October 31, 2014

Some People Can Never Be Happy

Late one evening, I found myself reading the blogs before shutting down for the night.  I came across a post called Is It Easier To Deal With Divorce When You Made The Choice To Leave?.  It caught my attention because the opening line contains a huge factual error (see footnote).  That aside, in the article, the author explains her situation by saying:

Unlike many divorcing couples, I had the perfect life and the perfect relationship. I lived in a condo on the beach, had a great career and a kind and patient husband. I had friends, money to spend and security. The only thing that I didn’t have was happiness. I didn’t feel fulfilled by my life, not because my relationship was lacking, but because I didn’t know myself. I didn’t feel that I had been an active participant in creating my life, so I wasn’t able to feel satisfaction in what I had achieved.

During the nine years we were together, I tried everything to remedy my happiness “issue.” Although some changes would bring temporary happiness, it would eventually slip away and I would once again feel empty and sad. Finally, I made the difficult decision to return to my hometown alone and start my life over.

When I talk about focusing on your own happiness, even if that may make you seem selfish, this is not what I mean.  Not only did she take a vow for life, presumably before God, that she disregarded for fleeting emotions due to her own personal shortcomings (which is contemptible behavior), the entire thing is an epic fail one simple reason: I firmly believe that she can never be happy on a long-term basis.  I also believe it isn’t her fault and, without realizing it, she is acting rationally in her the framework of her irrationality.  

Some People Can Never Be Happy

Each of us has a brain chemistry baseline that is part of our genetics.  Some people are naturally content most of the time.  Others are miserable no matter how well their life is going.  No one ever tells the people in the latter category how to function.  

Some people, a very small percentage of humanity, will never be happy, regardless of the decisions they make or the achievements they attain.  A significant component of how you feel, and thus your personal happiness, is determined by brain chemistry.  Each of has a natural balance to which we return; a mean to which we revert.  Some folks drew the short stick in life and are cursed with a baseline that makes fulfillment an elusive impossibility; at least on a long-term basis.  

If You Are Unhappy Everywhere You Go, The Problem Might Be Staring at You in the Mirror

To read her account of her divorce, this woman’s life was great.  Her husband was loving and supportive.  Yet, she left him.  She got a divorce and moved away from the life she had built with him.  The irony?  She is the problem and wherever she goes, she is still going to be there.  It cannot be solved. I would argue that, were she capable of finding lasting happiness, she had a vastly higher probability of attaining that when surrounded with loving, supportive people.   

People like this will always be dissatisfied or discontent on a long-term basis.  They will be able to mask it for awhile, ignore for a time, and push it aside for a season.  In the end, their malcontentedness will always rear its head as their body returns to its natural stasis.  They cut off everyone they know, run after some new career, throw themselves into yet another love affair, stir up another controversy, and desperately hope that they finally wake up fulfilled.  They crave the thing William Parrish wished for his birthday guests.  They see that other people have it, so they know it is possible.  Yet, for them, it is always a fleeting, ephemeral dream that never sticks around long enough to be a permanent fixture.

It is easy to call a person like this selfish.  Personally, I think the author was incredibly selfish, ultimately acting against her own long-term rational best interest.  (It sounds like her husband may have dodged a proverbial bullet, though.  Who wants to be married to someone so fickle?).  It’s also a bit unfair because these types of people are desperately trying to reach what the rest of us were blessed with naturally, through no virtue of our own: The ability to be content and fulfilled doing what we love surrounded by people whom we love.  If you still ascribe to The Blank Slate theory, you will find that assertion distasteful.  Like it or not, sometimes you inherit bad things from your genetics.  Naturally restless emotional states are real heritable “facts” just as much as cancer risk profiles, height, or eye color; each of us falls along a continuum or spectrum of probabilistic outcomes that make up the range we call humanity.

What Is the Most Rational Way To Behave If You Are Incapable of Happiness

If you find yourself in the unfortunate and unlucky situation of being one of those people who can never be happy, the best course of action is to do good. You may not be able to enjoy it for yourself, but a sense of duty to the greater civilization means you should go through life creating situations, institutions, and a legacy of bringing other people happiness.  Start an after-school reading program for at-risk youth in neighborhoods that struggle with literacy levels; build houses for victims of natural disasters.  Do something so your life isn’t a waste.  

