Why I love to be miserable – and you do too

rde5585_hiLast night I went to a friend’s house for dinner and I found myself going off on a proper binge of negative thinking. In real life, in the NOW, I was sitting in her kitchen, eating spaghetti and half listening to Sunday’s episode of The Voice. I was warm and with a friend and had actually done a good day’s work. All was well.

And yet in my head things were not well. I was spinning off into ‘Your blog is sh*t, what the hell are you doing with your life, when are you going to earn proper money, people think you’re an idiot, why are you drinking, you’re not meant to be drinking etc etc…’

At one point my friend asked me if I was OK, that I seemed sad, and I copped out and said, ‘Yeah, all fine, just tired.’ Bloody hell, the number of times I’ve said ‘I’m tired’ when I mean ‘sad, frustrated, scared…’. I didn’t say any of that because in my head I was imaging her thinking I’m a stupid, self-indulgent cow who should get on with things. Like she does. Like the rest of the world does.

While all this was happening, I kept trying out the Power of Now techniques in my head – ‘Be here now,’ I kept telling myself, while looking around her lovely kitchen and taking deep breaths and trying to feel my feet (ha! – Tolle recommends going into the body when your brain is going off on one).

‘Do you have any problems right now?’ I asked myself and of course the answer was ‘no’… but still there was a battle going on in my head.

I was wedded to my negative thoughts – I wasn’t going to let them go – they were too familiar, like an old pair of jeans that look like crap but you won’t let go of. The truth was I was almost getting a perverse pleasure out of my ‘poor me’, doom and gloom narrative.

Tolle says that this is our ego. He says that most of us think having a big ego means that you are full of yourself but that actually, it can be the other way around too:

He says:Every ego wants to be special. If it can’t be special by being superior to others, it’s also quite happy with being especially miserable. Someone will say, “I have a headache,” and another says, “I’ve had a headache for weeks.” People actually compete to see who is more miserable! The ego doing that is just as big as the one that thinks it’s superior to someone else. If you see in yourself that unconscious need to be special, then you are already free, because when you recognize all the patterns of the ego…’

He defines the ego as a false sense of self we’ve constructed based on our past, our family. It is solely a product of our thoughts.

This ego thrives on being different to others (either better or worse),  thrives on conflict (my constant imagining of people thinking I’m crap is a kind of silent conflict going on in my head…). It wants outside validation (praise or a new car, house, job etc to show it’s better than everyone else) and is threatened when that doesn’t happen (hence my fear of writing a crap book, of not being a ‘success’ – all that is ego).

But most of all the ego hates anything that threatens the status quo.

“The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to re-create what it knows and is familiar with.  Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar,’ says Tolle.

I would rather stay in my negative thoughts, no matter how unhappy they make me, because they are who I think I am. They are the story I’ve been telling myself for as long as I can remember. I get a kick out of the ‘poor me, I’m messing up, victim’ stuff. It’s my identity.

If I lost that identity, who would I be? Just another person, the same as anybody else, bobbing along from day to day. Where’s the drama in that?  I wouldn’t be special anymore.

I think this is why self-help books often don’t help in the long term; we want to change without really changing. We keep going back to our old ways, our old selves, because it’s too scary not to.

Tolle says that stepping away from our egoic mind literally feels like death, so your ego (in the form of your crazy, manic thoughts) will do all it can to keep you in the same old loop.

According to Tolle, our ego wants us to feel separate from the people around us, while the ‘truth’ is that we are all part of the same consciousness, the same life force, we are the same Being. We are all One.

Does any of this make sense?

These are all deep concepts and I don’t think I’m articulating them very well – my brain can’t quite get hold of them, they’re slippery. Sometimes I believe this whole ‘we are one’ thing and other times I don’t really know what that means. But I do get the ego stuff and can see how big a part it plays in life.

So what to do? As ever, just keep being aware. So the fact that there was a crazy battle going on in my head last night – between the silly stories I was telling myself, and my ‘deeper’ self that was saying ‘these are silly stories’ – is progress. I guess. Slow progress but progress…

But enough about me and my GIANT EGO.

