The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People

The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People

How to Succeed at Self-Sabotage

By Cloe Madanes

November/December 2013

Most of us claim we want to be happy—to have meaningful lives, enjoy ourselves, experience fulfillment, and share love and friendship with other people and maybe other species, like dogs, cats, birds, and whatnot. Strangely enough, however, some people act as if they just want to be miserable, and they succeed remarkably at inviting misery into their lives, even though they get little apparent benefit from it, since being miserable doesn’t help them find lovers and friends, get better jobs, make more money, or go on more interesting vacations. Why do they do this? After perusing the output of some of the finest brains in the therapy profession, I’ve come to the conclusion that misery is an art form, and the satisfaction people seem to find in it reflects the creative effort required to cultivate it. In other words, when your living conditions are stable, peaceful, and prosperous—no civil wars raging in your streets, no mass hunger, no epidemic disease, no vexation from poverty—making yourself miserable is a craft all its own, requiring imagination, vision, and ingenuity. It can even give life a distinctive meaning.

So if you aspire to make yourself miserable, what are the best, most proven techniques for doing it? Let’s exclude some obvious ways, like doing drugs, committing crimes, gambling, and beating up your spouse or neighbor. Subtler strategies, ones that won’t lead anyone to suspect that you’re acting deliberately, can be highly effective. But you need to…

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017 6:12:41 AM | posted by The Truth Is
The truth is there are many people that are always very miserable all the time which most of them unfortunately are women to begin with which makes it very sad. They really do have very severe mental problems the way that i see it since they're usually very nasty to us good men when we will try to start a conversation with the one that will attract us and then to have her Curse at us for no reason at all when we will just say good morning or hello to them which doesn't make any sense at all since i had this happened to me already. And a few other friends that i know even had it happened to them as well. It is a very sad society that we live in today that has certainly Ruined many people out there these days since it really has Changed them for the Worst of all which it really affects us innocent people even though we never did anything Wrong to begin with. I really hope that these people will get the help that they really desperately need before their condition really gets even Worse.

Sunday, September 6, 2015 10:02:42 AM | posted by Grant H
This article is terrific. I have had several psychotherapists, several of which have been terrific. Just reading the comments my hat is off to them seeing the abuse they must take from people who think their condition is a license for venom. I have been on med for depression/anxiety for years and had severe suicidal thoughts when I went off the meds so this topic is no joke to me. Nonetheless, everything she says (tongue in cheek) is consistent with CBT. Just as if you have some genetically based abw=normality that makes you weak, you would exeercise, if your vision was affected yo'd wear glasses, and so on, similarly we can all engage in helpful behaviour and avoid unhealthy behaviour. I have suffered with someone who engaged in this kind of misery-provoking behaviour for years and there is no question we have a choice in many cases. The author clearly distiguishes between behavior we can help and that we cannot and to compare self-defeating behaviour to uncontrollable shizophrenia makes me compassionate for any therapist who must deal with this sorts of lazy, bilious, self-defeating comments that are perfect examples of the sort of misery-genic behaviour she is considering.
Thank you for your intelligence and compassion and humour, the last usually a sign of sanity and intelligence.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 7:11:57 AM | posted by Barbara Montrond rocked this article.....lmao and appreciate the realness of it....Very well done!!

Saturday, June 13, 2015 10:22:03 PM | posted by Ann Joy
I am surprised at people finding the author ignorant and the irony offensive. I've been through times of depression myself.Everyone was saying things like stop worrying, it's gonna be OK, but I felt like throwing up when hearing this.Then I met a stranger in the park who talked to me very much like the author, showing me how ridiculous my thought patterns and complaints were. I am very thankful for this happening, because he actually succeeded at pulling me out of depression!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 7:35:34 PM | posted by wayne west
The symtoms alone remind me of some i know well

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 2:17:45 AM | posted by Alma
Awesome article! I laughed so hard, and even saw so many things I can improve on. What a learning opportunity! I understand there are real disorders that some of the other comments are talking about, but that's not what this article is about. It's about those who truly create this in their lives. I can see some of these traits in family members, friends, and even in myself. It's a great wake up call to those of us who might be self inflicting some these actions and feelings. I don't think it was meant to attack or minimize real disorders some people might be living with. However, even those people could take this article as a great way to try to recognize something that maybe is in their control to change and work on. Even with disorders there are always things we can work on and improve on our own, and the first step to do that is to recognize it. Loved this!

