What determines unhappiness?

Joan Marques - MBA, Doctoral Student
Burbank, California

The answer to this question could be given in a one-liner: It is the discrepancy between what we can get, and what we really want. Unfortunately, in most cases, what we can get does not equal what we want. And that creates a feeling of dissatisfaction, resulting in unhappiness.

This discrepancy manifests itself in different areas of our life. And depending on how much value we assign to that particular area, our emotional response will vary from slight irritation to major devastation. At work, we may be able to deal with a downturn regarding a certain desired position, and shrug it off while anticipating the next opportunity. In the store we may hesitate, but ultimately let go of that absolutely gorgeous dress and choose a less impressive one, because our finances don't allow the purchase of the one we really want. At the highest we'll dream about that dress for a few nights, but the pain will be endurable. However, when it comes to the private area of love, the lack of being able to get what we want can become a life-challenging burden.

It seems, though, that some people are more rational than others: they will only go so far to try and get the one they desire. If the effort becomes too enthralling, they will give up and focus their attention elsewhere. How simple, rational, and clever! But then there are those of us who don't give up that easily. Whether that is because of ingrained perseverance, or plain old stubbornness, it becomes a pain that affects the rationality and sobriety of the perseverant.

And the main question remains, what will happen if the goal is finally achieved? What if you find out after all this time that your target was not worth your while? How do you go about dealing with your renewed unhappiness after the first glorious moments have subsided, and the harsh, unfulfilling reality sets in?

In general, even without having done a survey on the topic, I think that there are many more unhappy people in the world than there are ones who consider themselves entirely content. Just look at all the romance- and dating websites, overflowing with people who are searching for a soul mate. Just check the contact-ads in the newspapers. And just think of all the ones out there who don't place ads but are chasing a person or a mind-picture that personifies their definition of what will make them happy.

The above posted statements can make you start wondering if there really is no way for people to learn how to adjust their mindsets and alter their focus when one goal does not seem achievable. Yet, this would straightly contradict with the often given encouragement to "chase your dreams" and "go for what you want." It would also justify the acceptance of mediocrity: if you canít get this, simply lower your standards and go for that! And if that is not achievable, lower a bit further, and go for something less!

Fortunately--or unfortunately--there will always be people who don't want to go for less than they desire. These are the ones who are known as the persevering kind. And although their endurance is considered a virtue in career and educational regards, it turns into the ultimate source of unhappiness when it concerns their love life. Result: unhappiness, because what they desire does not equal what they can get. Simple, but not so pleasant...