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Habits of Highly Miserable People (alternet.org)
599 points by gscott 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 293 comments





Give yourself a negative identity

I was sexually abused as a child. I spent a total of about 3.5 years in therapy, a year in my teens and 2.5 years in my twenties.

Therapy was valuable, but I quit in large part for the above reason: I was at a point where spending an hour or more every week digging around in the dirt of my past was just keeping alive an identity as a victim. It was keeping me stuck. It was keeping me miserable.

So I spent the next few years focused on Getting A Life and practicing the art of Living Well Is The Best Revenge. And it's one of the wisest moves I ever made.


I know this is a bit of a controversial opinion, but I always felt that society's reaction to sexual assault give victims a reason to feel even worse about their situation.

Not to say that it isn't a severely traumatic thing to experience - it absolutely is. But, we regularly treat virginity as some sort of virtuous status - and then speak of rape victims who lost their virginity to their attacker as if they were stripped of some sort of human value in the process.

We speak of rape very matter-of-factly about how it ruins lives, ruins women for marriage, emasculates men, and follows you for life. For a victim, this almost feels like the world telling you how defeated you are supposed to feel.

I feel like way too much of society's response is about pitying the victim, and not enough of the response is about moving forward and getting past the trauma and living a normal, happy life.

I am also an American, and we tend to focus more on the negative. Many times, when I have expressed this opinion, people have been upset because my feelings don't put enough negativity on the actions of the attacker - but really, the attacker means nothing to me, only the recovery and wellbeing of the victim.


I agree with you. I have often gotten reactions of pity and the like for speaking openly of my experiences. I do my best to give polite push back against it.

I was raised with the idea that the shame is on the rapist, not the victim. I was raised with the idea that people who treat the victim in a shaming way are part of the problem.

Being open about this aspect of my life is probably the single most "political" thing I do. I strongly agree with the things I was taught on this subject.

FWIW, I likely did not lose my virginity to rape insofar as the detail of my hymen being ruptured. That probably occurred many years earlier when I fell at age 4 while trying to use a chair as a ladder.


It's cool that you can say that, as a woman. I've tried to express similar thoughts once, but I got shut down before you could say "socially constructed".

Congrats on not letting your self-worth be determined by others.


This is similar to how when men are corced into sex then it's seen as a dream come true by a lot of people, and often many such men also feel lucky themselves. But for women it become the script of what they're and everyone feels she has been wronged.

Just due to perspective in culture one see event as achievement and other as permanent assault, even though both had same circumstances


How would you recommend expressing support, not minimizing these experiences while also not assuming victimization?

Some years ago, an internet friend of mine asked me for advice concerning an appropriate Christmas present for a woman he and his wife were helping while she left an abusive marriage. I tried to delicately hint that her husband had to also be raping her, given the description I was hearing. I failed to be subtle and he did an internet search and verified that what I was saying was true: she had all the markings of a seriously traumatized rape victim.

What I told him was that at some point she would divulge this to him and he needed to deal with his own feelings before then and not make the discussion about his feelings. He needed to respect the fact that she had already survived a lot of terrible things and yet found the strength to leave and start rebuilding her life.

It went like I predicted. He was able to be supportive and she made great strides in the following months towards putting her life back together.

It's fine to validate that a person was, in fact, victimized so long as the focus is on "That person did you wrong" and not on pitying the person who was mistreated.

The problem is that this is old news to the victim but new information for the person they are telling. And the person they are telling typically has a very big emotional reaction. After that, the conversation is about that person's feelings, identity and mental models, not about the feelings, identity and mental models of the person disclosing that they were assaulted.

The strong emotional reaction of the person receiving the information helps to keep victims silent and trapped in their silence because these reactions either burden them with dealing with this new person's feelings etc or it makes the victim feel guilty of emotionally and psychologically harming other people in their attempts to try to get help of some sort.

Having been victimized, most survivors are pretty horrified at the idea of knowingly and intentionally hurting other people. This is a huge barrier to reaching out for support.

Validation is really powerful and healing. Just don't make your feelings and your identity their problem.

By identity, I mean in part things like insisting you are a nice, good, caring, helpful, knowledgeable person while doing counterproductive things. A lot of people feel a tremendous need to have their own goodness validated in such situations and it often comes at the expense of the person who confided in them.

Don't try to fix them. Attempting to fix them just reinforces the idea that they are broken.

Listen. Validate that what was done to them was terrible and wrong. Give them breathing room to feel their feelings, whatever they are, and validate that it is okay to feel whatever they feel about that.

If it is hard for you to hear and if you have no idea what to do, say so in a way that doesn't blame them, such as "No one has ever confided something like this in me before, so I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm honored that you would entrust this information to me. I'll do my best, but I'm sure to make some mistakes."

Then, if they give you push back on something, respect that. Don't try to insist they are wrong and broken and you are right.

That's kind of rambly and I'm not at my best today. Hopefully, there are a few useful takeaways in there that will serve your needs.


This is really good stuff, and I didn't find it "rambly" at all. Do you blog? This would make a great blog post, just as it is.

As far as I remember, I've never been raped. Maybe as a young child, but that's just unknowable. But I have had a few sexual partners who were rape survivors. What's difficult, I gather, is how it messes with the ability to be sexually intimate. So much about enjoyable sex depends on letting go of conscious control, and that's often difficult for rape survivors.

I mean, it was just luck that kept a large dog from killing me, many years ago. And ever since, I am never comfortable around dogs.

Edit: Damn, I forgot the point. Which is that being uncomfortable with dogs is far less problematic than being uncomfortable with sex.


As a male, people told me I'm a liar and that it's not possible to be raped by a female. I don't bother bringing it up anymore.

I have had similar responses on occasion when I bring up what happened to me in Jr. High with a sub. Eventually I decided that waiting for stigma and toxic ideologies to disappear from society wasn't the best use of my time. Instead I decided to start a charity against sexual assault and focus on healing through a positive outlet.

You might ask them this: if a woman has an orgasm while being raped — which happens! — does that mean it wasn't really rape?

The body has its own responses which are not always aligned with the wishes of its owner.


It happened to me by a family member. Today She still denies it

There's a great NPR podcast on a related topic to this - talking about how society's expectations of disabled people can prevent them from living their best lives. https://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/378577902/how-to-be...

Moving on is crucial. However, what I find troubling about that formulation that it appears to deny the victim's experience. Can't we pause, acknowledge the negative, and then move on?

The issue is that if you get hit by a car, the entire world doesn't spend the rest of your life pitying you and hanging their car-related baggage on you and refusing to acknowledge they are doing so. If you get raped, every bit of sexual baggage of everyone you know will be dumped in your lap in the name of "sympathy" while people actively refuse to allow you to move on.

I'm a let me brag and show off by showing you my scars kind of personality (a la Lethal Weapon* ). Men can do that and impress people. I routinely get pity.

I have been on HN nearly 9 years. No one ever goes "Damn, girl, you are one helluva badass that you can discuss a topic like this calmly in such a large forum that is overwhelmingly male." No, in this very thread, more than 4 decades after the abuse ended, someone has told me they are sorry my therapy was a bad experience, though I in no way indicated it was.

How much evidence do I need to provide that I am remarkably comfortable with myself, my past and my sexuality before the world stops heaping pity upon me as an endless emotional burden I cannot escape? The answer appears to be that a rape victim is not allowed to move on. They are not allowed to stop being an object of pity.

I find that monstrous and incredibly counterproductive.

That in no way denies that I was traumatized. It merely asserts that a still ongoing issue is the negative way other people choose to view me in defiance of all evidence to the contrary.