Saturday, February 7, 2015 1:31:20 AM | posted by Donna
Enjoyably helpful! I will try to un-practice some of these habits!!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 1:58:06 PM | posted by jen
Brilliant, so true!!

Monday, December 29, 2014 2:42:37 AM | posted by Debra Crowder
The author of this article is a very insensitive person. Having struggled with depression for years I resent having people like her mock this illness. Yes, humor in life is good and necessary but I see nothing funny about someone making light of another persons struggles.

Monday, November 24, 2014 10:22:23 PM | posted by skoogmagoo
I thought the article was funny and so true. But I'm a happy person and I only have sympathy for true victims, not those who make themselves victims. I found this article by googling why some people are only happy when they are miserable, because I know people like that. They are just like the other commenters here, full of self pity.

Monday, November 10, 2014 3:44:50 PM | posted by Debbie Rice
I really enjoyed this article. I definitely recognized some personality disordered thinking, which of course is not chosen, but developed over time, and not easily changed in my experience. I do think that personality disorders are often not recognized and someone is seen as manipulative when really there's a serious disorder behind the behavior.

Personality disorders aside, I do subscribe to the theory that many of our behaviors have a payoff (positive or negative) which we gain something from, thus we repeat them over and over. All therapists know this. The issue as I see it is determining first of all whether the behavior and thinking is egodystonic or egosyntonic. Next, what's the gain for the person and do they really want to change the way they interact in the world.

The author has a gift for clarity of describing behaviors and thinking and I think it's presented in a fun and insightful way!

Saturday, November 8, 2014 9:54:14 PM | posted by Kelly
Wow, looks like a bunch of the miserable people the author sees so very clearly are the same ones commenting. Funny how if any of these people had enough self awareness to recognize their own behavior they would know they all hit most of the points in this article in their responses and pointed the misery arrow right at themselves. So they are sensitive and mad about what? That someone called out their misery game and it touched a nerve? If you are mad and embarrassed that thre is someone in the world that sees your game of attention seeking for what it is change the behavior or just own the fact that you cultivate being an unhappy person. It is a choice, whatever the circumstances of your past,present, or biology you always have the choice to change, the choice to forgive, the choice to do the work it takes to heal, the choice to seek help, and the choice to accept the help, therapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments. So quit whining. And FYI this article is clearly satirical and meant as a tongue and cheek " what not to do" manual based on keen and experienced observation of cognitive dysfunction. I thought it was hilarious. Learn to laugh, even at yourself, it solves a world of problems.

Monday, July 28, 2014 6:16:10 PM | posted by Charlene Hall-Redick
How heartening to read the responses by other clinicicans to this article and see manifested such mercy towards those who are miserable. Someone once told me: "Therapists give out hope like cookies." I laughed but I've never forgotten it and i do see this "giving out Hope as a main function we perform.
Charlene Hall Redick

Monday, July 7, 2014 6:40:51 PM | posted by Emily French
Sorry but I like it we need some satire in our line of work, and lets face it some people do like being miserable they get enough out of it not to change --at least for now

Monday, July 7, 2014 6:28:12 PM | posted by Deirdre Modesti
Laughed so hard! Perfect article!

Saturday, March 29, 2014 6:56:12 PM | posted by Dee Dunn
Vitriolic. Hmmmm...Is there a DSM-V code for that?

Monday, November 18, 2013 2:20:05 PM | posted by Frankie Wall II
Wow, what can one one say about such an ignorant, unempathetic, victim blaming author. Cloe views "miserable people" (of which I am one - treatment refractory dysthymia with recurrent major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, primary insomnia; I am on disability because of these illnesses) as people who want to, and go out of their way to be miserable. I find this highly offensive as well as breathtakingly stupid. It's just one display of her ignorance. No one wants to be miserable. That assertion by Cloe says more about her than anyone else. She comes across as a jaded, cynical burnout, full of disdain for "miserable people" who just will not stop being miserable (by her account). One of her most bizarre assertions is that "miserable people," who are poorly defined, are selfish with narcissistic tendencies. Strange that I don't know many miserable people who fit this mold and I met a lot of miserable people in the 18 years I worked for a mental health agency, mostly with schizophrenics (who, I suppose, make themselves delusional and cause their own hallucinations...such is the "logic" of Cloe Madanes).