The other option is to consider the possibility you may suffer from clinical depression and need to see a doctor.  I’m not big on pharmaceuticals (though I do love the economics of their business models), but sometimes, for a minority of people, life really is better on Prozac.  

A great example is J.K. Rowling.  She has made life incalculably more enjoyable for millions upon millions of children and adults through books, movies, and merchandise.  Her Harry Potter books are as classic as anything Walt Disney ever produced and will go down in history as one of the best fables ever told.  Yet, she sometimes suffers from debilitating depression.  That is why she created “The Dementor” characters in the Harry Potter series, which are a metaphor for the sadness and unhappiness that sometimes weighs on her despite all of the great things in her life.  Like depression, dementors “feed on the positive emotions, happiness and good memories of human beings, forcing them to relive their worst memories.”

Therein lies the paradox: What might be bad for the individual incapable of lasting happiness, could be good for society as a whole.  Unhappy people can become restless.  

How many lands were settled, and how many areas discovered, because of folks who felt like they had nothing to lose; who were bored with their lives and wanted to try and find fulfillment?  I’m somewhat convinced that it is a macro-level evolutionary advantage that, unfortunately, isn’t particularly great for the individual.

What about the people married to those with a naturally low level of happiness?  We’re talking about a small percentage of the population, so the odds aren’t great you will end up in this position (thank goodness) but if you do, and you don’t find out about it until after you’re already married, I’m not sure there is a lot you can do.  Just love them, support them, and know that your journey is going to include a lot more dark skies than you had anticipated.  If you’re really in love, that is a small price to pay.

The fact we don’t discuss this reality – that people have different brain chemistry and therefore need to adapt different techniques for living if they fall on an extreme end of a spectrum – is a perpetuation of The Blank Slate theory.  Not everyone is the same.

Footnote: The author opens her post by saying, “I am divorced as is 50 percent of the population.”  The errors are manifold.  First, it is not true that 50% of the population, or 1 out of 2 people, have been divorced.  The term “population” refers to everyone, including pre-school aged children.  If, instead, she had meant to say, “like 50 percent of people who have been married“, that also would have been false.  The oft-misquoted half-of-marriages-end-in-divorce statistic is not reality.  The figure comes from possible future events projected by sociologists based on a number of socio-economic and family statistics that are expected to eventually manifest if the variables do not change.  It has been around for at least a couple of decades and those who don’t bother to read the research now treat it as if it were a fact.  In actuality, though the forces underlying the projection remain intact and still point to family issues that need to be addressed with social policy (as evidenced by the rise in unwed mothers, which are a leading indicator of poverty rates and sub-optimal educational attainment), the rate of divorces per 1,000 people in the United States has been on a steady decline since 1981, which is longer than I have been alive.  Put more bluntly, every year I’ve been on this planet, the divorce rate per capita has dropped.  Much of this has to do with the declining rate of marriage, which needs to be accounted for in the analysis, but we are then going beyond the reason, and scope, of this post.  The short version: The 1 out of 2 people being divorced at present is a lie.  That is a projection that has not yet borne fruit.  It is dangerous to rely on “average” anything because there is no such person when talking about socioeconomics.  Specific subgroups, such as those with a college degree, experience far lower rates of divorce than society as a whole.  By framing her argument this way, I think the author is attempting to engage in a form of self-justification buffered by the illusion of social proof.   

  • The Lonely Humanist

    C.S. Lewis wasn’t alone in his expression of genuine discontent with this world. Nor is he among the minority in his interpretation that this is evidence that the human was built for a different one. Pious or secular, this conviction is omnipresent.  Given that about 1/3 of Americans suffer mentally, there is ample reason to believe something larger is at work. Given what we know, it seems that the farther we get from the lifestyle that evolved us, the larger the percentage of the populace that experiences genetic obsoletion. All the great 20th century Dystopians prophesied this–none greater, though, than George Orwell in his epic 1984. I believe that every human being should spend every day acting to build the world they want to live in. And most of us should NOT be happy with the world we have built.

    • Joshua Kennon

      ” Given what we know, it seems that the farther we get from the lifestyle that evolved us, the larger the percentage of the populace that experiences genetic obsoletion. ” – Brilliantly stated.