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNOsA4nH8yE


> one helluva badass

Well it's cheap to say now, but I have thought that. :) Not necessarily about this topic though.

I have a friend, who has lived well, but who long ago was raped by her father... and then when she spoke out in her church community, was accused of lying and shunned as everyone rallied around her father, "a good man".

It seems to me there's a middle ground, which is never struck precisely but often close enough, between the extremes of gaslighting and victim-mongering. And exactly where that middle ground lies changes over time.


Hey, you are "one helluva badass" :)

> Each of us is the sum of our scars.

Caine, in Stover's Blade of Tyshalle.

Also, the horse witch in his Act of Atonement books.


I'm totally tweeting this.

Stover did write the Star Wars prequels, but I don't hold it against him (too much). Abercrombie, Morgan and Scalzi all like his stuff. Caine is pretty much straight Crowley.

> I'm a let me brag and show off by showing you my scars kind of personality (a la Lethal Weapon* ). Men can do that and impress people. I routinely get pity.

No, not about being a victim of a sex crime, they can't; at least as much as women can't, maybe even moreso.

> The answer appears to be that a rape victim is not allowed to move on.

A “brag and show off by showing you my scars” person is one who has not moved on from the sources of those scars. Yeah, that kind of failure to move on may get a different typical response by both gender and source of the scar, but you can't both have a need to show the scar and complain that other people aren't letting you move on: you aren't letting yourself move on.


Choosing to be an example of recovery is not evidence I have not recovered.

I'm well aware men who were raped or molested are treated even worse.


> Choosing to be an example of recovery is not evidence I have not recovered.

There's a huge difference, as I see it, between choosing to be an example of recovery and being,asyou previously described, a “brag and show off your scars person”, particularly in terms of the audience to which accounts of particular trauma are directed.


You know, I actually have a lot of respect for you. You really have your moments when you shine.

This is not one of them. This is right up there with that brief period when you were repeatedly accusing me of being transphobic.

So I have zero plans to argue this further with you.


I think the key is to pay attention to where the victim is in their process and honor that.

That may mean not acknowledging the suffering, or it may mean not acknowledging that things will be ok.


I like the true listening in your approach. Responding that way reinforces agency.

I think that's also compatible with having an expectation that the situation will change over time, that most often the intensity of suffering will decrease, and that the survivor will get their life back on track.


This is one of the reasons why people prefer the term "survivor" to "victim" for cases like this.

I would seriously hope that modern therapists would do their utmost to push back on any idea of virginity as an indicator of human value - an idea that comes from the idea of women as property and successor machines.

It's a value because the more people you've been with the less likely you'll stay with the one you have. However, therapists should be pushing back on the idea that we need to focus on bad things that happened to us in order to be released from them. It is simple enough to see - and one of the reasons why eastern practitioners still laugh at staunch western scientists.

> It's a value because the more people you've been with the less likely you'll stay with the one you have.

a) You are conflating rape with sex. Why would being raped be the same thing, at all?

b) Everyone I've seen talk about this has been referring to charts showing increased non-marital partners correlates to divorce, but you are talking about pre-marital partners, where divorce rates actually start going down after a few partners.


> It's a value because the more people you've been with the less likely you'll stay with the one you have.

Maybe in the same way that "the more food you try, the less likely you'll stay with Mcdonalds".

Being discerning, honest and moving on if things don't work out is much better than the alternative, for everyone involved.


Validation, acceptance, endorsement, and promotion have murky boundaries. Validation and acceptance are key components to a healthy outcome after a painful experience. It can go too far, and endorsement and promotion can mutate a viewpoint until it culminates as an obsession.

Recovery, however, is hardly ever a straight path. Sometimes people get stuck. Sometimes, people shift their viewpoint to something else that's extreme and unhealthy. In the grand scheme of things, this journey lasts our entire lifetime.


There’s a line that gets crossed between “oh well that sucks but that’s life” and legitimate traumatic experiences. When that line is crossed your suffering goes from whining to legitimate in the eyes of society, so a lot of people realize this and maximize their victimhood in order to gain any sympathy.

Yes, there's a weird way that when we label people, it changes the legitimacy of their condition. It's broader than just how acceptable it is to complain. Other examples are depression and autism. If you're diagnosed with one of those, it transforms you from an unpleasant person that nobody wants to be friends with to someone deserving pity, support and/or respect.

I think there's some kind of value in this. Everyone's got a bit of psychological disorder and for normal people, they can use willpower to bring themselves into a good state. We ridicule those who fail to do that as a kind of motivation to sort themselves out. But with an actual disease that has a name or a distinct experience like rape, we think they're beyond being able to help themselves and no amount of insults is going to be any use in making them feel better.

This attitude also seems to be behind the competing ideas of alcoholism being either a disease or a behavior. If it's a behavior, you can blame the alcoholic for failing to sort themselves out, but if it's a disease, maybe they're truly helpless.


>This attitude also seems to be behind the competing ideas of alcoholism being either a disease or a behavior. If it's a behavior, you can blame the alcoholic for failing to sort themselves out, but if it's a disease, maybe they're truly helpless.

Implicit in this is the idea that behavior originates from an identity, from some independent center.

You have to believe in the notion of free will to assign blame.


Absolutely. Well put.

[redacted]

Their health is not improved by having everyone they meet tell them they are unfixable and utterly ruined for life.

[flagged]


Kindly do yourself a favor and re-read Zeller's last words in its entirety. While yes, his attacker's actions are utterly despicable, and the experience in no doubt has been more traumatizing to him than we could imagine. At the same time, Zeller also goes into great details about how nobody has really been able to support and help him recover from that trauma.

On his relationships, he discusses how he was never really able to open up to his significant others about what he was going through: "So I watched as things fell apart between us. I had put an explicit time limit on our relationship, since I knew it couldn't last because of the darkness and didn't want to hold her back, and this caused a variety of problems. She was put in an unnatural situation that she never should have been a part of. It must have been very hard for her, not knowing what was actually going on with me, but this is not something I've ever been able to talk about with anyone."

On the doctors he has seen: "I've seen a number of doctors since I was a teenager to talk about other issues and I'm positive that another doctor would not have helped. I was never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was."

On his family: "I'd also like to address my family, if you can call them that. I despise everything they stand for and I truly hate them, in a non-emotional, dispassionate and what I believe is a healthy way. The world will be a better place when they're dead—one with less hatred and intolerance.

If you're unfamiliar with the situation, my parents are fundamentalist Christians who kicked me out of their house and cut me off financially when I was 19 because I refused to attend seven hours of church a week."

"I grew up in a house where love was proxied through a God I could never believe in. A house where the love of music with any sort of a beat was literally beaten out of me."

And there's plenty more. The vast struggles that Zeller faced and described are not inconsistent with the points that @DoreenMichele is discussing.


I'm well aware some fail to move on. What I am telling you is that the reactions of other people are part of what keeps many people stuck.

I successfully moved on. I have helped a short list of others also successfully move on. I'm quite confident I know whereof I speak.


I'm going to assume you mean well, but this is unambiguously the wrong way to talk to a survivor about their experience.

You're replying to a victim of sexual abuse

"...that it is impossible to ever build their own identity" Sounds like a pretty poorly prescribed incantation.

There is a school of thought in psychiatry that some people would do better to simply move on and forget about it. There was a good podcast on this topic here:

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/podcast-193-fck-feel...


Similar to the many thousand year old schools of eastern thought!

