Many people innocently believe that all they have to do is sit back, coast through life, and misery will come to them. Nothing could be further from the truth! The sobering fact is that serenity and joy are natural states for us all. Just observe a child at play, yourself on a favorite vacation, or anyone absorbed in creative activity. As our minds clear of clutter and negative thinking, a profound sense of peace and contentment often emerges. Does this mean there's no hope? Absolutely not! The strategies outlined below, practiced regularly, vastly improve our odds of achieving misery.
1. CLING TO ENTITLEMENT
You are perfectly entitled to feelings of entitlement. It is your birthright to expect unfailing attention, loyalty, respect, and subservience from others. Contemplate the inherent, self-evident unfairness of anyone having something you want. Strive to see compromise, accommodation, patience, and responsibility, as somehow relevant only to "the other guy." In general, be aware that life owes you and that you were put on this planet to collect.
2. IT'S ALL PERSONAL
Malicious intent is always present if you just look carefully enough. This is particularly true regarding family members. Suppose your spouse overlooks one of your preferences. Seize the opportunity to view this as conclusive proof that you don't really matter to them and probably never have. If your children dawdle at bedtime, see them as viciously spiteful and yourself as a sorry excuse for a parent. It's really very simple. Ignore nothing, and always assume evil intent. Remember, if you don't take things personally no one will do it for you.
3. FOCUS ON PROBLEMS
There is really very little sense in having problems if you don't focus on them. It's crucial therefore to keep careful track of all your problems and constantly review them. Nurture the attitude that you can't really move on to anything unless everything is resolved first. Remember also that there is no solution without a problem, if you look closely enough. Always resist the temptation to ponder where problems go when you don't think about them.
Too often people cheat themselves out of misery by maintaining perspective. This is both needless as well as extremely counter productive. Why would anyone ever want to think of themselves as "just human" when "fatally flawed" and "irredeemably warped" are available? Similarly, when recalling past mistakes, why stop at instructive regret when paralyzing guilt is within reach? Sure it requires a bit of effort, but the payoff can be enormous. Just imagine the benefits of eventually believing that your negative thinking actually reflects reality.
5. EXPECT CATASTROPHE
It is critical to remember that really terrible things can occur at any moment. Let's start with the body. Begin by paying close attention to changes in bodily sensation, no matter how trivial. Next, let your imagination run wild. Anything involving flesh-eating bacteria or intestinal parasites will usually do the trick. People sometimes protest that their bodies feel perfectly fine. Not to worry! Think "Silent Killers." Feeling perfectly fine places you squarely at risk for these. Of course, there is no reason to stop at personal health issues. The range of potential catastrophe is vast. For example, there are suitcase bombs, encroaching asteroids, global recession, pandemics, killer bees, and so on. Simply use your imagination to craft a realistic sense of impending doom. Savor the pride you'll feel on your death bed knowing that nothing ever caught you by surprise.
6. JUST SAY "NO THANKS" TO GRATITUDE
Gratitude is to misery what Kryptonite is to Superman. All the hard work you've invested in misery will go down the drain if you start fiddling around with gratitude. A zero tolerance policy is very much in order. This is very challenging, however, as life runs rampant with opportunities for gratefulness. Begin, therefore, by thoroughly discounting all the good in your life as a "given." Next, focus your mind on the many ways in which life continues to disappoint you. At an advanced level, you can even learn to see the bad in the good. For instance, should you get a big raise you could immediately focus on the tax implications. Eliminate gratitude from your life and misery will be right around the corner.
A final word. The beauty of misery is that the more you share it with others, the more you wind up having. So share generously. After all, misery loves company.