Distress can become a way of life. It doesn’t take a pathological personality for this to happen. Worry and anxiety are valid responses to frightening situations. Our problem comes in when we start anticipating horrible things, and that habit controls us.
Worry, anxiety, even agoraphobia have their roots in habits. Thank goodness habits can be unlearned, broken, cancelled out, say it as you like, we are not our habits.
There is one thing that is both puzzling and saddening. I’ve seen people for whom distress seems to be a way of life they are afraid of leaving because they cannot imagine living in any other state but ongoing misery.
It’s a puzzlement. On the happier side of the street, some people do break away from a tradition of sadness and open up to some joy. It’s not impossible. Sometimes guilt and shame for the things we’ve done—and those things done to us—can blind us to the possibility that we actually deserve much better than what we have or are receiving.
There’s nothing unreasonable about reducing our stress. Sometimes that means we have to let things go: some relationships really are more pain than they’re worth. Sounds cold, yes? It’s a peculiar mathematics, trying to figure out what is worthwhile and what isn’t when our natural tendency is to react with stress and worry.
The old saying,
If he had a million pounds he’d complain about having to carry it to the bank Click to tweet
—sounds like hyperbole until you become a therapist and meet these people, in droves. Misery becomes them.
Can it be a form of happiness? Misery, that is? I don’t think so, but I do believe that the homeostasis it represents, the security of expecting (and receiving) the worst possible outcomes can be comforting to those among us who hate change more than they do the fear, the potential disaster that lies in good fortune.
I doubt any of those folk are reading our blog here, but if they are, I do encourage them—take a chance on happiness.
After all, if being happy and worry free is too distressing, it’s always possible to give it up. Click to tweet