Chasing Misery: How to Stay Unhappy, Lack Serenity and Avoid Joy in Your Life

Chasing Misery: How to Stay Unhappy, Lack Serenity and Avoid Joy in Your Life

We all have choices. “Free will,” I believe it is called. If you want to stay unhappy, there are some proven ways to accomplish this. Time after time, I have seen these ideas put successfully into action, making NOT ONLY the person who practices these techniques miserable, but, also allows those around them, especially spouses and children, to maintain a perpetually high level of misery, too. These techniques are quite powerful, and should only be attempted by people who are truly, sincerely dedicated to maximizing their unhappiness.

Stay in a state of fear
One can see the world as a safe place, or one can live in fear of real and imagined pain, hazards and difficulty. Fear can keep you inside of your house forever, with the wrong person forever, in the same job forever, etc. Here is a fact: 98% of what we worry about never happens. But remember, there’s always that two per cent chance on which to maintain our focus.

Endlessly analyze and don’t make any changes
It’s fine to understand what is going on with you, others or the world, but be careful of the paralysis by analysis trap. You know the joke about the guy who has been wetting the bed for twenty years? Now that he has been in therapy for the last fifteen years, he still wets the bed, but now he knows why he wets the bed. Find a therapist who will help you gain insight into problems, but will never provide any direction or support about actually changing those problems.

Don’t listen to anybody
We sometimes get stuck in our own little ways of thinking about or doing things. Other people can be helpful to give us a new perspective or new possibilities, so, don’t listen to anybody. Always assume that you know better than they do.

Listen to everybody
At the same time, letting other people’s views of what is right for you dominate your life can keep you pretty unhappy. Try to keep on pleasing most people who are around you. For those of you who truly want to stay stuck in misery, keep on trying to please the people who can never be pleased.

Blame others for your actions or problems
If things happen to go wrong, take heart in the knowledge that it was not your fault. If you search hard enough, you can find somebody or something to blame. No matter what, never take responsibility for your own actions. If all else fails, then blame your mother. This technique of mother-blaming is very effective, and tends to please analytic psychiatrists to no end. Oh, heck….let’s give this one its own section:

It’s all your mother’s or your father’s fault
If you had a less than ideal childhood, if your parents were not very good parents, or, just outright bad parents….then of course you are unhappy. If your problem was one of parental neglect or abandonment…then, of course you are miserable. My definition of a dysfunctional family is any family composed of two or more people. If your parents did a lousy job, then you can spend the rest of your life holding on to that pain. It is possible to move beyond that hurt and pain, but it is easier to hold on to the resentment, anger and sadness.

Blame yourself or put yourself down regularly
If you haven’t mastered to art of blaming others and your life is not going well, you might as well blame yourself, and continually put yourself down. Making a habit of negative self-talk will almost assuredly demoralize you and undermine your confidence.

Hold on to anger
Anger is a feeling. You can choose to appropriately deal with your anger, or not. You can hold on to it, or let it go. Appropriate, safe expression of anger will allow anger to leave your body and leave you feeling lighter, happier and free. Holding on to anger is a sure recipe for ulcers, headaches, heart disease and probably cancer, too. Holding on to anger will also keep people away from you, allowing you to isolate and really focus your energy on how you have been wronged. One of the surest recipes for unhappiness is allowing resentments and anger to linger.

Practice and perfect passivity
Staying stuck in one place is the perfect breeding ground for depression and anxiety. Learn to stay in one place and really, really avoid any temptation to do something different. NEVER be assertive and ask for what you need…You may become disappointed. Becoming a victim takes dedication and practice, but it is attainable if you want it badly enough.

Have no sense of spirituality
To paraphrase that famous sociologist Madonna Ciccone, “We are living in a material world.” Focus on the attainment of goods, and ignore the invisible threads that connect all things. Equate all spiritual beliefs with religious beliefs, and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Believe that there is no higher power, that all things are random and that you are the most powerful thing in the universe.

Do no charity or volunteer work
Do I really need to explain this one? You can’t stay focused on your misery and simultaneously help someone. Besides, do you really have time to help others?

Keep doing the same thing that doesn’t work
If what you are doing isn’t working keep doing it. Why keep doing the same thing? Because it is familiar, comfortable and easier than changing. Change is scary. Here is a great quote: People from dysfunctional families seek out familiar pain. Bob Earll said it, but he probably stole it from somebody else.

