Happiness is a complicated emotion. Some people find happiness over the smallest of things; seeing a pretty sunrise or finishing their to-do list and others struggle to find happiness in even the best situations.

Everyone claims they just want to be happy, so why is it that so many people actually enjoy being unhappy?

One way to explain people enjoying unhappiness is to look at a situation in which most of us can relate: horror movies. We enjoy watching horror movies, even though they make us feel scared, which is a type of unhappiness.

Andrade & Cohen (2007) carried out a study which analysed why people enjoy watching horror movies and concluded that people are able to feel both positive and negative emotions at the same time.

Psychologists want to apply this theory to general happiness/unhappiness and have developed a list of five signs so you can identify whether or not you enjoy being unhappy:

1. You find reasons to be miserable

Maybe one of the most common and also one that may often go unnoticed. Even when everything in your life is going well, you dwell on something from the past or create a problem where there isn’t one just so that you can feel negative emotions again.

This can be seen in subtle forms, so pay attention to your thoughts the next time you feel sad – are you creating something on purpose so you can enjoy being unhappy?

2. You struggle to celebrate your goals

People who enjoy being unhappy tend not to feel accomplishment after achieving goals. Or if they do, the positive emotions are very short-lived before they’re on to the next worry.

3. You have a hard time putting things behind you

This is one that a lot of people struggle with. Something is said that bothers you, and you can’t let it go. Holding grudges often shows you enjoy being unhappy as happy people tend to put negative emotions and thoughts behind them. If you struggle to do this, it’s a sure sign that you enjoy being unhappy.

4. You play the victim

This one can be hard to identify with oneself, even for the most self-aware individual. You often feel as though other people or other things outside of your control are responsible for your problems rather than your own actions.

Not owning up to your own actions when you’re in a negative situation can show you don’t like to take responsibility and would prefer to stay unhappy.

5. Dissatisfaction is second nature to you

You are always finding things to be dissatisfied with. Even when things are going perfectly fine and you may have even achieved a few of your goals lately, if you’re still feeling a strong sense that something is missing or that you can do more, it may mean you’re happy being unhappy.

Whilst it can be hard to identify certain behaviours ourselves, if you feel as though any of these signs apply to you – do something about it. The sooner you recognise and accept that this unhealthy behaviour is something you’re practicing, the sooner you can make changes towards enjoying being happy.

Let us know what your thoughts are on this topic – are you recognising any of these signs?

Christina Lawson, B.A.

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the power of misfits

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hi Christina
    Just read your article ” 5 Warning Signs You Actually Enjoy Being Unhappy ” Its states that your too honest with your studies & Reading books .
    I really appreciate with you ,Hope you will continue with your writing . Can I communicate with you Via Social Network site ,So I can follow you .

  2. Avatar

    Bottom line: I enjoy being unhappy, therefore I am happy. So why do I have to change anything?

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      Because you’re making other people unhappy?

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        But that’s basically admitting you don’t want us to be happy, you want yourself to be happy. You don’t really care, you’re lying to us to make yourself feel better. And that, ironically enough, makes us feel worse.

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    sounds bi-polar to me…peace

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      You don’t know what you’re talking about.

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    Pervaiz Ahmed

    Happiness the process not the achievement. one has to learn to enjoy the process of any action. Once that is achieved the Happiness chapter is closed and a new paradigm has entered in your mind for searching the next level and that moves on and on. One need to understand that life is all about moving.

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    The article hits home for someone close and dear to my heart. I have often wondered if this was even a possibility. This puts alot of things into perspective.
    How does this get fixed or worked on?

  6. Avatar
    space caveman

    This is a pretty intelligent assessment of what I think is happening to a lot of people.

    What I am missing here a further reading about why we do this in the first place, what are the root causes and what can we do to brake this association.

    The example about enjoying horror movies is not exact IMO because the element of fun here is in the excitement we get out of a controlled and safe raising of our fight or flight instinct – it’s exhilarating to feel the adrenalin rush with the rational knowledge that we are physically safe from harm – it’s like a risk free adventure and similar to what we get out of sport and competitions.

    on the other hand – being depressed doesn’t lively us up and excite us, it weighs us down. So while I agree there might be a shared kind of mechanism with attraction to fear, in depression we suffer real negative consequences and it is not healthy in anyway I can think of.

    So why do we do it?

    Would love to get a good answer to that, but in the meantime I’m going to hypothesize that we do it because we are just kinda dumb.

