How You Create Your Own Misery

Welcome to Format Free Friday, when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited Advice.

One of the hardest things I have to do in my work is point out to people that they are responsible for their own misery. I find this particularly challenging to do because most people are deeply invested in believing that their unhappiness is the result of outside influences: A lack of money, a bad relationship, a chubby tush, a hateful mother… you get the idea.  And people really believe that if these external things could be fixed, they’d be happy. So when I burst their delusion and explain to them that they are 100% responsible for their own unhappiness, I get a ton of pushback, which as I’m sure you can imagine, isn’t very pleasant. But I know this to be true because, like most of my tools, I guinea pigged myself to test it:

Years ago, when I was transitioning from my last life into my current one (which involved getting a divorce), I found myself in the midst of 3+ years of litigation, which I blamed with every fiber of my being on my misery. And let me tell you, my world confirmed it. Everyone felt so sorry for me, and we all thought, if only that asshole would leave me alone, I could get on with my life and be happy. And then one day I had a thought and it went like this: He keeps suing me for money. What if I gave him every cent I owned? If he knew for sure that I didn’t have anything left to give him ~ if he knew that he’d won, he’d leave me alone. And that is how I ended the war. The litigation stopped, I got married, and I began using the time I’d spent on litigation to focus like a laser beam on building my practice. I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz because it proved to me that all along I’d had the power to create my ideal life. And it also proved to me that I, not he, had been creating my misery. My choice to fight back had been creating my misery. I made a different choice and voila, I was happy.

So let me break down for you exactly how we create our own misery, using my own above-referenced example to illustrate the points and hopefully you will feel inspired enough to challenge some of your life choices to create your ideal life:

  • We unconsciously attract or become attracted to people and situations that confirm our beliefs about the world. My belief was that men aren’t trustworthy, aren’t reliable, and aren’t honorable. No big mystery that I attracted a man who would confirm every aspect of this belief.
  • We interpret the events in our life as evidence that our beliefs are true, even if there are other interpretations. I could have attributed his actions to a million things other than as confirmation that my belief about men was correct, but I didn’t. With every action he took, I felt more certain that I was dead-on in my beliefs about men.
  • We act in ways that makes what we believe come true. I fought back. I didn’t have to. And with every counter-claim I made against him, he fought me more viciously. When I stopped fighting, it ended. All along, I had the power to make a different choice which would result in a different outcome.

And there you have it. You and I are 100% responsible for our own happiness. Use this as an opportunity to question why things are the way they are in your life. What choice are you currently making that is keeping you from living your ideal life?

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