Bill O’Hanlon re-tells a story: A man was drunk and on his hands and knees under a street light, obviously looking for something. A cop walks by and asks the man what he is doing. The man says that he dropped his house keys and is looking for them. The cop starts helping him look for the keys. After ten minutes of futile searching, the cop asks, “Now, where was the last place you remember having your keys?” The man said he had them in his hand, for sure, when he was across the street. The cop was confused, “If you had them across the street, why are you looking for your keys here and not across the street?” The man replied, “Well, the light is much better here.”

Keep thinking the same thoughts when those thoughts don’t help
Some people think changing your thinking will result in changing your actions. Others think you need to change your actions, then your thoughts will change, too. Regardless of how you approach it, not changing your thinking style or your thoughts will almost certainly make changing impossible.

Keep putting yourself in the same unhelpful environment
When you are in a situation that is awful, like a poor work environment or a friendship where you feel continually taken advantage of, stay in that environment. Again, change is scary, and by staying put you will eliminate any anxiety brought about by trying to do something different.

You heard it here first, folks: Misery Loves Company
If you are around unhappy people almost exclusively, then the chance of your finding happiness is minimal. There is really no better way to spend time than with people who insist on lamenting about how bad things are. Victimhood is contagious.

Don’t ask for help
If you can’t do something or need something or want to learn something, figure it out yourself. Don’t seek other’s input, they probably know less than you do, anyway. Asking for help is a sign of weakness.

Don’t trust your inner voice
As we grow older, we learn to distance ourselves from our true self. If you get a nagging feeling in your gut, ignore it. Use your head, not your heart. Don’t trust any feelings that you can’t absolutely be sure of. Kramer, Jerry’s neighbor, once said, “What does the Little Man say? Listen to the Little Man, George.” Now, you aren’t going to take advice from the likes of Kramer, are you…you see how he turned out, didn’t you?

Seek addiction in your life
One sure way to be miserable is to be actively engaged in an ongoing addiction. If you can’t muster up the dedication needed to be an addict, try marrying one instead. And, check this out: It doesn’t matter what the addiction is! You can be a food addict, a sex addict, a pill addict, an alcoholic, a compulsive gambler, a compulsive spender….it doesn’t matter. All addiction has at its core a commonality: Addicts are uncomfortable in their own skins. And staying in the addiction ensures that this discomfort never fades.

Lie, Deny and Lie
Dishonesty breeds unhappiness, and unhappiness breeds dishonesty. Denial is powerful; one can truly fool one’s self. On the other hand, when we lie to others, we tend to know we are lying. Living a life of lies almost guarantees misery. Lie to yourself, lie to others, and then lie about lying!

This is very powerful. When you procrastinate, you almost always are thinking about what you should be doing but are NOT doing. This makes you miserable. Then, when you absolutely have your back up against the wall, and work furiously to finish a task you should have started “X” amount of days ago, you will be miserable as you try to complete the task. And, usually do a lousy job at the task. Then, when you finally are finished, you will feel miserable and unsatisfied….but you will still procrastinate the next time, too.

External self-esteem
There is self-esteem and there is OTHER-esteem. Other-esteem is having one’s view of oneself dependent on what somebody else thinks of me. In addition, other-esteem is having one’s view of oneself dependent on “things,” like, “I am as good as the kind of car I drive.” Or, “I am as good as my job says I am.” If we seek happiness from without, rather than from within, than happiness will always elude us. However, it is good for the economy…..and, you do love America, don’t you?

Have a disorder
People show up in my office wearing designer clothing and designer diagnoses. The new, “hot” ones include Attention Deficit Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and Fibromyalgia. Truly lucky people can have all three diagnoses at the same time if they were fortunate enough to have the correct doctors before they meet me. Having a bona fide disorder makes changing that much more difficult…and that is what is important, isn’t it?

Isolation is a key component of misery
Our ability to connect with others at a deep level is a constantly evolving skill. People tend to get better at being social as they age. Some people never learn to connect with others and give up trying. A special note for women: Learn to distrust and not spend time with other women. I often hear “I just prefer to be with men, all my friends are men–women are so ______.” Learn to fill in the blank: “catty,” “backstabbing,” “gossipy,” “manipulative,” “boring,” “superficial,” “too vain,” etc. Ladies, learn your own ways to avoid intimacy with other women.

And men? Well, since we don’t like to talk anyway, isolation comes easier to us. If, as a man, you are required to interact with others, keep all communication at a simple, non-feeling level. I have found that talking about sports or work is an effective block to having any true connections with others.

Hey! How ‘bout them Braves?

This article is a much expanded version of a handout from Bill O’Hanlon. It is adapted here with his permission, and I thank him for that. Bill’s work can be found at