Have you ever wondered what makes you unhappy, discontented, dissatisfied and restless? In this, as in many other things, the Americans have been quite systematic in identifying causes, symptoms and remedies. Here are the top causes of unhappiness according to researches conducted by American psychologists:
- Jealousy: Resentment of others’ success and prosperity.
- Persecution complex: The unhealthy belief that people are deliberately placing obstacles on our path to prevent us from achieving what we desire.
- Obsessive desire for perfection: The inability to be content with what we are and what we do.
- Needless regret over past decisions: It’s futile wishing to change the past, which cannot be changed.
To put it simply, we are unhappy because:
- We can’t get what we want.
- We are not satisfied with what we have.
- We live in the past or fantasise about the future, and cannot live in the present.
- We want to change conditions around us, or in some cases, we resist any change in our present conditions.
It is clear that unhappiness arises out of our unwillingness to accept life as it is.
Desires are like waves
And men sway upon their desires
Like boats tossed upon the sea…
The great Roman thinker, Marcus Aurelius, tells us, ”If you are disturbed, made unhappy by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your judgement of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgement now.”
In other words, it’s all a matter of attitude. If we are unhappy, we only have ourselves to blame. When we try to shift the blame on to external events and other people, we are only refusing to take responsibility for our own unhappiness.
One reason why many of us continue to live in unhappiness is sheer force of habit. We have made ourselves so accustomed to a sense of discontent, that we are unwilling to get ourselves out of the mire. It’s like Goethe has said: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willingness is not enough, we must do.”
We, too, can escape unhappiness and misery. When conditions are unfavourable, and we cannot change them, we can change our attitude—and change our life. All we require are the wings God has given us—the wings of patience and faith.
Patience and faith enable us to cultivate healthy, positive attitudes like these…
- Being non-judgemental. When something or someone annoys you, analyse your own feelings, instead of blaming others. If you do so, you will not say, “My friend hurt me by her behaviour.” Rather, you will ask yourself, “Why did I feel hurt and upset by my friend’s behaviour?”
- Cultivating the spirit of acceptance. This involves overcoming selfish expectations and demands. We expect certain things from our parents, spouse, children and friends. When your expectations are not met, frustration and unhappiness follow. Fathers want their sons to become doctors or engineers; mothers expect their daughters to get married and ‘settle down’; when the children wish to pursue their own dreams and aspirations, the poor parents get unhappy. If they learn to accept, not expect, they will be free of their misery.
- Developing optimism. This includes the practice of positive thinking, as well as belief in ourselves and our capacity to change for the better. As philosophers and sages tell us again and again, “This too, shall pass away”. Even the worst of the conditions will change, sooner or later.
- Developing a sense of maturity: This will enable us to view ourselves and our life with dispassion and detachment, and not give in to negative emotions.
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