So I’m going through my morning browse this morning and an article on traits of chronically unhappy people caught my eye. I did a quick scan, just to be clear on my own state of misery, and found it intriguing enough to think about for the blog. I did not bookmark the article, assuming I could find it via a quick google search. When I did that, I found this whole library of articles on the various traits of unhappy people. How have I been unaware of this until now? Probably because I do not spend a lot of my time dwelling on being unhappy. I actually try really hard not to be unhappy. I cannot avoid it entirely, but despite my periodic bouts of whining here, I actually prefer being happy and upbeat and content with my lot versus being negative and miserable.
I know a fair amount of people emotionally struggling. Some are clinically depressed, some are in transitory funks about various things, and some are chronically unhappy. Whenever possible I tend to avoid the chronically unhappy. They are nice people, but their chronic unhappiness and dissatisfaction translates to negativity and I do not want or need more negativity in my life. I can deal with the freak-out meltdowns (I have a few of those myself on a fairly routine basis), I can cope with angry outbursts (also a periodic happening for me), and I can certainly try to understand those saddled with brain chemistries that lead to depression. Grief and sadness are part of life, and hopefully I have the minimum requirement of compassion and empathy to be a caring and supportive friend and family member in those circumstances.
These are all examples of normal or limited factors within our control for discontent. Those who are unhappy because their world view leads them there are big mysteries to me. The negative aura is simply hard to take and be in the presence long enough to understand, and I have come to realize I do not have patience or desire to understand. I want them to change or be at least a couple of long arms length from my orbit. And while that seems both alarming and sad, hisotry has shown it is also what is best and healthiest for me.
One of my coworkers is extremely negative. She openly acknowledges that this is personality and outlook and seems to be content to be discontent. In any situation, she is the one bringing up and lamenting the downside, no matter how remote or unlikely to happen. She has the ability to put on a neutral, happy face for limited periods, but in truth it is an exercise in patience to deal with her on projects or to have her participate in meetings. I dread it, I hate being her boss, and if I could I would have let her go years ago. Unfortunately my bosses are far kinder and more tolerant than I am and have insisted I keep her. I have managed to isolate her in a narrow channel of work that requires limited interaction with the rest of the staff, and since her interactions with clients are limited regulatory and funding issues, i.e., not fun or pleasant matters, she does well in this role. The clients getting upset about situations beyond all our control suits her outlook and personality particularly well.
I so wanted to forward the list of traits of chronically unhappy people, but such an action is both inappropriate and rude. Besides, I would probably be drawn in to yet another conversation of how she is just this way and cannot afford the counseling to change her outlook and feels it would not work for her anyway, and then the vicious cycle of negativity invades my office once more. Growing up with an alcoholic father, I am intimately familiar with the Serenty prayer and accept that my coworker is something I cannot change. Better to leave her in peaceful misery a few doors down.