Your Dissatisfaction is a Gift

Your Dissatisfaction is a Gift

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.

Nothing changed.

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

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Max Bronson March 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm

I think you make a good point of there being two types of dissatisfaction. One is where you dissuade yourself from taking action and the other you persuade yourself to take action.

Martin Luther King, Jnr, Gandhi, etc all were extremely dissatisfied but took ACTION and changed their nations forever.

Cheers,
Max

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Jonathan March 31, 2011 at 10:03 pm

You’re absolutely right Max. Those are great examples.

Daniel Richman March 31, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I agree with your actions taken on figuring the problem out. I do that too. A lot of the time, my clients specifications aren’t specific enough and they don’t like how I do things. I am ony dissatisfied until I figure out a way to make it right. A little mouse once said, “adapt improvise, and overcome.”

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Evan March 31, 2011 at 5:50 pm

One way to make this shift is to see that we are active.

That we contribute to mitigating our unhappiness (and perhaps creating it). When we know that what we do contributes to our experience we are on the way to changing our life.

I guess this is brief and abstract – hope it makes sense.

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Jonathan March 31, 2011 at 10:04 pm

You always make me think when you comment Evan. I really appreciate that.

TAllagash March 31, 2011 at 11:17 pm

passively accepting this dissatisfaction is to avoid the reality of knowing and facing what is lacking, what is missing, what is not as it should be…and thus, accepting that REAL, LENGTHY, SERIOUS work is needed to remedy the situation.

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Mirella April 1, 2011 at 2:07 am

Isn’t it amazing how once that thought of having the option to change your circumstances first pops into your head, the world suddenly looks so different?
That one realisation seems so obvious in hindsight, and its first appearance in your life is a remarkable day!

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Jonas April 1, 2011 at 4:31 am

Thank you for the inspiring post.

I think it is generally a good rule to take our emotional responses as messages from our unconscious, or at least as sign-posts to areas we might want to pay more attention to.

If I get angry at someone, I ask myself these days which part of myself I have disowned and am thus projecting. Of course it’s OK to just be angry and to express that, but often I find that I am not at ease with myself about a behavior that I react to quite strongly in others.

The same goes for dissatisfaction. What are my expectations, where does this resistance come from? Is this job not geared towards my talents and strengths? Do I have a resistance against working 9-5? Do I want to make a difference in the world, change it for the better?

Dissatisfaction can be of great help to find ourselves, to integrate long-repressed feelings and to find what really motivates us.

Thanks a lot,

Jonas

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Karen Leafe April 1, 2011 at 4:39 am

Hi Jonathan

you are spot on! – I’ve just taken voluntary redundancy after many years working for a local authority. As a team leader I struggled to make positive changes or be part of the management in such a large organisation, so has scary as it feels right now (I left yesterday on the 31.03.11) it is also liberating and I’m looking forward to embracing my future.

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Justin April 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I look at feelings as an internal guidance system and i am grateful for having them. The feelings will go away once you change your direction.

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga April 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Wow…great article. Using dissatisfaction as a guide is something that I learned a few years ago. The contrast, as I like to call it, helps me to redefine what I want and channel my energy in the right direction. Awesome!

Nea
http://self-improvement-saga.com/

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Mohamed Shedou April 3, 2011 at 3:56 am

Thanks for this excellent reminder. Your case study about work is particularly relevant to me at this point, and I believe work is a source of dissatisfaction for many others. Dissatisfaction is an “energy”, but a negative energy; if only we could take this negative energy and transform it into a positive one, it could be a fuel for change and making our life and the world better!

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kelly April 3, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Thank you Jonathan! for an amazing post. I am in the midst of escaping the cubicle nation – instead of being impulsive I am planning, saving, doing, moving that direction. Obviously, I am dissatisfied but now I will look at it as a catalyst and motivator rather than something else to bummed out about.

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David | Get Into English April 5, 2011 at 10:17 am

This is a helpful reminder, thanks. When we’re in the eye of the storm it’s sometimes easy to overlook that there is a choice here in moving to a better place. That starts with asking the questions: what is this telling me; what can I do now to move forward.

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Broderick April 5, 2011 at 1:15 pm

It’s a powerful moment when you decide to focus on what you want. It leads to excitement and creativity instead of anger, frustration and the “stuck” feeling.

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Jennifer April 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm

I love this – thanks for the reminder that the type of frustration and discontentment you describe are NOT inevitable. Better to channel it rather than brood on it.

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Jennifer April 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I love this – thanks for reminding us that there is a productive way to channel this type of disillusionment.

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Alex Kriz April 17, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Thank you for your insights. From your article, it seems that “negative” emotions can serve as valuable reminders that we need to be doing something else with our lives. In this light, negativity seems to serve a positive purpose – when we take initiative.

I’m curious what you think about emotional alchemy and our ability to turn “bad” emotions into “good” ones. In short, do you think that when we feel dissatisfied it is best to use that dissatisfaction as fuel to reach our goals, or should we allow the emotion to run it’s course and transmute it through acceptance? Either solution ends with a positive emotion, but I’m unsure which one would be most beneficial.

Thank you for your insights.

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Jeff Goins May 1, 2011 at 11:51 am

Great quote. Love me some Rage Against the Machine.

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SteveJ May 4, 2011 at 6:06 am

I enjoyed that, but what about dissatisfaction that you can’t do anything about? Not everything in life is changeable.

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Schrixie November 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm

how long does it take to find out what you really want and are meant to do..that is the crossroads i am at..wish it would just come to me..@sandythepandy

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GregMiliates July 5, 2012 at 5:18 am

I completely agree: dissatisfaction can be a catalyst. Unfortunately, most people feel the dissatisfaction without taking action on it to change their situation. I’ve written a post about this: Having A Bad Job Is Good For You (http://bit.ly/N8rObx). 
 
Back when I had a “real” job, I dreaded going to work (“Another day, another dolor.” Yes, that’s dolor, not dollar.), and complained a lot. When I realized I could use my feeling of dissatisfaction–actually, hating my job was closer to it–to fuel my motivation, I started taking action to change the situation. I eventually left that job, created my own consulting business, and in the process, QUADRUPLED my former salary, and have MORE flexibility and financial security. Even without those benefits, the process of using my dissatisfaction to fuel my action to change was incredibly empowering; once I began taking action to change the situation, I no longer felt like a victim.

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