Persistent Unhappiness Syndrome?

Most of you will know by now that I’m the founder and director of Powerchange, and have a passion to see men, women and young people everywhere live lives that they are proud to own, and for them to have a baseline of persistent happiness.

Know how Max feels?  Get in touch.
Know how Max feels? Get in touch.

No, that doesn’t mean I’m naive enough to think that any sincere and emotionally healthy person can be – or in fact would want to be – deliriously happy day in day out. Most of us know that the growing times we experience are most often within times of trouble and pain, and we need a good few of them through life. To remove them would leave us with shallowness and superficiality  –  and with no points of reference to compare our current happiness with unhappy times we would lose any sense of happiness anyway.

However, we also know that constant ‘baseline’ unhappiness is not at all good for your health, leading to all sorts of identifiable relational damage emotional and physical illness.

Some time  ago our Powerchange team coined the phrase Persistent Unhappiness Syndrome™, a label that describes a condition we regularly identified in our clients of, wait for it, Persistent Unhappiness.

Is your baseline state one of happiness or unhappiness?  In other words, when all the pressures of the day/week/month are through, you ‘land’ on a foundation of feeling happy.  The alternative is you constantly expending energy, effort and money on getting away from a nagging sense of UNhappiness, that when you run out of resources, or stop doing all those self-entertaining, happy-making activities  –  or simply drinking the pain away – finally captures you once more.

You are suffering from Persistent Unhappiness Syndrome™ when your default emotional ‘state’, how you feel, fulfils some of the following criteria:

  • You look back on the past and are predominantly conscious of a sense of dissatisfaction, pain, rejection or worthlessness.
  • You have had to work at being happy on a day to day basis for more than six months, or are constantly trying harder, or caught in the ‘perfectionist trap’.
  • You have to focus on enjoying other people’s lives (successes, joy, rewards, achievements, peace) more than your own in order to feel happy, satisfied or fulfilled.
  • You are trying to avoid the word ‘depression’.
  • You are on any sort of psycho-therapeutic medication.
  • The future looks bleak – more a challenge than an opportunity.
  • You are consistently not sleeping well due to troublesome thoughts (rather than a troublesome bladder).
  • You can’t remember experiencing a lasting deep sense of inner peace.

Yes, I know it sounds a bit esoteric or spiritual even, doesn’t it. For most people it is neither esoteric nor spiritual. Either way, PU Syndrome can be a nasty little undermining emotional ‘illness’.

Thankfully there is a cure…

As you address and ‘re-write’ some of your current beliefs, expectations, memories, lifestyle and values, you will find that you wake up each day WITHOUT those PU symptoms – in the same way that a person who has been cured of cancer wakes with a whole different perspective on their life.

Quite a good analogy, actually.

There’s more here:

If you’re a sufferer, our team can help. [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

Deep inside I knew the old would never do.

Local pottery studios always seem messy places. Maybe that’s the nature of it…

This story may or may not be for you. Or maybe it is. You decide, or just take from it what is important for you for today and take the rest out in a doggy bag for tomorrow.  Here it is anyway:

Ever watched a potter at work? Or had a go at spinning a pot yourself? It’s not so easy, but an expert makes it look like it is!

When I was a teenager I read a simple short story about a notoriously miserable man who was told to go down to the local potter’s house and watch him at work. As instructed the man went down and watched the village potter at his everyday activity, making vessels to sell to his community. (It was an old story, but happens every day in some parts of the world.) Imagine both of us, you and me joining him down in that pottery, watching…

The potter ‘throws’ the clay onto his wheel and centres it. The clay is soft and pliable, yet as he raises it into a vessel, something happens and it loses its shape. (No one’s fault. Its just life. It happens to the best of us.) It isn’t quite right, so he presses it back and starts over. It takes less than five minutes; using his professional skill this artisan craftsman simply makes it again at his wheel. Same clay, different vessel. All part of a normal day’s work. No big deal. No song and dance. He hardly notices. He was a lifelong expert in pot-making so he just remade it, another one. If it wasn’t going easily into one shape, well, he needed a wide selection of different pots and this one would be as unique as the others, handmade, with it’s own individual character, interest and purpose. Great. Who knows how much more useful, refined or beautiful – or all three – this one would be?

