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May 13, 2013
There are two reasons why some people struggle with chronic unhappiness, these reasons are fear and instant gratification.

Fear

People who struggle with unhappiness want to experience the best of both worlds. To be fair, who doesn’t? However what sets unhappy people apart is that they have convinced themselves that they can actually pull it off with circumstances that simply aren’t feasible.

Here are some examples.

A new mother who still wants to go night clubbing every other night. The chronic smoker who is committed to not quitting. The college student who wants to graduate with a degree, but doesn’t study. The alcoholic husband and father who tries to balance drinking and parenting,  and the list goes on.

On the surface, these people appear immature and ridiculously selfish in their obvious attempts to attain the best of both worlds. However the true reason for their selfish actions is fear. They have been rewarded for so long with detrimental behavior that the very thought of letting go of the detrimental behavior is frightening. These people have reached a point where they have attained an intellectual understanding regarding how detrimental their behaviors are, and they sincerely want to change, but they struggle to let go. So they have tricked themselves into believing that they can continue to engage in bad habits and  some good habits and everything will work itself out.

Sadly people who find themselves in this predicament are fearful of letting go of detrimental habits, because they have become so attached to the rewards they received from the habit, even if they have reached the point of diminishing returns.

Instant Gratification.

The second reason is instant gratification. A lot of people can relate to day dreaming, daydreaming about how wonderful their lives would be if certain things changed. Don’t get me wrong, daydreaming is an important aspect of the human experience, some might even argue that day dreaming is the mother of ideas. However, happiness does not lie in the finality, it can only be found in the process.  When people daydream about ideas they can use to solve their problems, they have a tendency to become impatient and resistance towards making sacrifices related to miscellaneous inconveniences, sacrifices needed to be made in order to engage in the process of solving their problems.

This leads to an obsession with the end result, and without taking time to engage in a meaningful process, unhappy people tend to give up and overwhelm themselves with feelings of shame related to their failure to execute change.

Over Coming Fear

Once when I worked for an agency in Texas, a co worker pulled me to the side and asked me why I was so fearless. This question caught me by surprise, because I did not see myself as a fearless person, as a matter of fact I still don’t. How this question came about was that I was involved in a border line public dispute with the leadership of the agency. Some co workers had advised me to cease in my complaints and attempts to hold key members of leadership accountable for certain behaviors. They feared that I was on track to be fired. I on the other hand,  fully expected to be fired, and was determined to be principled to the very end.

I did not see myself as fearless, I simply saw logic. The route the leadership was taking the agency was simply not sustainable, and by my estimation things would reach a boiling point in approximately three years. This was 2002, and when I brought up the issues to my co worker, she reminded me that she had children to fed. My response was to ask her what exactly, she wanted to teach her children about working for a corrupt leadership.

I never got fired from the agency,  I simply resigned after I had found a new job, and last I checked, the agency no longer exists.

Fear is irrational, in life there are no safe places to hide. Life will continue to press us with the same challenges until we learn the lesson we need to learn. After that,  it’s on to the next challenge.

My co worker was wrong, I am not fearless. I do experience fear, however I have learned to embrace my fears and use them as motivation to face my challenges. After all, if I hadn’t spoken to issues I had witnessed with this old agency,  it would only have continued and I would have been transformed from eye witness to accomplice. Hence, my problems would have only gotten worse.

Running from your fears, is akin to running from your shadow.

Learning to Delay Gratification

Here’s the thing about happiness, you are not supposed to be happy all the time. I know- the statement you just read before this one, contradicts the title of this post. In reality what we truly seek is peace of mind. Now let’s face it,  if the title of this post read “how to be at peace”  most people have been conditioned to blow it off as a boring read.

On the flip side of things, we are not supposed to be constantly unhappy either. Our belief in not experiencing any measure of discomfort, leads to the myth that we should always be happy. When I work with clients who struggle in following through on needed commitments, the first thing I work on with them is helping them adopt a healthier belief about happiness.

The second step is through exposure therapy, I help people make reasonable sacrifices in their lives and gradually expose them to activities they need to engage in, which they have no desire to engage in. Through repeated exposure to this activity, I help clients come to terms with two things. The first being that the activity did not present as a detriment to their life, and the second being to bring clients to terms with how irrational their reasons for abstaining from this activity was in the first place.

As clients repeatedly engage in the needed activity they have been abstaining from, a new habit of delaying gratification is formed. Even when clients reach their goals, they report feeling more content with the sense of meaning and purpose they got from the process when compared with the end result.

In summary, happiness is brief and fleeting , peace of mind and contentment is really what we as human beings seek. Also giving into fear and buying into the myth of constant gratification promotes a constant and unhealthy mindset of unhappiness. Finally, fear can be embraced and over come and with guidance people can learn to delay gratification.

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, agreements and disagreements to this post. Please be respectful with your comments.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling private practice.

 

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26 Comments
syam
May 17, 2013 @ 9:15 pm
Reply

Hey, This is the article I was searching for. Well written. Simply superb.

    sivam
    May 18, 2013 @ 11:22 pm
    Reply

    How could this be true? Could it be you’re looking for happiness in all the wrong places? Do you think happiness is what you get when you get what you want?