Some of her "strategies" are actual symptoms of mental illnesses and they are most certainly not chosen by those suffering from them. Number 10 for instance is a symptom of depression known as anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure. No one goes out of their way to not enjoy themselves. In fact, I find myself fighting this symptom on a regular basis. It is torturous and I daresay one of the most debilitating symptoms of depression. It affects motivation, energy, and ones social life (if nothing is pleasurable why bother spending what little energy you have on pursuing it). Many of her other "strategies" are also symptoms of depression, as well as anxiety disorders.

Overall, I have to say that Cloe is a hateful, bitter individual severely lacking in compassion. If she really is therapist, she needs to retire and start a support group for former therapists who also hate the clients they treated. I can imagine a suicidal person being pushed over the edge by this article. I can't imagine Cloe ever being or having been an effective therapist. And I find it obscene that someone actually posted this garbage for mass consumption. This piece belongs in Cloe's own personal journal where she can blow off steam, not out there where anyone can read it; there are people who suffer from chronic incurable (as they all are) mental illnesses, who are going to feel worse thanks to this petty, pathetic article written form the point of view of a spoiled child, a child who screeches "Why can't people just be happy?! They're being unhappy on purpose! Just to make me mad!" Oh wait, that sounds awfully similar to those "miserable people" Cloe so despises. Is this an article about hating herself and, well, everyone else who has ever been miserable on purpose (I mean, c'mon, that's the only way anyone could ever be miserable: by choice! Amirite?) Mental illness does not exist, especially not depression and nothing bad ever happens to people that isn't their fault. Grieving people obviously killed those they're grieving for just to be miserable and to make Cloe feel mild to moderate discomfort, i.e., torture.

Read the comments on the AlterNet posting of this article. It made a lot of people feel miserable. It also brought the know-nothing know-it-all sadists who could "relate" to this article out of the woodwork to further shame the "miserable people."

Cloe - if you have any sense of decency, you'll post a clarification about this article saying you didn't mean to offend anyone and are very sorry if you exacerbated the symptoms of anyone suffering from any mental illnesses. You will also admit to being insensitive and thoughtless. Maybe you can repair some of the damage you've done. If you actually care to.

AlterNet comments:

Monday, November 18, 2013 1:28:50 AM | posted by Marilyn Scholze
This was the most judgmental article I have ever seen in this magazine. There was no compassion for where people's self defeating habits come from or the pain they cause. Yes, people have patterns that are self defeating, cause misery to others and are annoying or cause others to reject them. I first read this article on Alternet and was shocked to finish it and discover it was written by a world famous family therapist, not an ordinary writer doing a rant. If patterns and self destructive behavior could be willed away by ourselves, or by shaming and shunning from others, there would be no need for our profession. I am truly shocked that this article made the cut to be in the magazine which I have subscribed to and read for many years. Many people are terrified by the vulnerability of being hopeful and optimistic, and shaming them is not the way to release these old patterns. This article seemed like below the belt hits to annoying people, who in all likelihood were traumatized or raised by parents who were.

The email below is not current. I changed it on my profile today, but if a reply was made to it it would not got through. I'm not sure why it would not allow me to self correct it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013 7:09:03 PM | posted by CHRISTINE ALLISON
The article does lay bare some of the behaviors truly miserable people engage in, which I appreciate,. But, it also makes me wonder about the author's level of burnout... I read the first part of the article and then decided to log-on to see what others are saying. It is certainly a thought-provoking article. I hope others will comment with their thoughts and reactions!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 11:42:12 PM | posted by Chris Williams
What a surprisingly mean-spirited article! I understand it's meant to be ironic, but how does that tone help anyone? If the author wishes to claim that anxious and depressed people are actively choosing to be in those mental states, then it would be far more becoming to say so directly. As written, the article is a passive-aggressive accusation, far more likely to offend the people to whom it's ostensibly addressed than to make them stop and amend their ways. Commiserating about frustrating client behavior has its place-- addressing those clients with such disrespect perhaps also has its place, but maybe just not here.