I'm sorry you had a bad therapy experience. I hope that the therapy strategy your therapist used is not universal, and that other therapists are open to trying other strategies (for other survivors, if your need for therapy has passed) -- "Getting A Life" and "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" are good strategies that a therapist ought to be able to help with.

I honestly can't understand what value a therapist expects to find in rehashing past experience that's already been discussed. (If the patient is in denial about something, investigating it could lead to a breakthrough. But "something happened, I feel awful about it" doesn't seem to lend itself to a solution that involves dwelling on what happened)


I didn't have a bad therapy experience. I had remarkably excellent support. I have no idea why you are framing it that way, other than the tendency being discussed in this very thread for the entire world to unhelpfully heap pity upon survivors.

Edit: The obit for my first therapist, a truly remarkable man:

http://www.seracpe.org/Library/Remembrance/B_of_R_for_Turley...


> I have no idea why you are framing it that way

I think it's because you said:

> [Regarding therapy:] spending an hour or more every week digging around in the dirt of my past [...] was keeping me miserable.

That sounds like at least the later portions were a bad experience. Also, I suspect a lot of people here have a default assumption that any therapy experience is bad unless otherwise noted, but the above quote is probably the main factor.


It wasn't a negative experience. Therapy was effective. But at some point I realized that continuing to invest so much time in a negative past experience was giving over my present and future time to said negative experience and what I wanted was to invest my time in positive experiences, to pursue something enjoyable and life enhancing.

Long experience suggests that it won't matter how positively I frame it or how carefully I say it, some people will insist on viewing my statements and me negatively -- as has been discussed elsewhere in this very thread.

And I don't plan to discuss this detail further.


I agree and went through similar experiences.

I will however mention for the other readers that not all modes and schools of therapy see "digging up the past" as essential, in fact I believe this is a point of contention.

Methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Theory, I believe, focus much more on "OK, but how does that influence your behavior? Should it?"


I was in couple's counseling briefly with my husband. He also was very briefly in therapy on his own. He was extremely introverted. He hated telling all this private stuff to a counselor.

One day, I told him "You don't have to go to therapy. I don't care if you go to therapy or not. Therapy is a means to an end. Therapy per se doesn't matter. I only want our marriage to be better. I don't care how that happens."

So he quit both his own therapy and couple's counseling. And he was promptly and permanently a better husband.

There are many paths.


Great point. As a fellow introvert, I think I would also be better off.

> Therapy was valuable, but I quit in large part for the above reason: I was at a point where spending an hour or more every week digging around in the dirt of my past was just keeping alive an identity as a victim.

> So I spent the next few years focused on Getting A Life

I think this is the dillema they try to deal with in 13 reasons why season 2. Jessica, who is sexually abused, alternates between identifying herself as the victim and confronting her abuse and moving on, not letting it identify her. While the show was not as good as season 1, I think they tried to capture all aspects of how a victim could potentially feel and that was a good public service.


it was exemplified in a movie with Clive Owen, father of an abused teen. The social drama ended up rubbing the wound open way longer than the victim wanted to.

The paradox of some forms of abuse is that often the victim doesn't know it hurts until society tells them it should. (We don't always notice ways that our life could have been better if we were treated better.) But if the victim doesn't know it hurts, it's hard to maintain the societal will punish the perpetrator.

true

>Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and, for 15 minutes, meditate on all the things you could lose: your job, your house, your savings, and so forth. Then brood about living in a homeless shelter.

really roughly this is what stoics do, yet somehow they come to the conclusion "actually, what was i fearing? Proceed with adventure"...


Those things never really scared me. Do they also meditate on being sick, in constant crippling pain and come to the same conclusion? I get a stomachache and recognize a bad personality change in myself. I dont imagine id be able to draw on the same mental skills while in that state for prolonged periods.

> Do they also meditate on being sick, in constant crippling pain and come to the same conclusion?

It's more that they reflect on how much worse things could be, in order to instill gratitude and appreciation for what you already have.


I think this is a better exercise. I stole it from Seneca.

Look at the back of your wrists: see those fragile greenish-blue veins?

What if tomorrow - while thinking about some problem with money or love - you trip and fall, and a particularly sharp rock on the ground or a shard of glass on the street cuts one of those thin exposed blue-green veins open?


What is the reaction you're "supposed" to get by thinking about that? I took a moment to think about it and I don't think I got it. My reaction was, "Well then I probably die", but I don't feel particularly different about the present.

If that's the thing I'm supposed to feel then so be it, but I feel Seneca intended for some greater profundity, or he would dispense with the mental theatrics. What am I missing? Does it need to be more visceral?


That life is absurd and fortune can bring death as easily as peace.

It’s my fault for not putting more time into my comment; it’s more about finding a scenario that scares you: since I also have no fear of poverty or sickness thinking about that does little for me.

An absurd death scares me so that’s ehy I used that, but if losing life doesn’t scare you, then maiming? Like you get hit by a self driving car and instead of losing your life, you lose both eyes, or both your arms, etc. You are also paralyzed now.

Now it’s very hard to kill yourself. Maybe impossible. But if your mind is still at peace, then you are truly wise, and you’ve made good use of your time in the world.

I would be a horrible and mean wretch if that calamity happened to me. I know I’m a mess, and I couldn’t face that future with any poise or grace.


This is the first time I've heard the quote, but I think it's to appreciate that life is short and could end at any time, and while bleeding out you'd realize that worrying about these long-term things was a waste of time.

That's not exactly the purpose Stoics do that AFAIK.

One of the objectives is to appreciate what you have right now and stopping this urge that we have in today's society to always get more.

If you stop and really think about how bad it would be to live without your eyesight, for example, you can appreciate even the smallest things we take for granted.

It's not supposed to be a "carpe diem" thing.


> carpo#Latin

> Compare Greek καρπός (karpós, “fruit”) and κείρω (keírō, “to cut off”), English harvest, sharp, shear.

Carpe diem totally fits; You just have to consider that an optimum can be approached from two sides, ie the right time to harvest, neither too soon nor too late. In another sense it might mean the day is ripe, I guess. But it's not cape diem, not take the day away.


I always see this expression being used as some kind of "live life to the fullest" context. Which is what I think is wrong.

Never went after the etymology of it, interesting how it has nothing to do with "seize the day" as I originally thought.


I fail to see that as highly positive though - with that attitude, I would stop exercising and invest all of my savings into cake and pizza. These things would make me happy each day, but miserable each month.

That’s part of it, but mostly, it’s about thinking if the worst thing that can happen and how would you deal with it: do you bleed out peacefully or crying?

We are always thinking nothing will happen to us, yet, we’ve all here have had problems, accidental or due to our own stupidity, that have already changed the course of our life for the worse.

Seneca says it’s worth thinking about that every day to find peace of mind.


In the more likely case that you don't die tomorrow worrying about long term things usually pays off.

And what if you lose your fingers and can’t code anymore?

it's distraction, nothing more.

By the way, I recently noticed my veins are not symmetric on both hands. I'm not sure what to think of that either.


It means that one of your hands is actually your twin brothers', whom you ate in the womb. Meditate on that for an hour every day :p

edit: it's impossible to know which hand is yours.


I'm probably doing it wrong but the first thing I think of is "better do that on a busy street, hopefully there's someone that knows to bind off my wrist or something[0]"

Do I need to imagine that I'll bleed out alone, with everyone walking past me as if I don't exist?

Because 1. I don't like that exercise and 2. it mostly makes me consider to what extent I'm currently surrounding myself with people that dis-compassionate an whether I should move ...