The story was beautifully told in 17th century English, and included the line “and the vessel was spoiled in the hands of the potter, so he made it again, a different vessel as it seemed good unto him.” Quaint, isn’t it?  Biblical language. I like this ancient tale because it’s message is as reassuring to me now as it was to the observer then.

Today many people are living lives they feel have been spoilt and they’re scared that “that’s it. I’m stuck here. There’s nothing I can do.” But life is actually more hopeful than that. When you feel spoilt in some way, bear this in mind: for the clay that is flexible there is always the possibility that a fresh new design is on its way. “… he made it again… different.”

In 1997 I was the clay on the wheel of life myself when I needed to resign from a job that I thought would be my life’s work. Within that context I had learned to feel secure behind a safety fence of professionalism I had carefully constructed, and I’d become snared in it.

I was good at what I did… and that was part of the problem. I was becoming imprisoned, sort of under house arrest, yet not daring to accept my position for fear that there may be no way out. In an environment of significant misunderstanding, I jumped before I was pushed and went into free fall.

Amid the shock of having three late-teens children, a lovely wife, no savings and no family income, I was to find out in practice what I knew in theory that life is about being moulded and as long as I stayed flexible there was hope for a new and better future.

Yet that wasn’t quite so easy. I didn’t realise how all-knowing and un-curious I had become. I had come to depend on my 47 years of experience and professional competence for my emotional and practical needs. I knew what I knew and that had become enough. I was about to find out how much I needed to relearn the joy of being flexible and allow myself to be “made again, a different vessel.”

That’s when I met up with a fellow coach who asked me the question that changed my life – and the question that was the beginning of me being ‘made again’:

“Andrew,” he asked, “What would it take for you to move from a position of ‘knowing‘ to a position of ‘enquiry‘?”

Naively I replied, “I am in a position of enquiry.”

He said, “that’s a position of knowing.”

After a very very long pause I quietly said, “Ok, help me”.

He said, “That’s a position of enquiry.”

In that moment of enlightenment something happened. My coach became the hands of the artisan potter for me. I’d got messed up through no fault of my own, and in that instant I started being made again.

That evening I let go of the need for me to have all the cards to play the game of power, promotion and a pension, or whatever, and began developing a more useful focus: to become truly happy and content without those things, and to let them go.

Looking back, that evening redefined my life and my definition of success, and enabled me to enjoy each day for what it is. It enabled me in fact to be far more productive, far more influential for good, and far more hopeful – and it was the beginning of me being free enough inside to help others redefine theirs. I discovered the joy of being curious, of being enquiring, playful and less afraid. I found myself evolving into a different vessel, made with the same clay. I cannot describe how utterly refreshing – and ‘nice scary’  – that was.

So here’s a thought…

Maybe like I had, you have become trapped by the belief that you’ve reached your peak and there isn’t anything more worth going for – or you wouldn’t know what was if you were staring at it.

Or maybe like I was, you’re facing the insecurity of an uncertain future and despite a brave face, are struggling under the pressure. Or are apprehensive that you won’t have the resources to handle it for very long.

Or maybe like I had, you’ve become imprisoned by the need to be right.

Perhaps like I had, you’ve decided its too late in the day for you, or that there simply is no way out.

Or maybe (unlike me!) you’re facing the prospect of a nice final salary pension and 40 years of life to fill in a worthwhile way. There are dangers there too.

For me, as I looked at the next stage of my life, I knew the old would never do. There would be no excuses good enough to have kept me where I was. I knew I wanted a different, more fulfilled and happy future. It was time to be “made again” and I was curious to know how it would happen.

It has happened, and thankfully is continuing to happen. Today I see things very differently.

“What would it take for you to move from a position of knowing to a position of enquiry?”

That question really did change my life for ever.  (Let me know what happens to you.)

As always you can contact me via the Powerchange website.  Worth exploring in any case!

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