Ten Keys to Unhappiness

Some people are just born happy. They wake up every morning with a pleasant smile on their face, spreading joy everywhere they go. They are able to succeed at anything they set their mind to, and consequently expect perfection in themselves and others. They are brimming with self-confidence and super-optimism.

They might have a brother, sister, even a twin – exactly the opposite. One that has a negative opinion of himself, is forever down-playing their abilities, always seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full. And this is why neither of them is happy.

Raising and Lowering the Bar

No matter how much the confident person in our example accomplishes, it is never enough. Their bar for success is constanly rising to a higher level, usually just beyond reach. This leaves them frustrated more often than not. The sibling with the low opinion of himself in our example, has the opposite problem. They feel totally incompetent because they rarely experience very much success. So they don’t bother even trying. Their bar is always being set a little lower because they are always selling themselves short.

Having an Unreasonable Sense of Self

We are constantly talking to ourselves with self-talk which can be harmful and negative. This in turn causes negative feelings that result in unfavorable, even negative consequences. Some of the language we use in our thoughts and self-talk can convey unreasonable expectations that when unfulfilled cause disappointment. One of these words is “should.” When it is used incorrectly it can become the most toxic word in our vocabulary. It is also a word that limits people’s behavior, making them do more, or less, that they are capable of, thus limiting their ultimate happiness.


Another root cause of unhappiness is feeling that your are entitled to something, i.e., have a sense of entitlement. Parents feel unhappy when they aren’t being showered with love and respect by their children. Husbands aren’t happy when they don’t get all the sex they feel they are entitled to from their wives. Wives are equally unhappy when not receiving the intimacy they feel entitled to from their husbands. People everywhere are generally unhappy when paying too much for gasoline, and feel entitled to cheap gas, cable TV, or cellphone rates. We are all unhappy paying high health insurance premiums and feel entitled to free healthcare, longer vacations, higher pay and a longer life.

If you think you are entitled to these things or any of them, you may never be happy. In fact you could be facing a miserable future. The key is to appreciate what you have, treat everyone with kindness, live your life mindfully in the moment, and you will achieve happiness.

Toxic Anger

It is emotionally impossible to be happy and angry at the same time. Toxic anger means being angry on a daily basis. Anger isn’t necessarily bad, but when excessive it can lead to serious health problems, legal problems, unemployment, divorce or dysfunctional relationships, financial difficulties, and a long list of other issues. Frequent fits of anger can be a sign of too much stress in your life, requiring stress management, or anger management.


Resentment is the result of unresolved anger toward someone or something. It is the continual anger you feel when you see a certain individual or even when you hear their name mentioned. Yesterday’s anger gets in the way of today’s happiness. Resentment can last a long time, even years, up to a lifetime. Think of how much happiness could be missed during all that time. The best advice we have for getting rid of resentment is to just let it go.


Greed is not just ambition. It is selfish ambition beyond reason. Greed is another form of misguided expectation that more of something will make you happier. Wealth, for example, seems like a good thing. We would all like to be wealthy. But it has been proven that it can’t buy happiness.

Greed is another form of narcissistic ambition, where your own self-interests are more important than everyone else’s. Is there any question that greed gets in the way of happiness when we read headlines about wealthy, highly successful people committing suicide? Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” (1946) “A man who has nothing else in this world may still know bliss.


A hostile, destructive behavior or outlook is usually caused by some type of frustration. This is called combative aggression and is often directed towards everyone. It is never healthy, making you and everyone else unhappy.

Another form of aggression is achievement-driven, which can lead to happiness when it comes from a feeling of accomplishment. However selfish ambition and greed, coupled with achievement-driven aggression can lead to a serious train wreck.


Depression has been called “the common cold of mental ilness” and hundreds of millions of people worldwide are unable to feel happiness. Psychologist Dorothy Rowe once said “if people could stop blaming themselves for things that have happened in their lives, the rate of depression would decrease dramatically.” This was the foundation of her success in treating the problem. The psychiatric term for the loss of the ability to experience pleasure or happiness is anhedonia, a condition that reflects a breakdown in the brain’s reward system. It causes a reduction of dopamine, which is vital to the sensation of pleasure and the resulting happiness.


Many people who are alone are happy, especially if they have discovered flow and ecstasy. But being lonely can be an absence of an emotional connection with your surrounding world. You can be lonely even within a large movie theater or concert hall filled with people, yet not feel lonely when you are alone. Having meaningful social attachments, or a healthy lifestyle, causes a sense of belonging, whether it be with family, friends, business associates or members of your church or community. If you are healthy and active, why not join an organization such as Habitat for Humanity, www.habitat.org, or sign up for yoga or meditation classes. You could join a community theater group. There’s lots to do out there.


Nothing good can come from seeking revenge, getting even or settling scores. Vindictiveness is usually accompanied by anger, resentment, and aggression. Vindictive people tend to feel that by hurting someone who caused them pain, whether physical or emotional, they will somehow feel better. This is highly doubtful. The antidote for vindictiveness is forgiveness. It may be difficult but you will have to give up your right to revenge if you ever want to be happy. If you are having difficulty letting go, then seek some anger management tools.

Drug or Substance Abuse

All over the world, people young and old, seek relief from their emotional or physical pain through drug or substance abuse. Drugs, alcohol and other harmful substances are a greater form of self-medication than legitimate prescription drugs. Think of all the unhappy people that congregate every night at bars, clubs, pubs and dance halls looking for happiness.

Drug and substance abuse is usually accompanied by depression, unhappiness, anxiety, and low self-esteem just to name a few. If you see yourself in this category, you need to seek professional help. www.AA.org or www.NA.org

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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