Most of the time, we compartmentalize our dissatisfaction and frustration. It’s something that we try to sweep away and force a grin in spite of our obvious unrest. And the more we strain for indifference, the more the wheel of discord keeps spinning.
For a long time I thought that my frustration and unhappiness was something annoying, yet inevitable, that had to be tolerated or ignored. Maybe you’ve felt like this too. It’s difficult to see unwanted emotions as anything but undesirable. Ignorance doesn’t help much, does it?
But what if these alleged mind-leeches were actually beneficial? And what if they were actually there to serve us, and to do some greater good?
Passive vs. Active Dissatisfaction
There are two ways to approach dissatisfaction: passively or actively.
Passive dissatisfaction most commonly involves complaining about something, but not doing much to change or transform the situation. It’s pretty much saying “This sucks, but it’s just the way it is.”
Active dissatisfaction, on the other hand, is looking behind the curtain of our unhappiness and asking, “What is this trying to tell me? What is the purpose of this dissatisfaction?”
The second approach sees negative feelings as an indicator for something being off course. There’s a misalignment with what you really want, and your emotional response is telling you that this doesn’t feel good and that you want something different. In that moment of dissatisfaction you can wallow and repeat the pattern, or you can harness it to help you define what you actually do want.
Your anger is a gift. —Zack de la Rocha
Taken a step further, the repelling energy from what you don’t want can catapult you to taking transformative action.
A case study in undesirables
In the corporate world (a life that seems faraway now), I was terribly unhappy with my work. I made enough money to get by and pay my bills, which I was thankful for, but that’s where the contentment stopped. Every day I woke up dreading work, and each day I would literally count down the hours until I could go home and escape until the next day begun.
For a long time, this cycle of dissatisfaction remained a complacent protest.
I spent a lot of time focused on what I didn’t want. I spent a lot of time in my head breaking down every structure that I believed was false and inauthentic. I brooded at the ridiculousness of it all.
Then somewhere along the way I had a moment of clarity. What if I could do something different? What if I could fuel this dissatisfaction into creating something purposeful and beautiful?
I stopped thinking about what was inauthentic and started defining what my ideal experience for me. And any time my dissatisfaction would come up at work I would say to myself “Thanks for the reminder. I’m going to channel this energy back into my business and goal of becoming self employed.”
It took a while to break the pattern, but eventually it worked. Now whenever I feel something unwanted, I ask myself what it’s trying to show me, and what direction I would rather head in.
Dissatisfaction can break things down and leave you empty, or it can serve as a catalyst for living more deliberately. Your dissatisfaction can be a scourge or a gift. It’s really up to you.
photo courtesy of joseanprado