May 17, 2013 @ 10:35 pm
Reply

nice and like very much

Jackie
May 17, 2013 @ 10:56 pm
Reply

I always have a fear regarding something bad would happen to me, I always get the day dreaming of some worst things which would effect in my life and my life will become hell. I want to become a succesful person in life but unable to overcome the fear, Please advise.

asha
May 18, 2013 @ 12:04 am
Reply

This study was very useful to me.Because sometimes i get Over Coming Fear.Thank you so much

nirmal
May 18, 2013 @ 12:26 am
Reply

the thoughts were useful.very interesting to read.nice examples.

samantha
May 18, 2013 @ 3:06 am
Reply

Good blog

ruba
May 18, 2013 @ 9:04 am
Reply

very nice

suman
May 18, 2013 @ 11:47 am
Reply

it is interesting ,it is useful to me and to everyone thank you so much

Subhojit Panda
May 18, 2013 @ 1:52 pm
Reply

There are many reasons to be unhappy. But that does not mean we should give up.

Sean
May 18, 2013 @ 5:30 pm
Reply

I feel that instant gratification plays into our society nowadays. Everyone expects everything to go right in a very fast manner.

    May 19, 2013 @ 4:24 am
    Reply

    it is very useful for keeping our mind relax and healthy in our body. i like this very much.

Samantha Saloong
May 19, 2013 @ 10:59 pm
Reply

I thought that your article was well thought out and well written. I too have been thought as fearless for standing up to the CEO of the company I was a triage nurse for. His mentality was money first. In his book, the patient took a solid last on his priority list. The only reason I wound up apologizing to him was that my boss pleaded with me to do it or she would lose her job. I tried to explain to her the reasons she should stand behind me but……..so I gave him the most professionally written for all appearances an apology. She had HR dismiss me a week later. Was I sad to lose my job? No. I did feel sorry for the all the patients that would suffer because of his priorities. I mean, they were the only reason this man had a job & he couldn’t care less about them. I am very happy in the job I have now & my outspokenness is not only accepted, it’s lauded by all management. If only people could stop the thinking of “me first, me first” – they would find happiness. My children are now all adult now and practice what I’ve preached all these years and all of them would tell you that they are a LOT happier than their friends are, mainly because the friends all have the “me first & only me” mentality. Thank you again for the excellent article & I hope you follow up with another one soon!!

rose
May 20, 2013 @ 4:01 am
Reply

very informative

Jason Turner
May 20, 2013 @ 7:48 pm
Reply

I think fear and pain are natural pressures to help us stay out of danger, while pleasure is a reward for making healthy decisions. However, these responses evolved while we were living in a natural environment that’s very different from today’s society. So e.g. we enjoy the taste of fats, salt, sugar, etc. because they indicate nutrition in the wilderness. But since we’ve learned to refine and mass produce the ingredients, we pursue the taste/sensation without receiving the nutritional side-effects (like a fatty and sugary doughnut instead of a sweet apple and oily fish). We also don’t have the natural predators that would exercise our fear response in a healthy way, so we experience it in situations that aren’t actually threatening, making it harder to make rational decisions.

sanja na
May 20, 2013 @ 10:02 pm
Reply

very interesting to read

Gaurav Sharma
May 20, 2013 @ 11:58 pm
Reply

The article extensively covered the reasons why people remain unhappy. And also shares some live experiences and learning how some people overcame their fears and anxieties in life.

ramakrishna
May 21, 2013 @ 4:26 am
Reply

yeah love to see this article as it is about happiness . everybody in this world want happiness to lead their life.. i appropriate this article and i will share it to my friends .

egofleur
May 22, 2013 @ 8:15 pm
Reply

I cannot completely agree that fear is behind not being able to let things go. Take me for instance, I can be really forgetful of where I place things- especially my car keys. This causes a lot of stress. My husband said once that some people just accept the way they are, like me saying “I am just forgetful” or someone saying “I am just afraid of letting that go.” But, we can change if we recognize it.

I do think fear can have a lot to do with people being unhappy. I happen to know my husband needs to let go of all that we have established to find a new job, but the fear is holding him back. We will get passed that. As a teacher, however, I also see students just with negative attitudes, and it is something learned sometimes that I do not think has anything to do with fear. They have bad practices, and they need to recognize it, so change can be made.

sanju
May 26, 2013 @ 11:53 pm
Reply

I did feel sorry for the all the patients that would suffer because of his priorities. I mean, they were the only reason this man had a job & he couldn’t care less about them.

srisri
May 27, 2013 @ 2:29 am
Reply

On the surface, these people appear immature and ridiculously selfish in their obvious attempts to attain the best of both worlds. However the true reason for their selfish actions is fear

May 27, 2013 @ 2:31 am
Reply

Some say happiness is a little like falling in love, that you can’t make it happen. If that’s the case, then how can you become happier? That kind of tension takes a toll on your soul and your psyche.” Whether you call it meditation, silence, or prayer, taking a “pause” just a few minutes a day can help you “recharge your batteries” and make you feel happier.

Biswajit Bose
May 27, 2013 @ 9:08 am
Reply

The article extensively covered the reasons why people remain unhappy. It shares some live experiences and learning how some people overcome their fears and anxieties in life.

nothing
May 27, 2013 @ 9:37 am
Reply

there are thousands of reason of be unhappy
learn how to across it
this page is useful

anbu
May 28, 2013 @ 10:33 am
Reply

I found this interesting and useful

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