I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about how unhappy someone close to me is. He’s been unhappy for a long time – over six months now – and way before that too. I know he is under stress and I was feeling guilty for being more and more unhappy with his unhappiness.
“It’s hard to love someone who is unhappy,” she said simply.
It got me thinking, am I wasting my time trying to help someone who doesn’t seem to want help and is more than capable of helping himself?
Are people happy to be unhappy?
Perhaps this explains why some people spent hours complaining but no time at all working on solutions – no matter how small. Taking action takes courage, energy, passion and enthusiasm. But then as I have heard many times, is it a case of patiently waiting it out until the pain of remaining in an unbearable situation is greater than the pain of change – the pain of the unknown, of starting over – of risking it all to live again?
If you know someone who is eternally unhappy the following may help:
- Ask if they would like your help – 8 out of 10 times they’ll be glad you cared, but sometimes they may feel that by taking help from you they are weak or “helpless,” or they may either not be ready for help, or not want it at all
- Chances are that you may not be the best person to help – in this case:
Suggest they seek help from an independent expert
Check that they are not clinically depressed – talk to a professional to make sure you don’t miss key warning signs.
Signs of Clinical Depression (source http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chd/resources/depression/signs.html)
- Concentration is often impaired
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Increase in self-critical thoughts with a voice in the back of one’s mind providing a constant barrage of harsh, negative statements
- Sleep disturbance or unable to fall back to sleep
- Feeling fatigued after 12 hours of sleep
- Decrease in appetite or food loses its taste
- Feelings of guilt, helplessness and/or hopelessness
- Thoughts of suicide
- Increased isolation
- Missing deadlines or a drop in standards
- Change in personality
- Increased sexual promiscuity
- Increased alcohol/drug use
If someone experiences most of the above symptoms for more than two weeks, there is a good chance they are suffering from a clinical depression. Support and encourage them to seek professional help – this does not always mean taking drugs and antidepressants. It may well be that good old “talk therapy” is just the treatment they need. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Solutions Focused Therapy as well as other holistic approaches can do wonders – in the hands of a skilled and qualified professional.
While researching this article I came across this link about Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and the prevention of relapse in depression. Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy was developed with the aim of reducing relapse and recurrence for those who are vulnerable to episodes of depression. It’s need because the risk of relapse and recurrence for people who have been depressed is very high, and the amount of triggering required for each subsequent episode becomes lower each time depression recurs. Find out more here http://cebmh.warne.ox.ac.uk/csr/mbct.html
If this fails and the person you care about refuses to seek help you may need to help yourself by taking time out or in extreme circumstances leaving them. Ongoing unhappiness will eventually take a toll on your own happiness, confidence and self-esteem. It’s heavy work propping up a “dead” weight – someone unwilling to put in any effort at all to help you in your struggles to save them. Many people have drowned at sea trying to rescue people who in the end turn on them and drag them down.
Don’t be too quick to give up on them though – everyone needs a helping hand when times are tough. True love means that in sickness and in health, til death do you part, you’ll continue loving each other in good times and in bad. True love weather all storms.
The trick is knowing when you are in a storm and when the weather has set in with no signs of easing – will the one you love look for solutions and act on them, whether this be therapy, changing to happier work, taking control, studying how to be happier etc? Or are they happy to be unhappy ? Eventually your desire for their happiness will piss them off even more than they are now!
I remember one eternally complaining woman in her 70’s I worked with who moaned and moaned all day about her job, the people she worked with, about….everything and anything. ” The trouble with you Cassandra,” she said when I tried to help, “is that you are too happy.”
“If you’re so unhappy why don’t you leave?” I asked her
“What and stay with my husband all day and listen to him complain – no way! I’m much happier complaining here! At least people listen.”
Care enough to check they are OK
After writing this blog I rang my friend to make sure he was OK
“I’m sitting here like a stunned possum,” he replied
I emailed him this image
I don’t know about you – but I don’t think I could love a possum! They look vicious and they are. Lately my friend has hit out and attacked people too – family, co-workers, friends, his partner. Not physically, but verbally – which is just as damaging.
I asked him if he really wanted to be a possum, and wondered if maybe this animal – an ox, was a better one to associate with My friend was born in the Chinese year of the OX. I thought maybe by thinking about an animal that shared his characteristics – hard-working, loyal, stable etc he might feel better. It seems gentler, kinder, more at peace somehow.
