96. Past happiness augments present wretchedness.
What does it mean to be happy? Perhaps to partake in enjoyable activities, to be a part of a joyous occasion, to feel fulfilled at the end of an honest day’s work.
Wretchedness would be its opposite — to be miserable, to be deeply depressed and despondent, to feel empty at the end of a day of meaningless toil.
We’ve all felt wretched from time to time — and certainly it didn’t feel good. Many times it is magnified by the past memories of happiness, of good times, of enjoyment and fulfillment. Which can make the present moment’s wretchedness all the more wretched.
A Few Examples
What are some examples of common situations where this dynamic can play out? And what are some reframes and techniques we can take advantage of to break the spell?
- Breaking Up — Fresh off a recent breakup, one could let themselves stew in the loveless pit of despair their ego is digging for themselves. Memories of good times past, particularly with the recently-broken-up-with, could make the sting of loneliness seem unbearable. Laughing in the sun, making love at night, and every activity in between stand in stark contrast to one’s current outlook.
- Reframe — Fresh opportunity. New beginning. Chance to meet new people and grow as a person.
- Techniques — Hit the streets. Chat up everyone, particularly members of the opposite sex. Don’t wallow. Put yourself out there in lots of challenging spots with people you’re attracted to as often as you can. You’ll meet somebody. Life finds a way.
- Kicking an Addiction — After recently kicking a smoking, drinking, or other drug addiction, one could live a life that still revolves around the substance or habit just kicked. Thoughts constantly go back to the good times, as our mind all too conveniently forgets the bad times. That elusive first high, the crazy parties, and the little details of the old rituals can entice and become a fixation. One could focus more on what not to do than what to do.
- Reframe — Again, fresh opportunity, new beginning. Chance to grow as a person and take the old negative energy and turn it into something positive.
- Techniques — DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE. You are more than what you used to be or do. Pick up a hobby. Learn a new skill. Find something positive that interests you and become obsessed with that. Get as good as you possibly can. If you find something about which you’re truly passionate, there isn’t much room to be obsessed with old habits.
- Sustaining an Injury — A major injury is sustained that’s sure to take one out of the game for a while, be it playing sports, working in the trades, or another physical activity. Easy to get sucked into a blackhole of self-pity, where a woe-is-me attitude becomes all-consuming. Negative thoughts beget negative thoughts, and sooner or later one’s mind is filled with constant negativity. The high-flying championships, the glorious plays on repeat, the insurmountable challenges overcome and the professional victories won — all can make today’s circumstances seem mortally dire in comparison.
- Reframe — Yet again, an opportunity. There is a huge mental component to everything. There is not a sport or profession I know of that one couldn’t study in depth and become sharper by adopting a studious mindset. History is filled with athletes who seriously leveled up their skills while on long injury layoffs.
- Techniques — Think deeply about your strengths and weaknesses as a player / practitioner. Devise a plan to emphasize your strengths, cover for your weaknesses, and fill in all the knowledge gaps you have. Read like a maniac, devouring everything you can get your hands on. Take notes, write down possible strategies, and discuss tactics with others in the same world.
The takeaway here is our ability to reframe what happens to us. To interpret our current circumstances as we choose to. To see the potential to grow as a person, as a professional. The pessimist does not see what is right under his nose, while the optimist does because he is attuned to the world of possibilities that surrounds him.
And if one does find themselves in wretched circumstances, do not wallow in despair. Do not obsess about happy memories from the past. Reframe the situation as a learning opportunity. A chance to grow and improve. Your future self will be thankful you did.
Until next time,
You should read more about how to live rightly, because life is short and you only have one opportunity to do so.