3. does it matter that one of my wrists actually has a huge scar, that's grown with me from when I was 4 years old, jumped off a couch and smashed my tiny right wrist into a glass on the table? I managed to miss both my artery and my tendons, ... or I wouldn't be typing this :D


You’re not doing it wrong; perhaps you’re more worried about how others will treat you because you feel you’re lacking friendships?

Most, if not all, would watch you bleed out: its the bystander effect. See the Kitty Genovese murder. Are you bothered by this?

You could have died. I fell and hit a glass table too and now I have a scar right next to my eye, less than a finger width away.

I could have lost the eye but I don’t like to think about it either. There’s a lot of stories where I could have been maimed, and I do have injuries that have left me weaker.


From what I understand about suicide, no little crossways cut on those veins will ever kill you. You have to go up the arm and deep. Humans aren't that fragile really.

I've come up with an alternative version of the exercise that might work better:

Look at your feet: see those little toes?

What if tomorrow - while thinking about some problem with money or love - you get hit by a speeding 10 ton truck and you die instantly?


That’s good too, maybe make it a self driving car instead.

And the ones you can see are veins, not arteries.

You don’t have to cut deep, just enough to make the blood gush. The story says a sharp object to distinguish that.

The buddhists do that and more. For example, recognizing the components of the body to such a degree that even when you see the most attractive person you may become entirely disgusted.

I think people are just different. To some, thinking through the worst case scenario is a way to face and overcome their fears. To others, it's a way of instilling fears.

I think the idea behind the exercise, from a Stoicism standpoint, is to mentally expose yourself to the fear of being homeless (or whatever about the exercise creates anxiety for you). Eventually you desensitize yourself to that feeling and begin to realize it wouldn't be as bad as you think.

This is also an aspect of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).


Umm... seeing how the homeless live, it really would be as bad as I think. Probably even worse, since I don't see all of it.

Most homeless people are suffering from a cocktail of problems with abuse, mental illness and drugs. If you woke one one morning to find yourself on the street with ragged clothes and empty pockets in a foreign city, but you still had your wits about you, you likely wouldn't be there for long.

Yeah, it's because I would figure out how to call someone I know to come and get me.

You don't end up homeless when you have someone to call to come and get you. You end up homeless when you've burned through that bridge.


Roughly 3/4 of homeless are homeless for less than a year.

Most of them are in a better state then alone in a strange city, with nothing but the clothes on their back. They often have jobs, and may be living on couches or in a car, or have a bank account, or social support (Not enough to keep them in a home, but something.)

The homeless that are sleeping rough for 9 months tend to stay homeless. It is a horrible way to live, and it breaks you down really fast.


Because they die, or because they find a home, or ...?

because they find a home. Think about how many people in the US are living hand-to-mouth, where any disruption can cause them to fall behind on rent. Those people make up the majority of people who have been homeless recently. They are homeless for the time it takes them to save up a deposit and find a place to live.

Hopefully that's not the only reason. Even absent of help from a friend, you likely wouldn't be there for long.

Depends on the economy, the cost of living, my health, and my skills.

Those factors are not under my direct control. Some of them may have been in the past, but not in the present.


Being without a home sucks and is logistically annoying and aggravating to a significant degree. But a lot of the misery of most homeless people is due to the intractable personal problems that landed them there to begin with.

It does get compounded by social stigma. For me, the social stigma and the very real problems that caused was the worst part of being homeless for 5.7 years.

A lot of homeless people sleep in a tent. That's what I did. Some people do that for fun and call it camping.


>seeing how the homeless live

Except you only see the ones who are visibly homeless, so how do you know?


Most of the homeless are couch surfing, living out of cars, etc. In one sharehouse I lived in, we had one guy on the couch and another in a tent in the back yard, both of whom were acquaintances going through a rough time. As far as worst cases go, while it would suck to have to sleep on someone's couch, it's honestly not that bad.

That's just an example, it's not about actually being homeless but about losing everything you have. It's not as bad as you think, and as long as you're healthy and free, you should be able to rebuild.

Parodied on TV sketch comedy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNx_gU57gQ4

Occasionally there is a moment where the character extrapolates from some minor failure to dying "homeless, penniless, and alone" and then recovers.


I find it more helpful to examine the fear of being homeless and judge it. If I found myself in that bad situation, would I actually be helpless, or would I find a way to overcome it? Evidence based on my past experience suggests that I'd overcome it; therefore the fear is invalid.

Most psychotherapy seems like a clinical, medicalized repackaging of wisdom that the ancients already had. (Which is most certainly not to disparage the value of psychotherapy!)

I don't get that impression from the stoics, this sudden 'hmmmph?' clarity that's almost amused at how silly oneself was being.

What I do get is that you can fear the worst and live in that fear to the point that it almost feels like you are experiencing what you fear every moment you are not experiencing it. And it either happens or it doesn't. And if it does, well, I don't know.

Someone or something fucked up somewhere, but I'm certainly not going to blame myself as though I am lord and master of all events that come to pass, seer of all future events and protector of all ills. Humans share that burden equally, and some feel it more than others. But I think like the stoics, like Zen, you can cultivate a sort of inner strength from that suffering.

That doesn't mean pursue suffering to be strong, no no no, not at all. It means you work with what you have. You have pain, use it. Use it to make someone else's life better. You have joy, enjoy it.

I'm not sure it's the right philosophy, or way of being, but it's the most clear and present thing I can muster when I feel my feelings. And I think stoicism reflects that. Deep sadness, old wounds, aching pains. Don't use it against yourself to worsen the hurt. If all you can be is neutral, be neutral. If all you can be is Zen, be Zen. If you can be happy, be happy. Don't take some old dead Greek dude's word for how to live your whole life. There are plenty of other Greek philosophers who spoke of happiness, to learn from too.


I spent three months traveling through Central America. You really quickly get used to a constant sense of danger — the water and food can kill you, the bugs can kill you, the roads can kill you, the police and gangs could kill you — hell even taking a hot shower there is tempting fate since they have electric heaters in the shower heads and basically no electrical safety standards to speak of.

You either have to cower in your hotel in fear or live life. I went hitchhiking in Nicaragua, sledded down a volcano, went cliff diving, etc — stuff i’d never do at home.

There’s something to be said for facing down your fear of death and acting in the face of it.


Survivor bias...I wonder if all the people who died hitchhiking or cliff diving feel the same way. We won't know because they're dead.

This just isn't true. They felt exactly the same as OP up until the moment they died. A sudden death is, by definition, something that can not be regretted.

You seem to be assuming the mindset that nothing matters after an individual dies.

I'm sure you are not surprised to hear that many disagree with this.


To that specific individual, it doesn't because they are dead.

As for what happens in the realm of death, we'll see when we get there.


> To that specific individual, it doesn't because they are dead.

I wasn't clear enough. The decisions one makes during their life are affected by whether or not they care about anything that happens after they are dead (any many specifics beyond that). Many people do things whose primary impact won't be felt until long after they are gone. So it isn't true to simply say that nothing matters after the individual is dead.


I'm sure some of them felt some amount of regret in the last, terrifying moments between when they realized that they were going to die and when they finally lost consciousness.

Who said "sudden"?

The vast, vast majority of people who go to those places don’t die.

The difference is in how you imagine it. Do you imagine it to confirm the horror, or do you imagine it to come to terms with it.

I had a sign: Act now or homelessness later. Choose.

