have help from someone good at commiseration.
Keep in mind, the world will be conspiring against you at all times. Positive, happy, life-affirming events happen at a much, much faster rate than the negative and unpleasant ones, plus there are dangerously happy people all over the place. These improvements in the world are seen in the form of steady drops in crime, lower infant mortality, increased life expectancy, real incomes, food supplies, health delivery etc. etc. etc. The world is getting massively better so you’ll have to really focus to convince yourself it’s getting worse. Facebook, the news and some negative friends can really help in that regard.
Bottom line, suffering takes effort. If you’re not prepared to replay non-stop useless negative self-critical narratives, then maybe you’re not cut out for sadness. If you can’t walk around with crazy-high expectations then being angry all the time may not be for you. If you can see that things really are getting better then you should lower your hopes for a miserable life.
You can do it. I have faith in you. The real question will be what do you do from here? Take the easy route and have a great day, or prove to us you really mean it by reinforcing a negative identity as many times as possible between now and bedtime. The choice and power are yours. Use them wisely Young Skywalker.
The Sadness Guru
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.