Reframing Unhappiness


I am unhappy when things do not go as I want. The unhappiness is due to unfulfilled desires. It happens when the rest of my world does not have the same view of a perfect world as I have. I think I have done a good job. My boss thinks otherwise and tells me so. I become unhappy. I wanted to see this movie. My significant other or my group wants to see another. I am unhappy.
As soon as I am unhappy, my thought process goes like this. I am right but they are not agreeing with me. If they were my friends, they would agree with me. So they are not my friends. Therefore I do not need to like them. Ergo, I will thwart all they want to do, because they have stopped me from following my wishes. I know that this thought process seems exaggerated in the cold light of day, but when we are unhappy, this is the sentiment.
Since I cannot thwart them, as I have no control over them, I feel incompetent. I have two reactions – either I try to control them (be it my significant other or my boss) or I wallow in self pity. Sometimes, I try control and if that does not work, I wallow. While I wallow, more scenarios come to mind specially those that reinforce my belief. I love these thoughts because they justify my unhappiness and give a reason why I should not do anything.
The result of this mind set and lack of action is that people become genuinely unhappy with me and want to avoid my company. If the issue is at the workplace, the company wants to avoid me. I get fired.
Let me reframe unhappiness. When I am unhappy with the status quo, I want to change it. The desire to change can lead to action. Wallowing in self pity is denying myself the opportunity for action. Sometime I pay lip service to action, but I know that it will not work, so that I can retreat into self pity.
As soon as I am unhappy, I say to myself, “Yes, I am unhappy, therefore I need to change my status quo. What actions can I take?”
The impulsive or instinctive action of fight-flight is obvious. That is what animals do.
Do I have any other choices?
One choice could be to reframe my desire and really determine if this desire is a genuine need or wishful thinking. For example – I want a Rolex and I am unhappy I don’t have one. Do I really need one. What need does it satisfy? To prove to myself that I have money or to impress someone? If neither is necessary, or I can achieve the objective by another means, I don’t need the Rolex.
The other choice could be win some-lose some. Maybe I will agree in this case, so that I invest in a relationship which will yield something bigger later. For example, does it make sense to take up cudgels with my client just because of ego – to prove that I am right. If I agree with him now, will he agree with me later?
The third choice could be to determine an action plan of some duration, which leads to the change in status quo. I sometimes want the complete change to happen overnight, and when that does not happen due to laws of nature, I get the reason to wallow in self pity and stop the action. For example, if I am not satisfied with my weight, my desire is to do something so that I become thin overnight. When that does not happen, I get a reason to give up. I can create a plan with some intermediate checkpoints like losing 500 grams a month so that I can do 6 kilos in a year. The problem is my emotions and the desire for instant gratification.
My point is that I have more than one obvious choice. If I know that all unhappiness leads to choices, I am ready for alternative action and therefore I can stop wallowing in self pity.
In essence, unhappiness can be a good thing.

The intentions of terrorists are good!


If I say, from a belief point of view, even terrorists have good intentions, there is a sense of discomfort.

When I do something ‘wrong’, I do it because of 3 major reasons

a.Ignorance: I do not know at that moment that it is ‘wrong’. It is not deliberate. This can happen because:

a.I am ignorant of the norms of the society/ group I am living in or belonging to. This can cause one-time or multiple episodes until the laws of the society or the rules of the group comes into play after being caught

b.I am psychologically incapable of deciphering right from wrong. For example, psychopathic behaviour, which affects 1% of our population. Such people have a ‘mental’ disease and I can be a victim of such a disease

c.Crimes of passion – when my emotions hijack my rational mind and I have no emotional control.. This is also sometimes labelled as temporary insanity. Mob mentality may also fall in this – when it loses all reason

b.Acts of commission: I justify in my mind that I am correct in my reasoning and therefore justified in my action. This is deliberate and systematic.

a.This happens because sometimes I can get away with it

b.I get a psychological thrill of power or similar feelings that I have been missing from childhood,

i.maybe because I was myself a victim or

ii. because I saw that this was done by others who got away with it, or

iii. other perpetrators told / indicated to me the feeling that came with it and I wanted to experience similar feelings.

c.Sometimes extraordinary situations put social laws and laws of the country into abeyance, like acts of war (where abuse of the invaded is provided as a reward – e.g. Chengiz khan), the atrocities during the Emergency (see Hazaaron Kwahishen Aisi – if you have the heart), or the reactive nature of security controls of the US government. Here some powers create their own laws and justify these laws in the name of security etc.

d.Sometimes I are coerced into doing something wrong. This is because I too am a victim of the psychological / physical pressure that is forced on me.

c.Acts of omission: When I sit on the sidelines and watch things happening. I am still part of this.

a.I am afraid of the consequences and also feel like a victim. I am on the victim’s side but I cannot raise my voice or interfere

b.I think, or rationalise, that it is justified. Sometimes the perpetrator may tell me it for the victim’s own good. E.g. corporal punishment

The above are the reasons or beliefs that have caused the action. In case B above, the psychological map or belief has been created because of which the perpetrator believes that he is right and that his intentions are good. Any abuse, be it abuse of mankind, race, sexual, mental, physical comes because it has been justified in the perpetrator’s mind that he/she is right in his/her action.

Please understand that I want to separate the cause from the action. There is no justification of the action from the point of view of the victim or from the point of view of the extant societal norms or laws. From that perspective, the perpetrator needs to be punished for his ACTION. Societal norms and laws are also beliefs (shared beliefs) about what is best for the good of the majority. Please note the word majority, as there will always be a minority that will not believe this.

To summarise, the intention in my mind, as the perpetrator, is good, from my frame of reference, but the action is BAD, from the victim or society’s frame of reference.