Homeless shelters here are terrible TBH. I’d rather sleep rough. Living in a van for me is better than a house or apartment because:

- no rent, no mortgage

- no noisy neighbors sans the phony-“tough,” backwards-hat teenager act

- less space to fill it up whth $crap I don’t need

- always mobile

- able to leap tall buildings in a single bound

- dual burner stove and 20 kg propane tank

- all Burner, all the time

- no lawn to mow

- no bills but the basics

- it’s really quiet

- no neighbor from hell to gas you out smoking, using too much lighter-fluid and cooking with their BBQ right next to a fence below you and screaming/terrorizing/trying to intimidate everyone

- indoor nudist as long as I want

- volunteers of the blond varietal tested suspension for squeaks; needs more data

- able to monitor DIY blinker fluid meters closely


> leap tall buildings

what ?

ps: oh, comics


Exactly. Doing this, if anything, makes me incredibly grateful I haven’t lost those things. And at the same time realize that it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Strawman, red herring. If anything, it means, why let fear grow irrationally, rather face it and be content.

Using the same tool for different effects.

I saw this documentary on cnbc about modern day slavery on fishing boats[1]. Ppl are promised jobs, entrapped and sold to shipping vessels as slaves where there are worked to death. When someone falls sick or dies from overwork they simply throw the body out in the ocean. I am still traumatized by this documentary, I can't imagine anything worse that could happen to a human being.

I can shop at whole foods that does the homework for me but what about Chinese masses that don't give a shit. Why do humans have to reproduce so much and at all costs. fucking sick!

1. https://www.cnbc.com/oceans-of-crime/


How does your first paragraph connect to your second at all?

By buying fish obtained this way, the consumers in the second paragraph economically empower the perpetrators of the first paragraph to continue, allegedly because of food demand created by overpopulation.

Not endorsing the argument, but there is a connection.


Why wouldn’t the slaves just rise up and mutiny against the captain??

See also: Why didn't the victims of the African slave trade rise up against the plantation owners? Or: Why didn't she fight back?

General form: Why don't victims behave the way I think they should, in circumstances I've never experienced?


They did, many times, and were invariably violently put down. Only much later they did succeed.

Also remember that it was the most docile that were captured.


...and many of the rest were killed, because they were resisting, and/or to cow others who might have tried to resist.

You're missing the point: telling victims they're victiming wrong (literally, as in, "You're doing that wrong", which is so unbelievably much of this thread) is bullshit. It's especially so if you have no relevant experience on which to make that judgement, and that goes double if your likelihood of having that experience is structurally negligible. Hand-waving about how someone should handle something that has never — and, for practical purposes, will never — happen to you is ludicrous on its face.

EDIT: Phrasing


https://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2013/01/no_self-respecting_w...

Quoting:

> Anyway, perfectly ordinary slaveowner DiCaprio asks a rhetorical question, a fundamental question, that has occurred to every 7th grade white boy and about 10% of 7th grade white girls, and the profound question he asked was: "Why don't they just rise up?"

Kneel down, Quentin Tarantino is a genius. That question should properly come from the mouth of the German dentist: this isn't his country, he doesn't really have an instinctive feel for the system, so it's completely legitimate for a guy who doesn't know the score to ask this question, which is why 7th grade boys ask it; they themselves haven't yet felt the crushing weight of the system, so immediately you should ask, how early have girls been crushed that they don't think to ask this? But Tarantino puts this question in the mouth of the power, it is spoken by the very lips of that system; because of course the reason they don't rise up is that he-- that system-- taught them not to. When the system tells you what to do, you have no choice but to obey.


This question is as old as boats buddy

> 5. Attribute bad intentions.

Me and my SO have serendipitously discovered a great way to defuse arguments: it's the question "Are you accusing me of foulness?" (any sufficiently Victorian synonym works here)

For some reason most people reflexively deny this in reply and realise that they've been attributing bad intentions groundlessly.

Unfortunately this doesn't work on people who have a mindset which requires there to always be someone at fault.


Reminds me of the Principle of charity [1] that "requires interpreting a speaker's statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation".

I've found adopting this mindset to be one of the most important habits I've picked up, and eliminates so much drama.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity


This is also the basis of the Steel Man Argument [0] [1], as opposed to Straw-manning. Instead of attacking (basically nitpicking) the easy missteps in your opponent's reasoning, find the best form of their argument, and then argue with this. It seems to me as the ideal way to both win over those on the other side and provide yourself with a solid ground. You present yourself as avoiding undermining their position (really listening and caring to understand where they are coming from) and present a better argument yourself.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man#Steelmanning

[1] https://lifehacker.com/utilize-the-steel-man-tactic-to-argue...


The strawman can be stripped down gradually to find the truth.

The steel man locks the truth somewhere inside; and one doesn't look in case ones conversational partner feels offended by being wrong.

Of course you can't tell me I'm wrong; because you have to give my argument the best possible interpretation even if it doesn't deserve it ...!


I’m not interested in telling you you’re wrong. You being wrong is your problem. I’m interested in my being right. If I can extract some information from our conversation that moves me to a better understanding of things then I have done all right from the interaction (assuming the time involved is short). The steel man allows me to extract this information from the interaction.

In practice, if someone isn’t capable of using the information I provide to re-assess their position, continued interaction is likely to be low quality. This isn’t a fault thing. It could just be that I’m incapable of interacting reasonably with this person. Either way, it’s then time to disengage.


Obviously it depends on the circumstance, but not every disagreement is about "winning" the debate. Sometimes the win is in building or saving the relationship.

Steelmanning is just applying the Least Convenient Possible World principle to debating. If you're picking nonessential nits then you might technically be right but you're probably also dodging the actual interesting questions.

This is in fact the only way to maintain credibility with both sides when resolving an argument. Unfortunately judges who routinely follow this rule are uncommon.

Huh, I've been unknowingly using the steel man argument in debates about renewable energy etc.

Paraphrased as the (oft-ignored) third guideline for HN comments: "Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."

This is great. Another wonderful piece of advice I had read somewhere for similar situations is:

"remember that an argument between you and your partner is you two against the issue rather than against one another"

I think it is a great way to refocus the conversation and work toward a solution.


My personal solution to defuse an argument with the wife is to stick out my tongue and say something stupid. Gets a laugh unless I'm REALLY in trouble, and then it's on to plan B.

> then it's on to plan B.

Run for the hills?


John Gottman calls that a repair attempt.

My SO and I do something similar. When it (almost never) gets contentious, one of us will just yell: "I Declare Disagreement!" in the same manner that Michael Scott declared bankruptcy on The Office.

Instantly breaks up the tension and we can take a breather before resuming more rationally.


Nice hack. Doing this with an upper class British accent could help defuse the situation further.

One of the main techniques taught in Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication book https://www.amazon.com/dp/189200528X is how to discover each other's intentions and share your own intentions and needs. The techniques I learned from this book helped my relationships immensely. The audio book is also excellent https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TKMBJKE .

"Do you allege malfeasance?!" :D

important point, I very often get angry because I interpret some usual sign as the usual paranoid cause ..

I’m no expert on abject misery but reading 12pt serif text with a ridiculous line length on an iPhone screen has got to come pretty close.

"14. Be critical. Make sure to have an endless list of dislikes and voice them often, whether or not your opinion is solicited. For example, don’t hesitate to say, “That’s what you chose to wear this morning?” or “Why is your voice so shrill?” If someone is eating eggs, tell them you don’t like eggs. Your negativity can be applied to almost anything."

You can, for instance, object to perfectly valid criticisms. How dare this person question legibility!

This is a solved problem. Adjust your user agent.

I thought it was appropriate constructive feedback.

