Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Power of Discontent

Happiness is a choice, this I firmly believe. Things have not always gone my way in life, but I've always put my best effort into looking on the bright side. Some days are easier than others, of course, but I keep at it.

Sometimes, though, being unhappy can serve a powerful purpose in life. Nothing can propel a person to make a change quite like being miserable can. If we are honest with ourselves about why we're unhappy and what we need to do to change it, the change is usually for the better. On the other hand, when we try to ignore what is bothering us and stuff the bad feelings down, they tend to work their way out again, and usually not in a good way. If you doubt my theory just look at my neighbors. I'm pretty sure this is why the woman downstairs hoards, why the pink haired lady across the way is perpetually angry, and why the guy on the corner is drunk and semi-suicidal every weekend. It could be why I'm carrying an extra thirty or so pounds around with me, too.

For us women, when it comes to dealing with our feelings most of the time there is guilt involved. Yep, lots of us ladies feel bad about feeling bad. I think we're conditioned that way from childhood, which is kind of sad. That doesn't mean the guys are getting off easy, though. Men are taught to be stoic and hide their emotions from the time they're small. All of us, from birth onwards, are constantly being fed messages about who we should be and what we should want. Just look at all the cookie-cutter housing developments out there. And how many of us work in identical little corporate cubicles for that matter?

With so many constant reminders of why we should blend in, it can be really hard to find the inner strength to break out and do our own thing. Lots of people plod along in unhappy relationships, doing jobs they can't stand, or living in a place they really don't care for simply because they don't want to face the emotional toll that making a change would require. The longer we live like that, the more we come to believe that we couldn't make a change, even if we tried. We convince ourselves that we're just not up to it. That we aren't good enough, strong enough, smart enough, talented enough, etc.

Once in awhile life helps us out, changing the game plan without asking us if we agree first. We get laid off, we get a scary diagnosis, our spouse runs off with a younger model. Big, scary life events tend to shake things up and force us into the introspection that can help us live a more authentic life. Other times, the only force powerful enough to help us break away from those voices in our heads is simply being so unhappy with ourselves we just have to do something about it. The dieter who finally buckles down to take off the pounds, the corporate flunky who starts up a little side venture for fun, the waitress who finally gets started on that novel she's always dreamed of writing.

We've all heard the adage that says we may not always be able to control what happens to us, but we can always control how we react to it. When I was younger, I thought it meant accept it all and keep smiling, no matter what happens. Now that I'm older, I realize it is really more about embracing change than it is about sucking it up with a smile on my face. It is very freeing to finally realize the power of discontent. Instead of fighting it, I'm embracing it, learning from it, and letting it help me shape a more fulfilling future.

The next time you're stuck in a funk don't fight it. Instead, use it as an opportunity to ask yourself what your subconscious is really trying to tell you. When all is said and done it might just turn out to be an opportunity in disguise.

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