The pleasure of being miserable
Pleasure and misery are opposites — how, then, can there be any pleasure in being miserable? Because the mind is a peculiar thing; it can seek pleasure in anything, even in a thing such as misery that is the opposite of pleasure.
Consider hypochondriacs. They pretend to be sick so that they may get some attention and care. Such pretence requires reduced mobility, which can itself be a misery — yet they think such miseries are worth the pleasure of the attention and care. Or consider masochists. They gain some perverse pleasure in causing pain to themselves. A tragic example is people with a cutting compulsion.
Even if we consider such people extreme, we probably know people who constantly complain about how terrible their life is. When they can thus blame everything outside of themselves for their plight, they no longer have to improve themselves as a precondition for improving their situation. Though they may be miserable, they comfort themselves by having a convenient excuse to stay the way they are. This comfort increases significantly if they can advertise their misery and thus become a center of attention. We often like to be the center of attention; if we don’t get it by doing something worthwhile or wonderful, then we seek it by showing how distinctive we are in the sufferings we are undergoing.
Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (18.39) calls this psychological propensity pleasure in the mode of ignorance — it’s simply delusion from beginning to end. There’s no pleasure really, but we feel some sense of titillation in our lethargy, inebriety, self-pity and so forth.
Thankfully, Gita wisdom provides the principles and practices to find higher happiness, thereby gaining the strength to resist the pleasure of being miserable.
Don’t underestimate the pleasure of being miserable, especially when the misery can be advertised — take responsibility to resist it.
Think it over:
- Give two examples of people who get pleasure in being miserable.
- What is the pleasure in being miserable?
- How can we resist this temptation to be miserable?
18.39: And that happiness which is blind to self-realization, which is delusion from beginning to end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion is said to be of the nature of ignorance.