It's only really feedback if it goes to source. If it's on here it's just whinging.

Oh come on, we can recognise a joke here on HN. We don't have to be serious 100% of the time. It was funny!

It's the "print" (as in, formatted for a printer) version of the article, you can see it in the url (or probably not on mobile).

Here's the full link with all the page bloat included: https://www.alternet.org/here-are-14-habits-highly-miserable...


Well, I appreciated the presumably intentional humour in this comment even if no-one else did so don't consign yourself to abject misery over the reactions.

If it were any other website I would assume the humor was intentional, but I still have my doubts here.

> 5. Attribute bad intentions.

;)


Oh... Oh my God.

You sir, are on point. I read this comment after the one above and literally laughed out loud.

If you tap the icon with the horizontal lines on the left side of the address bar, it'll activate reader view.

Ugh, no. Don't mess with classic, lightly-formatted HTML.

    p {
      max-width: 48rem;
    }
Is that really so awful? I love ultralight formatting, but once you start pushing 60rem text width it becomes very difficult to read.

So shrink your browser window, tilt your phone to the side, or switch to reader mode

Alternately, you could make a website that has a good user experience by default for people using some of the most popular platforms instead of sticking with arbitrary standards from decades ago

Users these days, so spoiled...

If you use safari its a perfect setup for readability mode! Its a simple document and gets parsed perfectly.

Safari Reader Mode is a habit of unmiserable people.

Sorry you don't have a competent browser on your device that can render text in a readable fashion.

Reader view works in this page and is perfectly readable.

It's fine on my 4.6" phone.

15th miserable habit: Buy a phone that is too big for you.

having been, for want of a better term, ‘highly miserable’ in the past, the entirety of this article comes across as insidiously toxic and detrimental to the mental well-being of those who are suffering.

there is a.. loosely similar CGP Grey video, which approaches the matter in a much more rational context [1]

for anyone suffering, i emplore you to not read this and watch this instead;

[1] - https://youtube.com/watch?v=LO1mTELoj6o


Amen.

I didn't watch your linked video, but I definitely agreed with your post. As someone who has also been highly miserable (aka clinically depressed) in the past, various sentiments along the line of "come on, life is great, why can't you appreciate it?" and "that's no so bad, suck it up" most definitely did NOT help me overcome my depression.

Which makes me wonder: if the purpose of this post is to belittle "miserable" people, well I guess it succeeds, but then that seems a pretty miserable thing to do in the first place. If the purpose is to ironically remind folks that there are easy things you can do to not be miserable, I don't think it's doing it in a particularly effective way.


Having been both clinically depressed and just generally negative and miserable, I think there's a large difference. This article addresses the latter of those two situations in a way that resonated pretty deeply with me. Clinical depression is drastically different and should be treated more as a disease than a state of mind. I don't believe this article comes across as suggesting its conclusions can treat clinical depression but rather are the symptoms of highly negative and miserable states of mind.

Hard to distinguish, as clinical depression produces many of the maligned behaviors, making it reasonable to read this piece as an attack on those suffering.

OTOH, there is a CBT angle here. That is, a depressed person may find relief in working to recognize and change the behaviors and thinking that supports those behaviors.


Yeah, agreed. "Just stop thinking like that" is terrible advice for someone suffering depression (or etc). Especially with the added spice of "and also you're a jerk."

I do think there's a good point here that these patterns are self-reinforcing, and that there can be a kind of counterintuitive pleasure in really getting down into the muck and living there. See also Notes from Underground. But the snide and aggressive tone here is really bizarre.


Thank you for the video.

As someone who is still in school and struggles with emotion/time management/procrastination, I was particularly hit by "focus on goals that are after which you wish to achieve." People around me have pointed this out to me, but it was only until recently did I realize how serious it was.

I think that my impulsive nature and addiction to novelty fuel this problem. Even browsing Hacker News is a manifestation of this. HN always has some cool idea that I could be studying or hacking on when I have free time. But I spend too much time thinking about possibilities than getting done what's right in front of me, because I'm addicted to novelty. I especially neglect school work, which isn't boring at all and rather fascinating and useful, and instead try to find weird things to explore. My huge queue on Pocket is one of many testaments to this. The result is poor, and I feel miserable and disappointed in myself.

Of course, as the video touches upon, modern technology (social media, apps, even internet pornography) exploits humans' desire for novelty (though as previously explained, I think I'm far more vulnerable than average). The video helped me see the connection between my habit and this tendency.


This was a wonderfully witty and almost equally sarcastic take on happiness. Good guffaws guaranteed.

Yeah, I am disgusted in reading this, really sickens me. I have reached out to the author that I might be able to help her. This article really makes me want to create a counter-article, "The 14 True Identities of Joyful People"(I've exchanged Habits for True Identities, because it is an inherent worth that we all have and when known transforms us to choose Joy, this not being of works as is the case with habits).. Anyways, I suspect I may just write that article.

I think it depends on how you take it; some of cognitive behavioural therapy is about changing how you behave physically in order to achieve changes of your mood, or break you out of unhealthy mental habits.

I similarly didn't appreciate this approach. It pillories those who think like this, whether that's within their control or not.

> 3. Give yourself a negative identity. Allow a perceived emotional problem to absorb all other aspects of your self-identification. If you feel depressed, become a Depressed Person; if you suffer from social anxiety or a phobia, assume the identity of a Phobic Person or a Person with Anxiety Disorder. Make your condition the focus of your life.

I think a couple of us in comments are rightly angry about this point, since it's easily read as a "hide and get over it" to those with real mental health conditions.

But it isn't. It's saying to not wholly "identify as a Depressed person". It's making sure you know the difference between living like "It's harder for me to get out of bed" and "I can't get out of bed, I'm depressed." The first one is an attitude that makes recovery an option. The second lifestyle is the trap that highly miserable people find themselves in.

I think this difference is really important. Kudos to the author for highlighting it.


Number 3, "Give yourself a negative identity," just sounds like "I don't like when people have mental health problems. Get over it already."

It's the distinction between "I suffer from X" vs "X defines who I am as a person".

Once you let any X define you as a person, and for a sufficiently long time, it becomes very ingrained. It's a dangerous thing.

If you're telling yourself that you might be falling for a bit of a sneaky misconception about your problems. Take it from me, there's a big difference between realistically accepting a mental health problem and making it into your whole identity and wallowing in it.

There's also a big difference between mental health denial / "get over it already" and making steps to finally stop it from totally dominating your life in the future.

Depression is like a separate animal inside you with its own drives for survival and reproduction. You don't turn your back on it, but you don't let it devour you and steal your name and face either.

If it can manage to, it would love to take control of you and make you believe that there is literally nothing that can help and you're utterly powerless to change anything, and that anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is just one of those people who doesn't understand and thinks you can just cheer yourself up out of depression by smiling and going outside or whatever. That's a false dichotomy.


Not fully. The point (I think) is not letting oneself be consumed by a problem & constantly identifying to be about it. There are way more things to define you.

Precisely.

There's a huge difference between saying "I have severe depression, and it takes great effort for me to get through a day without buckling" and saying "I have severe depression, so my daily mental breakdowns aren't my fault".


Those aren't mutually exclusive

True, but I think they were alluding to the difference in outlook that suggests who takes responsibility for the downsides. One way is using it as an excuse to dismiss others concerns and the other way is having empathy toward how your situatiom affects others and acknowledging their side of the same challenge.

The author doesn't say that she doesn't like people who give themselves a negative identity, but rather that it's a habit which makes them miserable, which is plausible.

