As the weather turns colder I’ve been noticing people are getting a hell of a lot grumpier. More car horns, more fights, more nipicking. I came across this great article in PWG about the psychology behind misery and thought I would share:
Misery loves company, and it’s really no big surprise either. While happier people can sometimes help balance this out, a miserable person is a force to be reckoned with, and one that if unwatched, will attempt to bring you down as well. The thing is, no miserable person wants to see a bunch of happy, cheery people around them. If this were the case, then the term “misery loves company” wouldn’t hold true. Throughout this article, we’ll aim to establish WHY misery loves company, and how you avoid becoming that company yourself. Having a miserable friend, spouse, or co-worker is bad enough, but dancing to the same miserable tune that they are is what you really want to watch out for. You can only extend so much influence over the mood of others, but you can understand, adjust, and evaluate your own mood better than anybody else.
Why DOES misery love company? Is it out of jealousy? Is it out of resentment? Do miserable people just naturally attract one another? It’s actually a combination of all three, although which factors are weighted more heavily than the others will depend on the actual individual. Take someone who hates their job for example. If they ask me what I do for a living or where I’d like to go with my life, I often tell them about how I’d eventually like to be a writer, and how I run this website in my spare time. I also tell them that I like tutoring and helping people in English and IT as well (even though it’s not something I make any money on). It doesn’t take long before they lash out with criticisms of “running a website? Well that’s not a REAL job!” Or “When you’re working a 9-5 like me everyday buddy, then you’ll know what working is all about.” For the sake of being polite, I usually try and not laugh, only because I can see how badly their misery loves company. Most people that are happy with life generally don’t criticize or attempt to belittle others unless it was done to them first. I can always tell when someone is miserable though when I hear those kinds of questions, as it’s an obvious attempt at bringing you down to their level. I mean, think about it for a second: if somebody worked a 9-5 job that they absolutely hated, why would they wish the same thing onto you? Instead of saying “Man, I can’t stand my employer! Be lucky you don’t have to put up with the same stuff I do on a daily basis.” It’s usually “You’d know what it’s like if you had a REAL job.” (Which, for the record, I’ve worked my fair share of “real jobs”) Of course that’s just one example, and I know an abundance of people who love what they do everyday. I mention this though because what people do for a living always seems to be one of the biggest proponents for misery loving company.
Keep in mind however, that not everyone who is miserable is trying to drag you down with them. Some people who are unhappy with their current lifestyle, whether it be in the workplace or their personal life, are simply looking for a way out, and will often look to others for help, not as targets for their own misgivings. So while misery loves company, does company always love misery? Certainly not, and unless you want to despise your life as much as some people do, making sure they don’t grab a hold of you and drag you along for the ride is something to be aware of. The easiest way for this to happen is to take offense when somebody attempts to criticize or belittle you. It’s easy to think that YOU did something wrong, but you have to remember it’s the miserable person that’s looking for an outlet here, not you. While it’s easy to not care when such an attack comes from a complete stranger or somebody you barely know, quite often it’s actually our closest “friends” or family members that launch these attacks. Of course, you have to question how good a “friend” a person like that is. It’s also important to not change your course of action just because (a miserable) somebody else doesn’t agree with where you’re going. More often than not they’re simply jealous or resentful that you’re where you are and they’re where they are. The uncanny thing is, instead of asking for advice so they can elevate THEIR status, they’d rather undermine you in an attempt to reduce YOUR status. You have to reason that maybe these people aren’t making the smartest decisions in life if they’d rather give up an attempt to better themselves just in hopes of watching someone else fall.
Another thing to watch out for is anybody who attempts to bring you down simply because they want company. They won’t criticize you or argue about what you’re doing, rather they want somebody to share in the same level of negativity that they do. These people usually aren’t jealous or resentful, but are most often depressed and experiencing loneliness because there’s nobody around them they can relate to. A lot of times when someone is depressed they’re looking for a helping hand, and this is an opportunity where you can help someone who’s reaching out for it. Just make sure that when you grab their hand it’s so you can pull them up, not so they can yank you down. More often than not though, it’ll be someone looking for another person as miserable and unhappy as them. Someone they can relate to and think “maybe my life isn’t so bad after all…. this person has it much worse than I do.” It helps them validate why their day went so poorly and gives them an excuse to wallow in their pity party. Although it’s certainly possible to help these people, until they consciously decide to start actively seeking a lifestyle which creates happiness for them, your choices are sort of limited. Just like you can take a horse to water, you can’t force him to drink. You can do your best to help create happiness for anyone who’s depressed or unhappy with their current lifestyle, but ultimately it’s going to come down on them to take the reins.
Avoiding people who will only serve to bring you down is certainly a wise decision. Even if misery loves company, as long as YOU’RE not that company then you’ll have nothing to worry about. There are a lot of people in life who will try and trip your flow or stop you from reaching your highest potential, all because they lack the ability to make it there themselves. Although you can’t always stop these people from entering into your life, you CAN brush them off and make sure you’re not influenced by their opinion. Above all, if someone is really going out of their way to criticize or scrutinize what you’re doing, take it as a sort of backwards compliment. Negative people never feel threatened by the weak, but when they see you have the potential to go places with your life, that’s when they feel the need to bring you down.
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