  • Joshua Kennon

    Thanks for the tip! I’ll look into the research and add it to my reading list.

    Also, I’ve had several people mention that site to me (expose your blog) – what is it? I’ve never heard of it but it seems to be popular enough it is driving some traffic here.

    • Angela Knutsen

       ExposeYourBlog! is a blog exchange created when Blog Explosion started to have problems.  We pride ourselves on having members who surf and really read the blogs they are viewing. Hopefully leaving comments as they go.

  • Steff

    Don’t know if I would agree with you here Joshua, the latest brain research into the unconscious part of the brain suggests that plasticity – the ability of the brain to rewire itself could mean that we as a species could fundamentally alter our inner perceptions. I think we’re only beginning to understand what drives us – and its not conscious thought most of the time!

  • Commentor

    Don’t write such things. Fortunately, you are so wrong.

    Yes, depression and anxiety come with different brain chemistry, BUT cognitive-behavior therapy, meditation, etc. have been shown to change brain chemistry.
    I have myself experienced tremendous changes in my perception of life over the last few years, and I totally undetstand this woman.
    Consider reading “Feeling good” and “When panic attacks” by David Burns, “Rewire your brain for love” by Marsha Lucas, “Radical acceptance” by Tara Brach.

    I have also acquired binocular vision as an adult – this is something people really thought was impossible. Read “Fixing my gaze” by Susan Barry.

  • Justin Davies

    Don’t agree with you josh. If you look into neurogenesis you will see that the brain is constantly building new neurons. We always have the ability to create our own happiness. We do however have propensity to sabotage ourselves along the way. Never a good idea to condemn another person to a life of unhappiness. While it may end up that way for them never a good idea to preclude the possibility if substantial and long lasting change. That would not be giving the human brain the credit that it deserves for its awesome adaptive nature.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      While I understand your point, telling someone who is deeply clinically depressed or suicidal that they can “think” their way to happiness doesn’t work in that situation. Telling them to snap out of it – that they can think their way to happiness – would do much more damage than treating it as the disability it is. Most people have the ability to create their own happiness (a big theme on this blog). We’re not talking about most people.

      But, again, I understand your point.

  • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

    The presumption in your question is that the sole purpose of life is to enjoy yourself. I would argue while that is the primary purpose, there are equally as important considerations that involve others. None of us live solely for ourselves. Even if life is miserable for you, decide to dedicate your time to making it better for the generations that come later. If you read my thoughts on defining morality, I would argue that one has a moral obligation to continue pressing on for the sake of making a net positive contribution to the civilization by applying his or her talents, even if that meant bringing plants to old people in retirement homes or helping rehabilitate abused animals.

    • Person

      Have you ever lived with depression? Imagine if every single thought you had, every day, was painful. It’s a feedback loop — you hurt, and your functioning is seriously impaired, and you know it, and you feel helpless, and you watch your life slip by. As hard as you work to improve your situation, it’s never enough.

      I’m truly amazed that you feel people ought to suffer to better a world that they cannot enjoy. Let’s see YOU try applying your talents when you can hardly get yourself out of bed. Let’s see YOU try applying your talents when your mind insists endlessly that you don’t have any talents.

      You’re able to enjoy life, to feel passion and to engage the world. You’re lucky. Other people aren’t. The arrogance required to suggest that people with disabilities owe YOU something is amazing.

      • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

        You know, normally I try to be reasonably polite but as someone who has a foundation that gives quite a bit of money to help prevent youth suicide, it’s taking all of my self-control not to flip you the proverbial middle finger.

        Your response is offensive, bigoted, and ableist. Depression is a very real medical condition that can be treated with varying degrees of success; a trajectory that has only grown exponentially better over the past twenty years and that, God and science willing, we will have solved in the next fifty.

        Telling someone it is okay to blow their brains out or slit their wrists because they suffer from the effects – meaning that, by definition, they are no longer thinking clearly at the moment – is fatalistic, immoral, and bordering on sociopathic. Empathy means stepping in and helping them carry the burden when they want to drop it because they believe they can’t go on any more.