She also doesn't say that any of the habits can be casually broken, if only they are recognized.


Are you practicing number 5? If so, great job!

not necessarily - he could just be invoking the "do not attribute to malice what can easily be explained by stupidity" rule

It's not always so easy to tell apart the things you have control over vs. the things you don't, but I think that all these rules can be summarized in one line, which is basically: If you're feeling sorry for yourself, you'd better find something more productive to do.


> It's not always so easy to tell apart the things you have control over vs. the things you don't, but I think that all these rules can be summarized in one line, which is basically: If you're feeling sorry for yourself, you'd better find something more productive to do.

I wholly agree with this. There's something deeply insightful, subtle and difficult about recognizing one's own control in a situation. I've thought about this a lot in the last year. The way I phrase it right now is: people don't have a choice until they realize they have one.


The counterpart to the rule is that stupidity is widespread and almost unfixable in general.

Did I invoke one of the stupid rules from the article just right now? :)


It's more like "I don't like when people with mental health problems start identifying themselves with that problem." I don't like it either :)

This reminds me of the great book "The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious" [0] by the Austrian-American psychologist Paul Watzlawick. Excellent use of reverse psychology, let's you realize how many of those approaches you tend to use in your daily life.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Situation-Hopeless-Serious-Pursuit-Un...


I liked How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use. Which also helped with showing underrated strategies for upping happiness.

https://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Miserable-Strategies-Already/d...


I've been unsuccessfully trying for a couple of minutes to identify the movie where I first heard the joke of the title.

> 12. Glorify or vilify the past.

Do not do this. Do not live in the past. Do not think about what might, what could, what should have happened. Learn from it and move onwards. Nothing good comes from constantly dwelling on things that can't be changed.


Goes to identity. Telling people not to do this is pointless unless you can suggest another way to construct identity. A person without a past is... an interesting thought experiment, but not something that exists in the real world. Identity builds up in layers -- what is your nation, your religion, your favorite team, your hometown, your college, your spouse, your child. If you give all of that up, then who are you? What are your goals? What do you believe in? What are you willing to fight for? What gives life meaning?

A better bit of advice is "avoid ruminating" and this applies to every thought, not just the ones that involve the past. But even that is not easy, especially for those who create things, since to create something you have to ruminate on it heavily, for months or years -- this is probably why there is an overlap between depression and creativity.


The key difference between rumination and self-reflection is that rumination doesn't accomplish anything. As soon as you finish examining whatever you were examining, you're right back at square one with no new insights. It's essentially beating yourself up for doing the best you can.

Self-reflection seems like rumination, but the goal is to learn something from whatever you're examining. To take a lesson from it, if there is a lesson. Not every moment is a teachable moment. If you're lucky, many of them are.

Sometimes an experience is just an experience, and there's nothing different you could or should have done. Take, for example, the numerous times I've been honked at in traffic. Is there some hidden meaning in those beeps? Should I have been paying more attention in that moment? Or did I make an honest mistake? If it's an honest mistake, there's nothing I can really do. No magical training regimen will make me an infallible driver, so I have to move on.

It's tempting in some cases to keep looking for a lesson. Some experiences will never contain a lesson no matter how hard you look. Rumination is cultivating the desert of those experiences.


"The key difference between rumination and self-reflection is that rumination doesn't accomplish anything"

The fundamental activity involves reviewing a thought over and over again, sometimes thousands of times over many years. Sometimes this leads to a new painting, a new novel, a new movie script, a new piece of software, or a new insight about something that happened to you as a child. Sometimes a person fails to make any progress.

You write "The key difference" but these are words without meaning. Sometimes you ruminate on a novel you are writing, but you can't figure out the ending, so you accomplish nothing. Sometimes you ruminate on that time you insulted your alcoholic brother and the next month he killed himself, but this time, reviewing the memory, you recall that he'd said he was going to kill himself long before, so it wasn't really your fault.

There is a reason why therapists often want to talk about a person's childhood -- sometimes reviewing the past leads to a new insight. Sometimes it doesn't. You can't judge the value of the activity simply by whether it produces something. Sometimes it will and sometimes it won't.


That's the whole point of the article... don't do any of these things!

Maybe dwelling for a long time on those things is how some people learn. Not everyone can think about something in the past for a brief moment, learn everything and then discard it. Sometimes it takes years to interpret everything, and put the pieces together.

Thinking about something briefly and then moving on cold turkey is often completely phony: basically a form of denial. You're not free if you have "off limits" areas that you don't let yourself think about.


Nostalgia isn't all bad...in fact it's believed to improve your mood.

Yeah, for a short moment. Longer tern it likely leads to not appreciating the present.

Comparing your past self to your present self can be extremely destructive if you think you were in a better place then than you are now.

Maybe sometimes it’s abjectly true - you became homeless and in the past you weren’t so it was better back then. In a lot of cases you’re probably looking back on a high moment while in the middle of a low moment. Either way, the comparison does far more harm than good and it might well hold you back.


Haha, this has to be high satire. I am thrilled to read it.

The reason this list is so relatable is because all of these behaviors are things normal, healthy people do. It's just a matter of degree, which is true of just about any behavior. If you take anything too far it will make you miserable.

It's possible to reframe every single one of these behaviors in a positive light.


CGP Grey made a great video [0] pretty similar to this, it has a bunch of points about physical things (changing sleep schedule, staying indoors) and keeps the same sarcastic tone.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO1mTELoj6o


"when your living conditions are stable, peaceful, and prosperous—no civil wars raging in your streets, no mass hunger, no epidemic disease, no vexation from poverty—making yourself miserable is a craft all its own, requiring imagination, vision, and ingenuity."

On the contrary, Tribe by sebastian junger has me fairly convinced me that the irony here is that people band together, find a sense of belonging and often psychological well being under strenuous circumstances more naturally than they do in peaceful, every man for himself and his or her own pursuit of happiness times.


It's almost as if we were hardwired through millions of years of evolution to enjoy and thrive struggling through difficult conditions... Interesting!

It seems like many people in this thread missed the sarcastic tone of the article...

Well, I just about stopped reading at

> Let’s exclude some obvious ways, like doing drugs ...

Not entirely, though. But I did get disgusted not long after, by the smug tone.

Maybe it's all sarcastic ranting about self-help literature. But even if so, I didn't find it very funny.


Yes, it seemed a bit random and confusing to me. I didn't think drugs or gambling obviously made people miserable - aren't they purpose made for pleasure? They don't really annoy other people either which turned out to be what the list was actually about - it should be called "Behaviors I don't like in other people because I don't know how to handle them".

They are purpose made for pleasure, but not happiness.

Put another way: those things are constructed to induce a point-in-time pleasurable state of mind; not create lasting happiness—in fact, they are often at odds with sustainable positivity due to their risk/feedback/reward cyclic nature.


Maybe it’s just semantics but what is the distinction between doing something like drugs for pleasure versus doing something like drugs for escapism? Do they overlap?

I’m now oddly reminded of Freud’s Civilisation and It’s Discontents, where he talks about the pleasure principle, etc — I should pick it up again but it felt tedious.


I used to know the person that probably served as a model for this article.

Not only does this method work to make yourself miserable, but also all the people around you. If you detect this behaviour, run like hell.


I did not think these things were so simple, but... yes, I used to know someone that could have served as a model for the article as well. Every single point seems to apply to this person.

This list can hurt some feelings, but it sure could help some people if it was more widely known.


It seems to me that the people with hurt feelings are not exactly the same as the ones described by the article.

