Often, I've come across individuals who, while in conversation, will stumble into a rendition about 'how miserable life is.' The adult children are wrecking havoc in the home, the job's not going well, money is short, and a whole other slew of treacherous stories. During the conversation, I would interject, 'but how does this effect you personally?'
Much to my dismay, that query is usually left unanswered. Clearly we have all been in similar communication and being the compassionate persons we are, we might ask, 'so what are you going to do about it?' The most common response, 'I don't know...' or '...I can't do anything about it...'
That's when the conversation get's sticky. Now that the other person has literally poured out his heart to you about all the demons in his life, we human beings are compelled to offer our intricate advice on how to deal with their problems. Though well intended, most of our advisement will fall on deaf ears when the individual in question, is inviting misery in her life.
What do I mean by 'inviting misery?' Who would invite misery into his life? We are all guilty of inviting misery into our lives at one time or another. Suddenly, we are faced with a problem and because the problem has clouded our logic, we can not and will not accept helpful advice. Instead, we harp on the problem. We permit the problem or problems to rule our individual lives and lifestyles. Because we succomb to the problem, we begin to 'live' the problem. How does that happen? We begin to live the problem when all we can do is rant and rave about it, but subsequently, do nothing about it.
So now we're back to square one.
Here is a hypothetical example:
Joe is no one in particular - he could be your best friend, co-worker or brother. He is a divorced man in his mid-40s, works in a factory or office, and has raised two children by himself. His son is a narcissist who has a devil-may-care attitude and neglects his child. You're in mid-conversation and now you're faced with Joe's married son's issues. Joe begins to tell you all about how his son leaches off of him, brings his dirty laundry for him to wash, neglects his grandson, and doesn't listen to him for any parental advice. Joe has become so consumed by his son's wreckless behavior and unwillingness to modify his lifestyle that Joe himself has become a nervous wreck. So what do you do? You offer your friend your 'helpful' advice: 'Stop letting your son run your life...if he's not taking care of his child, turn him in...' What happens next is inevitable: I CAN'T do that!
Now this is where we are ultimately faced with a critical dilemma. We have now invaded Joe's private space and have warranted retalliation because Joe doesn't really want to solve his problems. Joe just wants to complain about problems that aren't his. It's his son - of course they're his problems - wrong.
But how does that invite misery? Well, it doesn't invite misery into our own lives, but it does in Joe's case. Joe knows that he has all the tools at his disposal to fix part or all of the situation. It's not that Joe can't fix the problem, it's that he doesn't want to fix the problem. Repairing situations takes effort, dedication and sometimes, sacrifice - it is much easier to complain about it. In Joe's case, turning his son in for neglect may sever the ties of his complex father-son relationship. He feels instant guilt and betrayal should he file a report. He doesn't want to stop his son from using him because he may sever ties of communication with him. Instead, he would rather uphold an abusive relationship with his own grown son, knowing that his grandson is in harm's way for the sake of preserving his relationship with him. This is a classical example of inviting misery into one's life.
Joe has subconsciously invited misery to become his partner in everyday life. He lives in constant debate on whether he's doing the 'right thing.' He is angry that his son has grown into a volatile person, and he is scared for his grandson's health. But still, he accepts this self-induced fate. Joe cannot control the actions of his son, but, he can control his own actions. If he permits his son to burden him with his behavior, dirty laundry and leaching, then he has invariably created his own problem. If Joe has knowledge that his grandson is being neglected, it is by choice that he allows the neglect to continue. Only Joe has the power to choose.
As human beings, we are often faced with difficult choices in life. And many times, it is much easier to worry and complain. Though difficult decisions may arise, we still have the option to create more livable environments by directing ourselves in more constructive pattens. There are many 'Joes' out there with lesser or more complex problems than the fictional Joe in this article; however, you - nor I - can help him. Joe has to help himself first.
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2005 - Are You Inviting Misery into Your Life?
by C. Bailey-Lloyd
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