        When someone is sick through no fault of their own, they don’t owe me anything – we as a society owe them an opportunity to get better by helping them get through it until the storms have passed. One method of treatment that has shown varying degrees of success depending on the individual is shifting the focus outward so that the emphasis is on working for others. You may feel like crap, but volunteer at a soup kitchen. You may not want to get out of bed, but go through the motions until the chemistry in your brain returns to normal. It’s at least a place to start while seeking serious help.

        But you … look at you. Sure, why not give up? Why not throw in the towel? The implicit assumption in your post is that the life isn’t worth living, anyway.

        Sometimes helping people get through the hard things, especially mental illness, is neither easy nor convenient. Thank God people like you are a minority; who would tell people to just give up and not even try to get better.

        • Person

          Again, I assume you have never suffered from suicidal depression. I have, and I do. It’s amusing that somebody who has enough wealth and prosperity to fund a foundation, is calling somebody else “ableist” — spend a day in my life. Spend a day having your thoughts randomly and suddenly turn on you, to have everything you see and think be a trigger for pain, to feel the weight of sadness pull you to the ground, make getting out of bed a Herculean feat — let alone “going through the motions.” Why of course, you should just go build houses and start after school programs when you CANNOT GET OUT OF BED. Just push yourself harder, that’s all it takes to get past depression! Just will yourself out of it!

          You don’t think I’ve been in treatment my entire life? You don’t think I’ve shuffled from medication to medication, counseling, exercise, volunteering, “going through the motions until my chemistry returns to normal?”

          You lead a charmed lifestyle. Mental illness has not prevented you from achieving success. I guess those who have to suffocate from depression, anxiety, OCD, and the like every day, those who would be happy to just be able to survive without wealth and success if it meant they could just have some lasting peace from their psychological hell, “owe civilization.”

          Again, have you ever suffered from a bout of suicidal depression? How long did it last? How close did you come to ending it? What was that experience like for you?

        • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

          You’re never going to get me to tell you to give up. You’re never going to get me to tell you that life isn’t worth living. You’re never going to get me to give up hope that someday a cure will be found, especially now that it seems probable that the underlying cause of many cases of depression has to do with a genetic evolutionary adaption that led to a stronger immune system in childhood, which would have resulted in greater longevity before the rise of modern civilization. The opportunities that brings up for gene therapy in the next ten to twenty years are substantial.

          And you’re never going to understand my position because your brain is sick. I mean it when I say I pray to God you survive the battle because that’s exactly what it is – a battle.

          None of that changes the underlying premise – we each have a moral responsibility to think about the consequences of our actions on those around us as well as society as a whole, even if we don’t want to do it, even if it is painful. It’s not all about you. It’s not all about me. We do not exist in isolation. We all do owe something to the civilization; to contribute the talents we do have, no matter how great or small, to make life better for those who come after us. No one said you have to like it, or feel like doing it.

    • Person

      It looks like your site went down and removed the conversation that was happening here. I still find it absurd that you expect people to “apply their talents” when they can barely get out of bed, can barely function without the neverending voice screaming “KILL YOURSELF” interrupting every thought.

      Let’s see you try living a life where all of your thoughts hurt, where there is no relief from the sadness, guilt, regret, and pain. Let’s see you dedicate your time to others when you cannot escape the nightmare of pain, anger, and confusion, when simply getting out of bed requires a half hour of talking to yourself, pleading to simply “get up.”

      • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

        It didn’t; since you mentioned private medical data I had it hidden from public view and sent you a direct, personal message using the email address you had in your Disqus profile, which is being returned as non-deliverable (it looks like there was either a typo or you randomly filled in the information for the field instead of using a working contact maybe?). It should still have an archive in my sent folder if you want to contact me through the “Contact” form at the top of the blog.

  • Now Happy

    That’s blatantly untrue. I was married to a wonderful man and we had a great relationship but for the entire twelve years we were married I was unhappy. I left him and found myself again. I’m happy again. It wasn’t that he was a bad man or we had a bad marriage. It was that he wasn’t the right one for me. Before throwing stones and saying she will never be happy perhaps you ought to have done a bit more research. My ex husband is a pessimist and I was always an optimist. After we were married his dark views on life bled into my own. It’s exhausting to be the only one in a relationship with a bright outlook and over time it can lead to feelings of hopelessness and severe depression. I spent nine of our twelve years clinically depressed but the meds never helped. Now, five years after the divorce, I’m back to being my old self. I am happy again and have been for four years now.

