Lessons for Living       
Lesson Ten: "Comfortable Misery"


"Comfortable misery is misery you have gotten used to."




Welcome to Lessons for Living.

Today’s lesson is on: "Comfortable Misery."

Have you ever been comfortably miserable? Have you ever found yourself in a bad situation that you wished would just go away? It might be a relationship you are in or that dead-end job you have. Maybe it is that small, cramped apartment? You are unhappy and frustrated. You complain and complain about how terrible it is, but you don’t take action. You won’t change. You feel stuck and you are. You are caught in comfortable misery.

You are in a situation you don’t like, but you have gotten used to it. It is like old, comfortable shoes. They are not attractive, but you keep wearing them out of habit. If you bought new ones, you would have to break them in. What if they pinched? What if they hurt? What if you didn’t like them? Better to just stay with what you have. Why take a chance?

Comfortable misery is when you are miserable but you are used to it. You know the limits and bounds of this misery. You know that you can tolerate a situation this bad because you do it everyday? The problem is that it is scary to try and get out of comfortable misery. You could make a change but what would happen? True - things could get better? But, they could get worse. If it got worse could you stand it? You could actually create something more miserable. You might be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Maybe it is better to stay like you are. At least you know you can tolerate it.

This is the type of reasoning that holds us back and keeps us stuck. You are miserable but not miserable enough to change. How miserable do you have to get? You can wait until it becomes a crisis and you are impelled to act. But, this isn’t the best way to change. It is better to take responsibility and plan your action. Look around. What are your choices? What can you do? Be realistic. Anticipate what might go wrong and be prepared for it. Acknowledge that you might be somewhat more uncomfortable as you go through the change process but be optimistic and expect that things will get improve.

What is better - quick and intense or slow and steady? Suppose you need minor surgery. Do you want the doctor to make the incision quick or to go "real slow" so as not to hurt you? Slow and steady is actually more painful. Quick will also hurt but it is soon over with.

Comfortable misery is slow and steady. It can be very distressing over time. It becomes more and more intense. Quick action can get you out of comfortable misery. It may be temporarily unpleasant as you change but life can get much better. You are no longer stuck. You can jump out of the frying pan with its slow burn and over the fire in to a new opportunity – a new possibility. Don’t’ choose to be comfortably miserable. Choose to take a chance, take action, and see what happens.

2000 Daniel H. Johnston. All Rights Reserved.

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