    We might have this internalized sense of entitlement to happiness, and when we don’t automatically get it we try to prove our worthiness to happiness by bashing ourselves.

    It doesn’t make common sense, but I think this is our way to protest life and its perceived injustices. I think of myself as entitled to automatic happiness and gratification but life refuses to give it me. In order for me to make this passive position defensible I need to make myself miserable so I’m cleared of the burden to take care of myself.

    I think the take away from this is that being happy feels like a chore to us that we rather ignore. Like exercising, being happy is an energy investment. It takes time, practice, and most of all the internalization of the fact that we are not naturally entitled by birth to happiness.

    Happiness is not a universal ever-lasting birthright. We need to be cunning and make use of our skills to find our own version of a happy life. That idea sounds sucky to us because we want life to give us the security of being happy just by virtue of sitting around. It actually takes a lot of courage and balls to say to yourself I’m strong and powerful enough to assert my own happiness and fight for it. Once you are done being a kid no one will guarantee you a quick fix to your problems

    This is also why I think people who grew up with resources find this part of life so challenging – it’s about accepting the loss of birthright security (lavishment and protection from mom and dad), and realizing that you are not inherently worthy of anything besides air food and water. The rest is to be acquired through personal achievement, which may or may not be of great expectations. i.e. we fear that if we take responsibility for life, we might find out we are actually not the amazing talented gift-to-the-world idealization mom made of us but rather much more average and unsensational people who have to work hard to achieve a good level of happiness and satisfaction.

    and that sucks.

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    why does it happen though… why do we feel like we need to be unhappy …..like being happy is a crime or something??

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    I think you might have a issue dealing with depressed person!. I can tell that you never felt what is means to be depressed and how it paralyzed you. No one like to be victim, no one ever what to be stick with negative emotions amd dpreas person will hide from people would not chase attention.There is alot of non-depressed people think the way you think and it one of the some reson why depressed person afrid to show them selfe; The would bullied being depressed. Be carful of what you write this words might have serious effect if a severly depressed person read it.

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      I was thinking the same way.

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    Just 2 and 3, so does it mean i enjoy it?

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    Why break the situation or change it if someone is perfectly happy being unhappy… like me… I need dark days an pain and unhappiness to create So I need it like a drug… it’s me… we are all different👳🏽‍♀️👷🏻👩🏻‍⚕️👨🏻‍🍳👩🏻‍🏫👩🏻‍🎨👨‍🔬👮🏻‍♀️👨🏻‍🌾 the quest for happiness is an illusion for some… and it’s ok.

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      Me too…☹️😓💓

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    Katie stewart


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    Your article is very good, sadly i am one of these people, however there are many more reasons for this kind of behaviour. I dont know that i find happiness in being sad, but i’m coming to think perhaps i’m addicted to this kind of behaviour and it does worry me. People are very complex due to a multitude of factors as you would know and in my case , while my life is not bad, i dont have anything to feel happy about but in order to feel something i reach out for sadness, as it is much easier to find things to take me down rather than up.

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    I see the question why are they happy being unhappy. Well the answer is pretty simple: Those person have lived in a bad environment for a very very long time. A person close to me is in this state and no matter what I do and trying to convince them to get over it, they go in the past and stick with the bad moments like all that matters to them is there and not the present and future. She even agrees to me but just after few hours is doing the same thing.

    Any suggestions on what should I do to help her are very appreciated.

  14. Avatar

    These comments seem to be about a year apart!

    I recognise these symptoms in someone I know. Whereas I don’t think she is actually happy about being unhappy, it has kind of become a way of life. and nothing anyone says or suggests seems to get her out of it. She has read the article and recognises that it may apply to her, but again reverts back to exhibiting all the symptoms.

    As with the previous comment, any suggestios as to how to help would be much appreciated.

  15. Avatar

    “Number 5” that’s me!!! 😥😓 I can’t understand my self most of the time.Why I need to feel sad?! I try my best so the people in my life never feel that I’m unhappy ☹️

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    That means i am bad?
    I can’t control myself i hate that I can’t be happy and I can’t be sad i so tired of this, I hate how I am feeling, I hate that i am happy but I don’t want be sad , actually i don’t know i am happy or sad i am excited or i am angry, Lost sense of enjoyment , I force myself to enjoy , I want Die but I want be life, I lost myself, I feel that I’m just a loser looking for pity , but I don’t chow my feelings to other because I know they will make fun of me, they will call me drama Queen, i so tired of this lifestyle , I want begin my life again.

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