  • Syd Charisse

    I think it is a bold statement that there are people who will never be happy. You point out the defects in the authors facts however I see no facts to support a very loaded stament that you are making about people’s mental health. I think that if you are going to evaluate someone else’s writing based on their ability to quote a statistic correctly you should do the same for your own writing and perhaps provide information on the credentials that you have to make such a bold statement about some people’s inability to be happy–even if it is a small percentage.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      I’m not interested in the broader question you pose; at least not for the purposes of this discussion or post. Rather, my point is that the microeconomic trade-off cost of interacting with a certain personality type often leads to the conclusion that the most intelligent strategy is avoidance.

      For example, P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, was an absolutely wretched woman with very few, if any, redeeming qualities. She was odd, unstable, cruel, demanding, wench who lacked basic insight into the dynamics of successful interpersonal relationships. Like a contaminant in soil, she poisoned anyone around her. No matter how much success she had, no matter how much affection she was shown, the woman was simply unhappy. Whether science or religion can someday cure that is not relevant if she was your neighbor; your client; your acquaintance.

      Any time invested into having such a person in your life – even if it is entirely not their fault due to some underlying mental problem (which may or may not be the case; again, the cause is not of consequence to the utility curve decision one is facing about his or her own time allocation of roughly 27,375 days) is an absolute waste for a large majority of the population. It will bring nothing but grief. It will cause nothing but sorrow. It will sew frustration and misery.

      Thus, the most rational way to conduct one’s life if the objective is to maximize individual happiness is to cut them out as quickly as possible. We can have all sorts of conversations about the “ableist” nature of such a statement, but in the final analysis, abstract theoretical discussions of macro-level oppression don’t hold a candle to the micro-level increased happiness of not dealing with the sort of mercurial insanity, discontentment, cruelty, or indifference that certain people seem to exhibit; again, the reasons being entirely besides the point to the utility trade-off.

      Often, when one finally does summon the courage to follow through with removing someone like this in their life, whether it be the chronically discontent or the narcissistic, it’s not only liberating but like a cathartic release. Most commonly, you hear, “I should have done this years ago.”

      TL;DR: Life is short and there are millions of interesting things to do, wonderful people to meet, and great relationships to forge. There are certain personality characteristics that should send up red flags if you want to avoid a lot of unnecessary suffering. As the old academic rule for predicting behavior goes, “The greatest indicator of future behavior is past behavior.” I’m not one to bet against the odds. One does not have a moral obligation to provide misery or unhappiness with the company it seeks on the off-chance it may someday dissipate.

      • Butia

        Suffering from depression does not automatically make one a wretched person. You’re unfairly conflating a lot of different personality issues here.

        If I understand your post, you’re basically saying that people shouldn’t bother having relationships with people suffering from depression. I guess only non-depressed people deserve love in your world.

        • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

          Suffering from depression does not automatically make one a wretched person. You’re unfairly conflating a lot of different personality issues here.

          No, I’m not. You’re committing a logical propositional fallacy known as affirming the consequent. I said wretchedness may, in some cases, be caused by clinical depression. You are interpreting this as if my statement is:

          1. If some people are depressed, they may be wretched.

          2. [Person] is wretched.

          3. Therefore, [Person] is depressed.

          Which is not true.

          That is, I agree with your first sentence, which is why I never advocated avoiding depressed people. Only those who are wretched.

          If I understand your post, you’re basically saying that people shouldn’t bother having relationships with people suffering from depression. I guess only non-depressed people deserve love in your world.

          Leaving aside the misunderstanding of my position, which we’ve now established isn’t true, let me restate it bluntly: I don’t believe that anyone, for any reason, has a moral obligation to spend their life unhappy because of the people around them. If you choose to have a wretched person in your life, that’s fine. But they aren’t entitled to your love, affection, or time, just as you aren’t entitled to theirs. The cause of that person’s wretchedness, be it something they can control or not, is inconsequential.

          For example, if you were raised by a single parent who is a raging narcissist, I don’t think you have any moral obligation to continue to allow them to destroy your life, put you down, sabotage your goals, and emotional harm your own children. You, as a fully rational, informed, responsible, adult have both the power and free will to decide to cut him or her out of your life forever, even if it means never speaking to them again or even attending the funeral.