Take the instance of ragging. I, as a victim of ragging in the first year, believed that this is immature and not necessary. But when I go into second year, I do as follows:

·I do not know the norms of ragging. What are the limits or norms

·I do not know that what I am doing is called ragging

·I are part of the mob and have lost the sense of reason

·I am part of a group and want to prove myself as being equally capable.

·I was a victim and I need to pass it on

·I get angry at some junior and abuse my position

·I can get away with it as people turn a blind eye

·Others have got away with it

·People tell me what fun it is and I want enjoy that fun

·I know that this is a temporary phenomena and there will be an end to it. I will make amends later by providing a peace offering.

·I know it is wrong but as part of a group, I cannot raise your voice.


There is something wrong


If I analyse any bad experience, I generally conclude that there was/is something wrong with me or what I did, or something wrong with the other party involved in the transaction, or with the world (circumstances, parents, boss, government). If that transaction has been beneficial to another person then he obviously does not come to the same conclusion as I do.

When one person feels good and the other feels bad, I would call it a win-lose situation. When I lose, I blame myself and others. If all situations were termed win-lose, then someone or the other in this world would be blaming something or someone. Does this mean that at any point of time, something is always wrong? Was the whole world created wrongly?

If the situation was a win-win situation, then neither party believes that there is anything wrong with the world/ them/ us.

I think the issue is our belief of right or wrong. When we win, things are right, else they are wrong. This is just a belief. Reality is that there are only actions and consequences. A consequence may be adverse to me sometimes, and sometimes it may be positive.

Sometimes, when we get hit by a lot of adverse consequences, we lose heart and do not see the positive in even beneficial consequences. We believe that we always have ill-luck.

On the contrary, I can choose to believe that there is a ‘silver lining’ to all mishaps. I can choose to believe that by the law of averages, good and bad consequences will even out / cancel each other. I can also analyse all the bad things that happened to me in the past and choose to believe that they closed one door but opened another door to my destiny. I would realise that every transaction is essentially win-win even those I considered as ‘I lose- you win’.

Then I would conclude that there is nothing wrong with me, with the other party or the world. People are not good or bad, people are just reacting, the best way they know how to, to circumstances. Actions are not right or wrong, they are reactions to stimulus, coloured by the reactor’s beliefs.

People are neither right or wrong, people just ARE. Something is not right or wrong, something just IS.

Beliefs or frames of reference


If I have put my child to sleep and am relaxing in front of the TV with a glass of well deserved Laphroig in my hand, and he comes crawling out, I get pissed off. My belief is that I need to relax. The child’s belief is that he does not want to sleep. On the other hand, when my wife points out that this is the first time he has walked. She brings in another frame of reference. From that perspective, I am happy that my child came out of the bedroom. The same event, two different beliefs / frames of reference, two different emotions.

Our parents beliefs (read rules to live by) were our own, until we started creating our own beliefs (rules) and it then became a fight as to whose beliefs (rules and frames of reference) are more important. They tried to tell us why their beliefs were important, we did not want to believe them. So we ran away to college, with the hope that we can follow our own rules but no, we now had to follow the rules of our seniors, our colleagues and our professors. A bigger prison.
Then came placement. We believed that we knew what was required for a good placement. But for some reason, the recruiters do not seem to be following our beliefs. We do not know what are their beliefs. And so placement becomes very confusing.
Same event, two different beliefs / frames of reference, I don’t get placed, some one else does.
If I do not know the recruiter’s belief or the recruiter’s company’s beliefs, then how can I be certain of placement?
Selling. I, as a salesman, believe the TV’s features are its strong points. The customer believes that the more expensive, the better his ego is massaged. I am selling features, he just wants to know the price. No sale. Why?
I did not take time to know his beliefs / frame of reference.
Any sale, whether placement, promotion or product, requires us to know the customer’s frame of reference. Our frame of reference is immaterial in this world of sales.

So you got rejected!


I have (had?) this dream company that I want to get into. It came to the campus but I did not even make it to the first base. Others, less competent than me, made it. After a bout of depression, I sat down and pondered deeply about what happened.

Did I really prepare well? The basic requirement was to behave as if I was already part of the company and understood its culture and processes well. If I really knew that, I would have known what they were looking for and modified my covering letter and CV accordingly. If it was a aggressive company, my CV and letter would have shown by example, what I have done that was similar in nature. My behaviour in GD would have been different. If it was a company that prided itself on a more nurturing culture, things would have been presented differently.

I did not utilise the pre-placement talk well. This was an opportunity to know the people who would interview me, the real job description, their expectation from me, and to impress them with my research, as well as fill up the gaps in my research. In case I was not selected, it would have given me the names of the people to contact later or to add to my black book.

A basic question that I pondered deeply over was this. Was this the right company for me? Was I applying on the basis of my ego, the salary and perks, my family expectations, advice from well-wishers, and did I know if this would bring me closer to my ultimate goal, and will provide me with the nurturing environment to hone my skills? Did I really have enough information to make that decision?

If the answer to all were in the positive, that is, I had done my research, I had used the PPT effectively, I knew the culture was right, this was the right company for me and I had written the best CV and covering letter, and still got rejected, then I needed to go to plan B.

I have to be persistent and approach the company again, this time armed wih more knowledge.

I would whip out my black book and find someone who knows someone who knows someone, ad infinitum, till I find a link into the company. I would talk to a real person, explain my situation and passion and ask for advice.

I would contact the people who came to the PPT, and explain to them my passion and ask for an appointment at their convenience to meet and re-present my case.

I would write to the CEO or the geo head or the asia pacific head and explain why I think this is the right organisation and culture for me and what I can contribute.

The aim is to get some one to move the faceless HR department not to see me as another faceless aspirant, but some one with flesh and blood and a hunger to do good for my company of choice.