Understanding Dissatisfaction can help you harness it as a force for good in your life.
This is the fifth installment in the Chronic Dissatisfaction series. Start at the first installment.
Chronic Dissatisfaction (CD) is that restless feeling of yearning, wishing for something more but not even knowing what it is…CD can be an ever-present hum in the background of your life or it can show up sporadically. Through reflecting on CD when it visits you, you can let go of it more easily as a problem and accept it as part of the human condition. CD also often carries lessons within it and, I’ve realised, it can be more friend than foe.
You can’t always identify the ‘why’ of CD, which is what makes it so challenging and so common, but you can harness the power of it, rather than live in fear of it. And like it or hate it, you might as well learn to live with episodes of amorphous dissatisfaction because for most of us, it’s unavoidable at some points in life.
Let’s define some common reasons why we find ourselves in the grip of chronic dissatisfaction to increase our understanding of how to deal with it.
You think you should be constantly happy
If you set a belief that you should be happy all the time, you are regularly going to suffer dissatisfaction. Constant, unrelenting happiness is not realistic and not even appropriate.
Instead, set a goal for greater emotional freedom — meaning the freedom to let yourself feel according to the circumstances of the present moment. Aim for the freedom and mindfulness to be able to respond well, rather than being stuck in an ongoing background state of dissatisfaction, anxiety, depression or anger. Feelings — including happiness, sadness and dissatisfaction are meant to come and go according to what’s happening to us.
You apply unrealistic standards to yourself
If you’ve set up ‘never-good-enough’ criteria for judging your performance, or set goals that aren’t based on personally realistic standards, you’ve set up a recipe for recurring CD.
We may have learned the belief somewhere that unrealistic standards, constant dissatisfaction and harshness are the only paths to achieving success. Fortunately, we can reprogram such beliefs of the past to be more encouraging, although it can take some time and understanding to change our mindset and corresponding behaviour.
Dissatisfaction is your only form of motivation
The cost of being endlessly driven by dissatisfaction is being relentlessly smashed by its negative cascades of feeling and thoughts. which to me, outweighs the motivational benefits.
Would you not gain more overall from being pulled forward by love, desire and joy rather than pushing and grinding and forcing a ‘not enough’ attitude uphill everyday?
Focus on what you love and what you’re great at, and let that draw you forward.
You’ve Got Comparisonitis
We typically compare ourselves to others in all sorts of ways, but it’s not something to allow to run unchecked. Comparison as a way of life is a path to ensuring you will always be dissatisfied with some aspect of yourself, your world or your abilities. It’s a mark of maturity to stop comparing ourselves and to realise that comparing people is a bit like comparing oranges and apples…or peaches…
Performer Dita von Teese is quoted as saying
You might be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.
Sometimes dissatisfaction is just a manifestation of being really angry, like you’re carrying raw and glowing embers of rage under your surface. Something might need forgiving somewhere, something feels unfair or outrageous and you’re mentally pacing your insides, looking for change.
It can be quite reasonable to feel that way sometimes. In fact, there’s plenty going on the world to be angry and dissatisfied about.
The best thing to do with anger is to recognise it and look for the positive ways to express it as useful action, a fire that burns to make a difference in things you care about, not to harm them. Anger is powerful life-force, bubbling up and saying fight for something better!
Reflect on the useful places to direct your anger. Never let your anger destroy. Let it drive, let it create, let it direct better outcomes and better ways in the world through finding better ways in you.
Dissatisfaction gets you feeling loved
This is a HUGE reason for CD and it’s usually completely unconscious. For some of us, the way to get the attention of carers as a child was to be DISSATISFIED.
The rest of the time, when we were happy, we were largely left to our own devices. Thus, we learned that the way to get attention was to be sad, cry out in dissatisfaction.
Is this striking a chord in you? Do you regularly find yourself wanting to grizzle, complain, fault find, especially around your intimate others? Could it be that finding something to be dissatisfied with is a way to get their full and complete attention?
If you’re answering “Yes, Yes, YES!” you’ve probably just uncovered a bit of self-knowledge. That gives you the power to change, from needy and dissatisfied to more content. Ask for what you need rather than living in dissatisfaction.
Owning your reality, naming your feelings and getting some insight into why they recur are powerful first steps to getting free of the painful or debilitating manifestations of CD. So, the goal is not to rid yourself of difficult feelings. The goal to be more self-aware, note the feelings, but choose your behaviour.
With mindful awareness you can teach yourself to channel the energy of CD in helping you towards your desires. You can employ it in the service of you, your work or your art. More in the final installment in this Chronic Dissatisfaction series, where we examine practical strategies to tame CD.
If you’re wanting to go deeper, check out my book Lovelands in good bookstores or on Amazon or Audible.