  • MmeZeeZee

    “If you find yourself in the unfortunate and unlucky situation of being
    one of those people who can never be happy, the best course of action is
    to do good.”

    As someone who is finally realizing that I’m just going to be unhappy for my entire life, who tried this, I can tell you it’s a terrible idea.

    First of all, you need money to survive. So the best course of action is to look at a happy person who is making enough money and not falling into debt, and do what they do. Seriously, just do it. Nothing will make you happy (not even love or charity) so do try to take care of yourself.

    Second of all, don’t have kids. You will pass on your genetic defects to them. As I watch my own kid struggle with depression, I’m in the awful position of not being able to feed her the lies I was told: “It gets better!” (Lie. It doesn’t.) “Focus on others to forget yourself!” (People are suffering around the world, this doesn’t help–if anything it makes it worse, and it makes you poor.) “Happiness is a state of mind!” (Like beauty is a state of face or intelligence is a state of brain–you can improve but you can’t change your basic make-up.) Can you imagine not only being depressed, but watching your little child suffer from anxiety, fear, and depression as well? Only mommy doesn’t tell her there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, because mommy knows there’s not. At least my daughter won’t hate herself for not being happy. She knows she’s not failing. I tell her it’s our job to keep going no matter what, that we aren’t here to be happy, we’re here to stay alive and that’s it. What a relief it must be to know that unhappiness is not something *wrong*, like I thought. I thought I had failed. Instead, I accept it like any other birth defect. Not enough fingers, or something.

    Just like some people are short, some people have asymmetrical faces, some people are missing fingers, still others aren’t happy. I’ve done yoga, I’ve worked my whole life as a public servant, I’ve traveled, I’ve been in love. Only to realize in my thirties that the happy people I know aren’t happy for a reason.

    They are just happy. NOTHING can take away their happiness–not a death in the family, nothing.

    And nothing, not a million dollars, not being “grateful” (dude, I’m grateful… it doesn’t change how I feel), not doing a particular job, not kids, NOTHING will ever make me happy.

    I’d love to be happy but I’ve tried it all and at this point, the easiest place to be is a place where I acknowledge that my biggest emotional achievement in life will probably be not killing myself before I retire. Yay, me. That’s like someone with an IQ of 85 graduating from high school and getting a job. It might not seem like a lot to some of you, but it’s pretty much all I can manage.

    One thing I do do for people around me, since I have kids and I can’t just end it (I believed, when I had the children, that eventually my good deeds and life of service would eventually alleviate my depression, oops, too late now), is just smile and fake it.

    I don’t tell them how I feel, not even my partner. I used to, but I realized it just shocked them, and they would try to “cure” me. “Maybe if you were more grateful for your kids!” Because apparently, knowing that their kids are better off than other people’s kids, makes some people happy when they would have otherwise been sad. Who are these people? “Your kid is dying of cancer but mine isn’t, and that makes me happy.” Awesome. Here I was feeling equally bad for the kid with cancer…

    As if I didn’t realize that having two physically healthy children was the best thing anyone could ever ask for. As if I didn’t know that not starving to death should make me happy. I know that, it just doesn’t change how I feel.

    Hate me all you want–I know I’m supposed to be able to do charity, work a job in the charitable industry, have kids, and that is supposed to fill my heart and brain with rainbows and sunshine, and the fact that it doesn’t makes me a sick bastard. I have accepted that.

    I’m glad you wrote this post because it proves to me I’m not merely making excuses. Believe me I’d love to be happy, just like many people would love to be thin, or pretty, or smart. But wishing for something you can’t have just makes not having it worse, so I’m giving up.

    What I need to know is what to tell my child, who also has this problem. Should I just feed her lies or can I let her know that not everyone can be happy?

    • blackbetty

      Holy crud, I thought I was the only one in the world who felt this way… I knew early on not to have kids, so I didn’t. The trick is what to do with myself and how to cope with my head in this world on a day to day basis…

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      Your experience sounds remarkably similar to the person who was talking to me that caused me to write the post in the first place. You did nothing wrong, it’s a brain defect, pure and simple. What makes it hard is that all the platitudes that everyone from your own family to the grocery store checker offer in good spirits – and that work for them – are meaningless. Like an amputation or another handicap, acceptance is the only rational way to behave because you hit the – please forgive the language because I’m not big on cursing but there’s no other way to put it – sh*t end of the bell curve It is what it is, and it royally sucks.

