The Two Real Causes of Misery

Overly wanting what you don't have creates misery

Posted Dec 18, 2010

As a psychologist who has worked with individuals, couples, and families for over twenty years, and being a fellow human being with my own vulnerabilities, I have learned that there are two causes of misery:

1) Overly wanting what you don't have, and,
2) Overly NOT wanting what you already have.

I really believe that it comes down to those two reasons why we become miserable.

Don't get me wrong, though. Certainly our healthy striving toward the goals we desire can be a wonderful stepping stone on the road to mental health. But OVERLY wanting what we don't have puts us on the misery expressway.

Alternatively, not wanting some things or situations that we have does not have to be so bad. For example, not wanting to stay in the same apartment or job for twenty years is certainly reasonable. But OVERLY NOT wanting what you have in your life is sure to create despair.

We will be far less miserable by being mindful of just how attached we become to what we want and don't want. In youth we are driven to amass as much as we can, as fast as we can. In contrast, we see the elderly who tend to be sitting and observing, seemingly content to still be alive and just take life all in.

My fiancée is fighting the battle of her life with pancreatic cancer. She was always mature beyond her years. But my being with her over the past year since she was diagnosed and seeing how well she has coped has helped me further mature as well. I have learned more to moderate my everyday "wants" and "not wants."

In short, we are usually responsible for our own misery. I still have my times of relative miserly but my willingness to ratchet down my wants and not wants has helped me enjoy life more than I ever have as I soon turn fifty. It is my hope that anyone willing to see their role in their own misery will be reminded by reading this that misery is truly a choice. Closely listening to, and monitoring, our level of wants and not wants can help us all be more content and relatively happier.