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Comfortable Discomfort: How People Love Being Miserable

Do you love being miserable? Just how ready are we to let go of our pain? What are the secondary benefits to holding onto our discomfort? Today, I’m exploring our motivations for being comfortably uncomfortable.

There are people out there who love being miserable. I know I occasionally have clients who are addicted to their misery. Are they conscious of it? No.

Being The Guest of Honor At Our Own Pity Party

Once, a client who was angry and frustrated with the way their life and career had been going for the past couple of years spent twenty minutes, despite my best efforts to redirect their attention, holding a pity party for which they were the guest of honor. When I asked them if they were aware that they were throwing one hell (hell being the operative word) of a pity party for themselves, they smiled with a twinkle in their eyes and exclaimed, “This is my time (to pout)….and I’m not feeling sorry for myself!”

At that moment I realized this person actually enjoys being miserable. In this person’s mind, feeling sorry for themselves is a reward for putting up with everyone else’s faults and problems. The act of pouting says, “Hey, I’m doing something about the injustices in the world by talking about them!” without actually having to do a damn thing to change anything about themselves.

The most important questions I asked this client were, “Are you ready to let this pain go?”, “Are you ready to forgive those that hurt you?” and “What do you gain from feeling this way?”

My client then repeatedly insisted with the “right answers”, “Well, I have to!” and, “It’s not helping me at all,” before proceeding to go back into their pity party, continuing to lay blame to all those who hurt them. Fortunately, we were able to get back on track and diffuse the build up of negative energy, but not without recognizing this unconscious behavior.

Secondary Gains: What We Get Out of Being Miserable

Unconsciously, we hold onto the benefits of our pain and enjoy them. In this client’s case, by simply talking about their problems in session was their way of believing they were actually doing something about their problems. This is a logical fallacy, that I dare to argue is a diversionary tactic from actually having to face down their own demons and shortcomings. Simply repeating their story (story meaning their version of the facts) only results in reliving the feelings of the experience and does not – in any way – change what happened, nor does storytelling positively influence future events.

A secondary gain could be anything and we don’t even have to realize it. It can staying in a weakened financial position in order to hold onto an controlling lover. It can be accepting abuse from a boss in order to keep a “good” job. There are many so-called compromises we make to hold onto something. The question is, are we aware of them?

Becoming Aware of Our Addiction To Pain And Suffering

It can be quite comfortable being uncomfortable, so much so that we are not even aware of it. Shifting our perspective away from the problem by asking ourselves what do we gain by engaging in the problem can be enough to shake ourselves out of old ways of thinking and behaving. Other times, it takes an intuitive coach like myself to push and cajole a client into taking responsibility for their end of their so-called problems and relinquish the pleasure taken from reenacting and re-living their pain.

Leslie’s Questions To Ask Yourself:

  1. Imagine, now, what it would be like to live without suffering? What would that look like?

  2. How would it feel like to get something else from the pain that could actually be used to transform your life completely? What would that be?

  3. How would you behave or think differently than how you do now?

  4. Think about your problem for a minute. What do you gain from that experience and how does it effect your view of the world? Do you get protection? Do you feel justified? Do you feel safe?


Leslie, Inc. offers solutions for finding happiness through one-on-one coaching, mindful leadership retreats, and digital products. If you’re ready to GET HAPPY, check out Leslie’s guide packs. For more tips on achieving your state of happiness, sign up for Leslie, Inc’s weekly newsletter.

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