      I apologize for not being clearer when I said, “do good”, because reading your response, I understand how it appears. I’m not saying do good in the sense you think I am (nor do I believe that doing good is somehow mutually exclusive with living well and providing for your family). Do good does not mean do charity.

      What I mean with that phrase is exactly what you are doing – contribute productively either to your family or civilization so that your life has worth, at least intellectually. Since nothing is going to make you feel better, you may as well be useful to those around you. If that means earning a good living for your children, putting them through college, and hanging on each day without committing suicide, that’s admirable. It’s not a small achievement. That is doing good, and that is what you are doing.

      • MmeZeeZee

        Thanks for replying.

        I do think that electroshock therapy and anti-depressants can work for some people.

        I am afraid of what the drugs might do to my digestive system. I usually
        don’t have stomach problems but supplements, birth control, and any
        other form of pill often have bad effects on me.

        You can’t do electroshock therapy without trying all the drugs for several years.

        Plus, I’m very productive. I kind of feel like giving that up for happiness would be wrong

  • That Guy

    I believe that I’m one of those unhappy ones and I suspect I’ll be that way until I finally lie down for the eternal sleep.

    And I could chalk it up to genetic predisposition (which maybe is a thing), but it’s not that simple. Whatever I have, it’s not curable by medication or some other psychiatric treatment. It’s just a run-of-the-mill personality thing. Maybe it’s because I was bullied. Maybe it’s because I have a skeptical nature.

    Whatever the cause, I really don’t *want* to be happy. And I’ve long come to the conclusion that many people don’t either. Happy is easy — if you want it. I just don’t. I have a short patience for comfortable security blanket delusions and blinkered platitudes. And I mistrust the impulse to be a part of the crowd. I’ve seen too many love-starved freshman college kids try to make up for their shitty unpopular high school lives.

    And what good is all that if you sell your integrity and your mind upriver to groupthink?

    • MmeZeeZee

      Well, I don’t believe everyone who is happy has sold their integrity.

      That said there’s nothing wrong with unhappiness. I would advise you against feelings of superiority for any reason. Bertrand Russell was a very famous skeptic and a genius of 20th century thought, and he claimed to be very happy, and appeared to be so to those who knew him. He even wrote a book, The Conquest of Happiness (not his best, but interesting nonetheless).

      I wish you the best of luck.

  • Laurel

    I’m so glad I found this. I think I’ve known since I was quite young that this is just how I am, but only very recently have I decided to “protect” other people from my unhappiness by staying as single as a nun, and by focusing on the one thing I’m capable of giving to the world. “Love” can’t fix whatever this condition is, money can’t fix it, having kids can’t fix it; it’s not fixable. This article strengthens my resolve to accept myself as I am, and devote the rest of my life to that One Thing I Know I Can Do.

  • lulu

    This article could have been written about my husband. I love him greatly, and I’ve been with him for 10 years. He is creative, brilliant, loving, and caring, but he is a pain in the butt to deal with, and he is never happy. I am a fairly happy person by nature, and I believe that this is the only way we can co-exist. There are times, though, that he will drag me so far down with him, that I have to take a weekend away just to recharge from all the negativity. He has a job he loves, a wife he loves, makes an exorbitant amount of money (and doesn’t spend very much of it), and he is considered by his co-workers to be an authority in his field. If he asks for a raise, he’ll usually get it. Recently, he was given approval to only work 3 days full time and have 4 days off (with no change to his income), and we do not have children (because he does not like or want them), and still–he is not happy. MmeZeeZee’s post sounds very similar to his experiences. I have gone through stages of trying to ‘fix’ him, but have been able to finally adjust my expectations and accept him now for who he is, and that he will never be happy.

    Here is my main point–I still believe he is extremely valuable to society and to me. Although he will never be ‘happy’ with me, I don’t take it personally, and I know that he loves me. He is my best friend and the only person that I’d trust to have my back in the battle of life. He can paint and draw, play many instruments, write programs in a variety of languages, shoot and clean firearms without any problem, knows all of the herbal and natural remedies for diseases and sicknesses, and can point out all of the constellations at night. If ever there is a zombie apocalypse (or a disaster with similar dangers presented), he will be one of the best people to have with me. Perhaps this relates to the idea that this personality type was quite needed in earlier times to advance humanity.