“No.” he said, “I don’t like it.”
The truth was he felt like a possum. A stunned possum. For him there was no way of avoiding this” fact”. He went in search of a better image of a possum – the image I found wasn’t quite what he visualised for himself.
However you can’t change the fact that possums are what they are. The black of their fur suggests depression to me – I feel that my friend is depressed (that’s why I try not to react to his mood swings and negativity). But whether it is clinical (and needs medical intervention) or whether it is situational and can be resolved with time out only the following days will tell.
I asked him if head thought about talking to a professional.
“Nope” he replied.
“Will you consider it?” I asked
“Got to go now, ” he said, brightly, hanging up the phone.
Before he hung up he asked if I was coming over. I thought about what I had written, I looked at the possum, I recalled his continuing resistance to getting help, and said,
“No, not tonight. I ‘m happy where I am.”
Later I sent him the contact details of a great career coach and counsellor. “Here’s some great people to call if you ever feel like talking to someone objective with the skills to help, ” I said in my email. A week later he contacted the person I had recommended. This was great progress and a huge weight off my mind and our relationship.
Unhappiness at work – the cure
While on the subject of unhappiness at work I thought I’d include an excerpt from my upcoming book. Funnily enough many of the symptoms that people experience when they hate their jobs are shared, or should I say absorbed, by the people they come home to.
Personally being with someone who is unhappy makes me feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, sad, emotional, withdrawn, unhappy, lacking in creativity, passion or inspiration, gray, listless, stressed, anxious, unmotivated, complaining, negative, aggressive, impatient – – and these are only some of the symptoms of being with someone who is unhappy!
This reminds me of the graphic portrayal of negative versus positive emotions in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know
- contrast that with the image below..aptly named “You make me sick.”
Some Alarming Facts:
• Lack of passion and career dissatisfaction are common causes of stress, low productivity, poor performance and plummeting levels of confidence and self-esteem.
• Less than 10% of the population are visibly living their passion. Surveys completed by TMP/ Hudson and Worklife Solutions consistently report that over 43% of the working population are dissatisfied in their work.
• Lack of feedback, autocratic bosses, poor work-life balance, lack of control, values conflicts, lack of challenge, boredom, high workloads and interpersonal conflicts push happiness levels down on a daily basis for a large number of employees.
• We all know that smoking kills but few people know that job strain is as bad as smoking according to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. They concluded that too often people rely on medication to tackle the job blues but one of the most effective cures would be to tackle the job environment.
• Unhappiness at work is a major drain on individuals, organisations and the economy – one Canadian study argued that a 1% improvement through helping people become fully engaged in programmes that lead them to find work they would love would release an extra $600 million each year into the economy.
• Many people have been conditioned to expect less from the world of work, and may have narrow expectations about the wealth of opportunity that now exists.
• Unhappy people complain more, produce less, get sick more often, worry more, have fewer creative ideas, have lower energy levels, are more pessimistic, less motivated, learn slower, make poorer decisions, have lower confidence and self-esteem, are more prone to mental illnesses, including depression, and are slower to bounce back from setbacks – and these are only some of the symptoms of unhappiness!
Why do you need a job that makes you happy? What benefits will flow when you are living your passion? What happens when you ignore your passion?
Tune into Your Body Barometer
Liking what you do is not only a vital ingredient of career success but also health and mental well-being. When you don’t do the things you love your health can suffer. Common signs of neglecting your happiness and staying trapped in a job that you don’t enjoy can include:
• Low self-esteem
• Lack of confidence
The body never lies; however, many people soldier on ignoring the obvious warning signs their body is giving them. It’s easy to rationalise these feelings away, but the reality is your body is screaming out for something different. Having the courage to say “Enough” and to pursue a more satisfying alternative can seem daunting but the rewards and benefits that flow make the effort so worthwhile.
“Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough.”
Donald Trump, Businessman
Help yourself or someone you love re-find happiness
Happy at Work: for Mid-lifers – At last a book collating and expanding upon Cassandra Gaisford’s hugely popular Dominion Post columns. Click here to order or download preview chapters
View a video preview here
Is it time to quit? Click here to see how my friend began to turn his life around