I have been noticing a lot of articles, books, and talk shows telling me how to be happy lately - and I think that is great. But, there is one little problem with this. It seems as though most people do not actually have happiness as their goal. Acquiring, achieving, and advancing yes, those are goals many people have and live by. And of course, the goal of fitting in – that is a big one. You are going to want to put that one right at the core of your life. But, happiness seems to be something a substantial number of folks would prefer to live without. So, I put together a list of the quickest paths to unhappiness so you can all get to miseryville a little faster.
1. Pay close attention to what you are being told you are supposed to do, because you don’t know any better.
This is one of the most important elements of unhappiness. If you listen closely, you will find that nearly everyone has something to say about what you are supposed to do and how you should do it. Listen to them – all of them. The closer you get to the way everyone else wants you to do things, the better things are for you and the closer you’ll be to your goal of unhappiness.
I don’t know what kind of hippie-freaks you have been listening to, but freewill and rational thought are just going to get in the way of your perpetual misery, and besides, there really is only one right way to do things.
Make sure you listen closely every time you hear someone say “You should do this…” or “You need to do that…” and for the love of God, make sure when you hear the phrase “People just don’t do that around here…” or “That is just not what we do.” – stop whatever it is you’re doing.
Just accept it. If it is not for everybody, it is not for you. Try not to think about it too much.
The great thing about paying such close attention to what you should do compared to what you are doing is that it is so easy to see when you have messed up. It allows you to immerse yourself in a pool of the backward-looking emotions we all want more of, such as guilt and regret.
It is a win/win. :-)
2. Stand your ground! Flexibility is weakness!
Once you have figured out what you should be doing – never change. The more you can stay the course, the better. Never reevaluate your course just to see if it still makes sense for you – just keep going.
Keep doing all the same things you are doing even when it is not working for you, there is simply no faster way to unhappiness.
Keep your expectations high and rigid. When the rest of the world wavers even the slightest outside of your rigid expectations, throw a tantrum to let everyone know just how very, very wrong they are.
When other people state their needs, it is important to summarily dismiss them and reiterate your needs. Being generous or giving in any way will only lead you away from that familiar, comforting misery.
3. Keep a mental ledger of all the wrongs ever done to you, and blame, blame, blame!
Never let it go! Never let it go! Your parents, your spouse, your ex-spouse, your ex-parents – whoever. Surely there is someone in your past you can blame – so what are you waiting for?
You are fat because of your elementary school gym teacher. You can’t have a healthy relationship because your dad never told you he loved you – OK, well, he did tell you – but not in the precise way you wanted him to (good job! – it sounds like you’ve already mastered guideline #2). You can’t pay your bills on time because this season of The Bachelor is soooo good! How are you supposed to pay attention to anything else?
Get yourself good and mad by picking someone from your past, close family members work really well – but it can also be relationship from two decades ago. Then write down every infraction, no matter how small and no matter if they meant to be malicious or not (understanding intent is just going to interfere with your goal of building maximum resentment). Start with important betrayals, like “You didn’t record that episode of Fraiser that night I asked you to back in 1997! You never listen to me!” and move onto accusations like “You don’t even know me well enough to know why I am mad at you – so I am not going to tell you.” This is awesome because your targets are likely to be so confused they will not even mind being blamed – brilliant!
This also gives you some great one-liners to toss out before unleashing your exhaustively complete laundry list on your unsuspecting victim. Zingers like “”Well, let me tell you something Mister…” and “you just put the nail in your coffin!”
Pro tip: Never rattle-off your list of betrayals and disappointments in person. Instead, use the good old-fashioned telephone so you can hang-up (be sure to slam it for effect) after making your point. After all, their reality really has no place in yours.
Blame only works if you stick to your version!
4. Speculate about the lives of others. It’s no wonder they have it so easy!
It is difficult to remain unhappy if you appreciate the things you have or see others in a positive or empathetic light. Whatever you do – do NOT walk in another’s shoes. Figuratively or literally (especially if you don’t wear socks – yuck.)
Instead, dwell on all the ways others have it easier than you do.”Oh sure she got that job, her parents paid for college” – “Oh it must be nice to be able to go on vacation, they have it sooo easy.” “Of course she works out every day – she has a housekeeper!” This injustice to you is everywhere! Not dwelling on what other people’s lives must be like means you’ll be missing yet another opportunity to feel slighted by the universe. Don’t let that opportunity go by!
I know everyone always says you can’t judge others because you don’t know what it is like for them – but, come on, you know. You know. You can judge others because you are always in the right – the farther they are from the way you do things, the more deserving they are of your righteous judgment! Not judging others is a rule that really only makes sense for other people. Not you. Same thing goes for hypocrisy.
It is best if you can speculate about how good others have it, and then turn your envy into high expectations that will undoubtedly be unmet. And that’s when you’ll be swimming in anger. It’s beautiful. Here’s an example: let’s say your brother married but did not have children. What can you do? Realize that of course he should be saving up for your children’s college - what else would he do with all his money? Grown men just don’t fly off to Vail to go skiing on a moment’s notice you know. Later, when you discover that your brother decided NOT to pay for your kids’ college, open up the floodgates and let that seething bitter anger fill your soul. I told you this was going to be easy.
Also, I think it’s important to frequently say things like “The least you could do…” followed by one of your ridiculously high expectations. Like “The least you could do was pay for my kids’ college education!” Frequency is important. The more you say it, the more effectively you are able to convey your perpetual disappointment.
5. Never be afraid to call out “No Fair!” – it is so empowering!
Remember, you are the victim here, and don’t let anyone tell you differently! If anyone gets something you don’t have, that is just not fair. And everything must be fair. Strive for this. Don’t be distracted by people pointing out that maybe it is not fair that nearly one billion people in the world lack access to clean drinking water, or it is not fair that you were born with arms and legs and they were not. These people are so out of touch with your personal pain – it’s just best to ignore them.
Instead, concentrate on what others should be doing to make things more fair for you. Once you decide to fully measure your success by comparing yourself to others, you won’t have to worry about trying to achieve that actual success thing anymore. Your cue to be unhappy will be that oh-so-familiar sound of the universe screwing you over once again.
And be sure to take everything for granted. Appreciation is for losers who have way too much time on their hands.
For parents, the path to unhappiness is even wider and easier to take. We can choose the well-worn road of martyrdom, sacrificing everything for the kids and forgetting ourselves, or the “I am a bad parent” flagellating that is so easy to do.
Of course, the best thing you can do for your children is to live your best, happiest life and show by example what loving, healthy relationships are like. But you don’t want any part of that scene – because that would make for happy kids, and it’s hard to get visits from happy kids when you live in Miseryville.
Instead, foster a co-dependent relationship by teaching your kids to be weak and entirely reliant upon you for everything. Do everything for them – driving, talking, thinking -- and be sure to put all this on your ledger. Work hard to suppress their natural urges to be independent, thinking beings.
So if unhappiness is for you, this is your recipe.
Um… I won’t be there, but have a great time and don’t worry about sending me a postcard. I’ll be just fine over here.
More from Karen:
Five Steps to a Great Divorce!
Fitting It In