What stories are you wedded to about yourself? Which mental loops do you find yourself in time and time again? Are they around money? Weight? Romance? Your childhood? Are they angry stories or sad stories? Stories about how people think you’re stupid or will leave you? Can anybody relate to any of this? Has anybody managed to conquer the voice in their head?

Bueller, Bueller, Bueller… ?


17 thoughts on “Why I love to be miserable – and you do too

  1. JohnC

    What makes me depressed:
    ‘This part of your order will be delivered by Yodel.
    You can view your consignment on the Yodel website ‘
    We all know that there’s a 30% chance that they’re not going to deliver, even though it’s a next day delivery don’t we?

    Anyway, back to your point – do you find that these books of yours make you run around in circles? One month you’re ‘This type of person’ & the next month the book suggests that you’re ‘That type of person’. Are these books actually doing you harm?

    1. Fred

      That’s an interacting point, I think the more personal development books you read the more confused and in grounded you become….

  2. Sue Ingram

    Wow!!! Great article and rang so many bells with me. Planning some building work in the house and getting really upset that it will be a long, dirty difficult job and that I shall have to be really on the case and manage my builder. Would LOVE to be special enough to find the magical building who will do a first class job at a reasonable cost with no additional costs and who would sweep everything up at the end of each day! After all I AM SPECIAL!!! The reality, of course, is that I will do my best, there will be unexpected costs even if I manage it really well and I shall have to be managing the builders every single day – just like everyone else has had to do! Liking this series of articles very much indeed and walking with you! Today will spend more time in Now, learning information that would help me in the building work, rather than getting lost in what might be, fear and feeling aggrieved before even starting the work!!!

  3. Marianne Cantwell

    M, you’re articulating it so well. The concepts are slippery and you’re doing them justice. This line I will be quoting: “I think this is why self-help books often don’t help in the long term, we want to change without really changing. We keep going back to our old ways, our old selves, because it’s too scary not to.”

  4. Elaine

    Lovin the way you write and capture the essence ….My Constant thoughts… nightmares … one of my biggest fears is getting lost, no sense of direction – no trust in myself …. today I drove…. didn’t get lost 🙂 yihaa!! hugs 🙂 xx

    1. Marianne Power Post author

      Elaine, I’m so glad! Getting lost can be fun too though, I’ve had many adventures that way. x

      1. Elaine

        Ha!!! do you know what Marianne, I’ve never thought of it that way!!!!! It’s always felt just a disastrous thing to do, and a way that reinforced all the negative things I thought about myself ….. 🙂 smiling a LOT now 🙂 here’s to the adventure!! xxxxx

  5. Lucie

    Hello Marianne and commenters – your posts are really valuable and absolutely resonate. A tad of progress, I smiled naturally a couple of times today. Keep writing as love the golden gems you are sending xxx

  6. lonestarsky

    I love how you can summarize this book so well. I go off on complete tangents whenever I try!! As much as it all makes sense, its SO HARD to do, and I relate so much to this post. My biggest fears are being made to look stupid and being left out, both of which stem from childhood. I have days where things go really well, then suddenly my ego kicks off and reminds me that actually, I really *am* stupid and I deserve to be left out. I know its all bollocks but sometimes that voice is so persistent. Its a constant internal battle that I’m determined to win.

    1. Marianne Power Post author

      It is a constant battle, isn’t it? Very glad you think I’m summarising it well. It’s so slippery. I read it and think, yes, I’ve got it and then the idea goes and I don’t understand again!

  7. Blonde girl

    I think you are doing a fab job! Since Monday’s post I have been trying to quieten the voice that brings the constant cycle in my head. I am single, not a mum when I want to be & my voice kicks in with “its because you are not attractive, carrying some extra pounds, are quiet you won’t be a mum as you are too old at 37″blah blah! It’s daft & I know it’s daft as I am the opposite of these things (except my age ha ha!) I know that. I can’t seem to solve the being single puzzle yet, but reading your blogs really helps battle with the thought processes which are factors in the self doubt…. Thank you!

    1. Marianne Power Post author

      You’re welcome! Thanks very much for reading and sharing your thoughts, we’re our own worst enemies, aren’t we?

  8. Mary

    Ooh, a few uncomfortable truths here all right. The fervour with which I hang on to my ‘but nobody gets meeee…’ misery suddenly makes sense.


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