We find what we’re looking for.
Whether it’s flaws in others, excuses to not pursue a goal, or reasons to avoid making a change in our lives — If that’s what we are looking for, we’ll find it every single time. Why? Because humans are innately imperfect, taking a risk is scary and change can be uncomfortable. Those factors will always be there. It becomes a matter of what we choose to focus on.
Such is also the case with happiness. Life is filled with challenges. It downright sucks sometimes. Bad things happen to and around us. Until the end of our days, there will be reasons to be unhappy. So, if we are looking for something to be sad, mad or discouraged about, we will never, ever come up empty.
Mark Manson wrote a best-selling book titled The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Despite its title, which might suggest that the topic is not caring about anything, in his book, Mark actually acknowledges that we do in fact suffer and that this suffering is a necessary element in our lives. He says that our avoidance of pain is ironically the cause of our unhappiness. Mark’s reasoning is that life is filled with suffering, whether we choose to face those undesirable conditions or not. However, in this “eternal sunshine” era where we’re all about creating happiness within and in spite of external circumstances, we feel like something is wrong if we’re hurting. This leads to more torment, because we don’t accept our pain as a normal aspect of life that is necessary to be endured. Instead, we look to avoid or eliminate it altogether. We become fixated on forced positivity and appearing happy all the time, which is simply not feasible.
The old cliché is true, without rain we couldn’t truly appreciate the sunshine.
While Mark makes a valid point about suffering being both vital to our overall well-being and unavoidable, he does not say to go in search of it. Only to accept what we may consider negative emotions as they come. Receive, withstand, and then move on.
Yet, many of us without even knowing it will go about our days literally pinpointing reasons to be unhappy. We keep a running mental list of everything that doesn’t go our way. Never mind all of the good that happens, it seems much more natural to complain.
The first thing to address is why we search for reasons to be unhappy. Well, we’re taught that life sucks. I actually just said it earlier. It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy. If we believe that life is but a series of unfortunate events, no matter what happens to the contrary, this will be our outlook. It sucks, sometimes. It may even feel like most of the time, but not all the time. Don’t confuse a bad day or even multiple bad days with a bad life.
Sometimes the company we keep can cause us to feel uncomfortable being happy. I’ve even seen it used as a negative descriptor. Such as, “I don’t like him/her because they’re so happy-go-lucky all the time.” Oddly, people can find it annoying. Because, (surprise) they’re unhappy! Not to mention that if you’re surrounded by people who have a negative outlook on life, it will inevitably rub off on you. Along those same lines, sometimes we look for reasons to be unhappy to protect the feelings of others. People are sad and hurting, we don’t want to make them feel worse by throwing our happiness in their faces. So we fall in line. We find things to gripe and feel down about, too.
I’m sure we’ve all done it. If a friend has been depressed about a breakup, we don’t want to talk about the great date we had last night. If someone close to us loses their job, we’re hesitant to share our excitement about receiving a promotion at work. Part of it is not wanting to be insensitive, which is understandable. But somehow, our being a good, supportive friend or family member morphs into downplaying our own happiness and comparing misfortunes.
We search for reasons to be unhappy because it’s comforting. We’re afraid to let go of that, allow ourselves to feel elation or get our hopes up only to be let down later. Being in a constant state of apathy is safe. It eliminates many of the ebbs and flows we would otherwise experience.
Perhaps we had a difficult childhood or suffered through tragedy and now unhappiness has become a familiar state. Sometimes, we can get so used to things being bad that when good comes to us, we can’t recognize, let alone embrace it. It’s a foreign experience.
Maybe we don’t feel we deserve to be happy, because we’ve allowed someone to convince us of this, have done some things of which we are not proud, or a myriad of other reasons. So, we subconsciously punish ourselves by keeping it out of reach.
Don’t allow unhappiness to become or remain your narrative. There will be so many things that make us effortlessly unhappy throughout life that there is absolutely no reason or need to search for more. Unhappiness doesn’t need any help.
Allow yourself to feel joy and don’t fear the fall to facing the opposite. If you’re going to look for anything, let it be the good in the situation. Let it be the reasons to be happy. It may be a slow process, but train your mind to naturally accentuate the positive and watch how it transforms you.
Originally published at medium.com