4, 5, 7, 9, 13 and 14 are definitely hostile behaviours. They're also self-damaging because, as I advised, people runs. But these behaviours are firstly and foremost against others.

If someone gets hurt feelings about those, I'm fine with it.


>Be afraid, be very afraid, of economic loss.

I've always made a mental connection between permabears/zerohedge readers as likely miserable and unhappy people. The wild conspiracy theories and general hatred of certain groups in comment sections doesn't help, but noticed online and in person that people who are always predicting/worrying about the next catastrophe (financial or otherwise) generally lead unhappy lives.


Historically, the market has been great across the board for as long as most people have been alive (do you know anyone who was alive during the Great Depression and is alive today?). But doom-and-gloom negativity about the economy is a great marketing approach. It hits some button people have, gets them to buy gold or whatever other paranoid nonsense will save them from the Coming Economic Collapse.

I know where you're coming from, but here in the states a lot of real people are struggling to afford real goods and services that they need to stay alive: housing, healthcare, education, etc.

I wouldn't say economic anxiety is just 'nonsense fueled by conspiracy theorists.'


I'm not saying economic anxiety is nonsense.

I'm saying scenarios of imminent collapse of the economy are nonsense.


Hits a button that some people have... most people don't appear to have that particular button.

There is this hypothesis in psychology, depressive realism, that says that depressed persons see reality more clearly but this better vision isn't an advantage, on the contrary it's useless.

I feel like this article offers a lot of good points and factors to be aware of when sad, but it doesn't really point at ways to change. Anyone want to help compile a list of actionables or things to consider that you've personally found helpful?

I'll start:

> 2. Practice sustained boredom.

I find that a pretty decent solution to being bored is to do something that I've been trying to avoid for a while, like running an errand or trying to learn something very technical. I find that feeling reluctant/frustrated often ends up being better than feeling like there's nothing to do, and usually doing this comes with a pretty handsome feel-good when you finally finish that errand or figure out what the darned textbook is trying to say.


I get that it's a satirical article, but I don't understand the point it's making.

This is the result of people having the psycho rigidity to assume happiness is the golden standard of life, the moral standard of "things that are good, and things that are bad".

"Things could be worse" is a good enough way to look at things, but ultimately, when people have bad feelings, remember it can stem from their biology, education or way of life.

It's important to concede that certain things can be deterministic in life. What is worse is this obsession to always get better in every minute of your life. Cults have similar obsessions.

Just let go a little.


This article exists with the value judgement that being not miserable is some kind of boon or "positive" or "good thing". Anything that starts with that kind of implied value judgement w/o anything substantive can be disregarded.

Edit to add: Seriously though, a healthy amount of cynicism is required for critical thinking. If you try too hard to be something, whether that's happy or positive or whatever, you're depriving yourself from thinking of everything that might comprise a reality, and thus looking at just half of it. But yeah, too much of anything is bad.

[Also, I get sarcasm, you should too, hopefully].


".. a healthy amount of skepticism is required .."

This article alludes to the importance of ego death: the entire spectrum of positive to negative self-perceptions are entirely mutable. You might’ve thought you were an awkward dork at one point, so you fulfilled your own expectations with subtle self-sabotaging behaviors to reinforce this identity persona.

More importantly, FIUYMI is a perfectly-viable strategy because it sells a persona to the practitioner’s self via repeated exposure.

Another consideration is to do all that is possible, while impossible, to remove ego from thoughts and instead focus as a trained observer: perceiving and gathering data.


15. Click on any of the links in the Trending Now section at the bottom of the article.

It's ironic how the author comes across as utterly condescending and miserable herself. I don't see how this article may be helpful to anyone struggling with mental health issues, nor to their loved ones or therapists. Completely uninspired in its tone, exaggerated in its content, and unintelligible in its objectives.

Well great advice so i should follow it: If you are a stoic, positive person who doesn't negatively affect the life of others and your own, do not make the mistake to think you have it good. You re just a convenient person, transparent and invisible to everyone because people like drama, they don't like rocks.

This article muddles association with causation.

I think it's dangerous to assume that these traits cause unhappiness, even if that might be true for some people in particular cases.

If you are less happy, you are probably less likely to take a risk with your job. If you are less happy, you a probably more likely to start a fight or fall out with your partner. If you are less happy you are likely to give yourself a negative identity. etc etc etc etc..

I don't get the feeling that this article is written by someone who has brought themselves on a journey out of unhappiness, but rather by someone who is irritated by someone else's unhappiness.


Please add lose yourself in your world of unrealistic fantasy. Watch porn, a lot of it. Allow yourself to get consumed by it. See people as objects. Then watch more porn.

Start gambling, with your money first, then with other peoples' money. You are entitled to that money even though it's theirs. Society owes you a lot already.

Even better, combine the two, do online strip poker. Do anything but face the often less colourful reality.


Why do I get the feeling that whoever wrote this just came out of a bad relationship?

Yeah, I feel like every headline is missing a ", Sharon!" at the end.

The rest of the list notwithstanding, this one got me thinking:

>Well-meaning friends and relatives will try to sabotage your efforts to be thankless. For example, while you’re in the middle of complaining about the project you procrastinated on at work to your spouse during an unhealthy dinner, he or she might try to remind you of how grateful you should be to have a job or food at all.

Am I the only person who finds these sorts of pithy attempts to be colossally irritating?

Feeling sad/depressed? Cheer up!

Feeling overwhelmed? It's not so bad!

Job annoying you? At least you have a job!

Yes, thank you for the comment and completely shutting down my attempts at commiserating. Now am I not only still bothered by what I was originally bothered by, I'm annoyed at the interlocutor.

Perhaps I'm only 1/14th miserable? :)


> It’s inevitable that as you make yourself miserable, you’ll be making those around you miserable also, at least until they leave you—which will give you another reason to feel miserable.

More people in the field of mental health should have a sense of humor like this.

I think the sarcastic tone of the article is extremely effective at getting its message across. It felt like been repeatedly slapped in the face but ending up grateful for the experience at the end.

Love the list, hate the attitude

A couple people I showed this to immediately got upset by #3.

I get that it comes off as another "Just stop being depressed/anxious" argument, which is undoubtedly tone-deaf, but there's still a point to be made here.

Depression and Anxiety are real issues, and you can't just "get over it". However, being in control of oneself and refusing to define yourself by things like depression and anxiety are important to besting things like depression and anxiety.

Just because it is an affliction doesn't mean you should allow yourself to be defeated by it. It doesn't mean that you are doing any good using these problems as an excuse, because no matter how unfair it seems, depression and anxiety isn't an excuse for willful misery.


Giving advice in a deeply sarcastic form just obscures the message. It's OK if it's for a silly lighthearted topic, but for anything serious it's just tacky.

The attitude is what makes the list useful to those who might benefit from it.

You'll have to take my word that the list has the opposite effect of being helpful. It's rather off-putting to read despite being quite accurate.

It's okay - you aren't one of the people who would be helped by this article. But some people would be.

This is from 2013 (I checked because I thought I was having deja vu)

https://www.alternet.org/personal-health/14-habits-highly-mi...


Not sure why that article has made anywhere on HN. The writer shows a lot of contempt for "feeling miserable", and foster the illusion that people are actually in total control of their feeling and emotions.

Reminds me of the end of John Cleese’s talk on creativity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb5oIIPO62g

Clever article. Although it's a bit ironic that it appears on that site, which seems to be dedicated to anxiety-inducing political news.

Take from this what you will:

If you don't have a serious mental illness, you can't even imagine the excruciating agony.

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