    Maybe, also, this sort of hatred for humans and for the world generally comes from being incredibly intelligent and perceptive. Perhaps, these individuals see the world in its true state–corrupt, broken, and at times, hopeless.Is it possible that being very good at pretty much anything they attempt gives them a constant state of uneasiness, because they see all of the many opportunity costs that exist when a choice is made (for example, choosing to excel in one job rules out excelling in 50 other jobs that they are equally interested in)?

    I have no idea if this my experience or if others would draw a similar conclusion? He has been on medication before and it “helps” tremendously, but he felt complacent on the medication, and was not able to work very well (he says it made him very ‘fuzzy’ feeling and he was not able to see all of the details in his programming code). He would have stayed on the medications if it wasn’t for this and other sexual side effects. Life was so much easier when he was on the medication, but it was also sad to see so much of his interests and his passion set aside during this time (because when he was ‘happy’ he was not restless, and did not feel a need to pursue many different activities and interests).

    Anyway, perhaps I am crazy, as it seems most people would run in the opposite direction of a partner like this. My family likes him well enough (although he only visits them rarely, since he really can’t stand people for very long), but always ask me if I really can see myself living with such a negative person for years in the future. I always answer ‘Yes’. Because they do not get to see the small parts of him that I get to see and that I love. Perhaps this is true for others in his situation.

    • TJ

      I am SO glad i found this post… I’m a 35 year old man from NY living in Austin TX. I am an artist and have excelled in it for many years, had a variety of jobs, everything from Art direction in a retail company to print tech to animator to freelance illustrator, & lots of other various jobs in between. I had a great time through them all, and depression was never really an issue. It wasnt till my dad died in 2005 when I started feeling angry, and had outbursts (not harming anyone) where I would just be angry at the injustice of the world.

      This slowly creeped over me and my anger turned to apathetic acceptance that the worked is just dark… Then after 5 years working at a startup in NY, I lost my job & was robbed of promises of grandeur. Vested stock options, bonuses, promises of a better future, all ripped away after all my hard work & investment.

      So after that i got lucky & my boss from this startup got me a job at Dell in austin TX. I was so angry at the world & NY I decided to just take the job (User Interface Designer) … It paid 109K/year, & I was excited! I felt accomplished, but went in with the knowledge it could end at any time. Maybe that’s why I didn’t EXCEL at it. Oh I wasnt a schlub my any means, I pride myself in doing a good job… it”s actually what does make me happy..even if I dont like the job. The Depression sets in when I get stuck not knowing HOW to do the best job, and you’ll look fear of looking foolish asking how to get it done when it’s expected of you Well turns out…. So now Ive shifted careers AGAIN and am apprenticing at at tattoo shop.

      But 10 months in, & I’m unhappy again. I thought being an artist this would be a great opportunity to get paid doing this talent I was better at than most of my peers most of my life… but I’m in a tank of great white sharks… Apprenticing isnt the most positively reenforced environment…. there’s paying your dues and getting hazed. Plus these artists are VERY TALENTED & can produce designs & execute tattoos all day long. ME, I’m struggling to want to take my one day off and practice coloring with pencils…. the medium closest to learning how to blend inks in a tattoo…

      You’d think it’s be easy right? but no. Theyre not even that negative to me anymore, since my loyalty is there and I do as good a job managing the shop as I can… so why am I losing momentum with this path? One reason I know is I dont want to do the work… I wanna go A,B,Z….& that’s not a great oultook, just with I knew how to manage it…

  • Visitor

    My mother has had severe depression since I was a small child. She’s the most miserable person I know and she will never be happy ever. Yet she remains married to my father but does nothing to improve because she simply can’t. She’s not fickle or jumping from one life plan to the next with no direction. I don’t think the lady you describe is severely depressed but seriously lacks direction in life. I agree that if she doesn’t find it she’ll never be anymore satisfied. But then again I think people who are truly satisfied and not tormented about life are lucky to be so ignorant and so easily accepting.

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