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Why would one choose long term misery over short term pain? These individuals want to feel better and improve their lives, but stop short of taking the necessary action to do so. They are unhappy and stuck - whether it be in a bad relationship or job situation, or perhaps dealing with a chronic physical, mental health or addiction problem. The cause? Combined or standing alone, here are two possible obstacles to change:

1. Discomfort avoidance: Avoiding action that would likely lead to negative experiences and feelings for self or others – e.g. discord/dislike/retaliation, vulnerability, sadness, fear, loneliness, guilt, embarrassment, awkwardness, anger, regret.

2. Risk aversion: Aversion to events or situations that involve uncertainty, are unfamiliar, where outcomes are unpredictable/not guaranteed or could potentially “make a bad situation worse”.

Discomfort avoidance and risk aversion come in many forms:

  • Over-estimating the probability of negative outcomes

  • Under-estimating the probability of positive or neutral outcomes

  • Predicting and selectively focusing on the worse possible scenario otherwise known as catastrophizing

  • Doubting one’s ability to tolerate or withstand the pain

  • Not feeling confident they are making the right choice, fear of making a mistake that can’t be undone, will lead to ruin, they will regret, etc.

  • Perspective of “forever” vs. “point in time”

  • Minimizing the problem/issue or the opposite, stating they also have, contribute to, etc. the problem/issue (“I’m just as bad, Who am I to judge”) when pushed to self-activate

  • Convincing or fooling oneself that things will get better with time or other changes in external circumstances

  • Help rejecting complaining and/or excuse making, “I’ll do it when…”

  • Apparent acceptance: “Looks like butter, but it’s not”

Signs and symptoms of choosing long term misery:

  • Addictive and compulsive behaviors (attempts to mitigate the effects of the problem via negative coping mechanisms including using fantasy to escape)

  • Ruminating and resentful

  • Perspective and behaviors related to martyrdom, self-sacrifice and/or subjugation

  • Feeling victimized: Taken advantage of, bullied, targeted, treated unfairly, etc. and helpless to do anything about it

  • Chronic low-grade depressed mood, passivity, lethargy, low motivation, apathy, complacency

  • Having a core experience of feeling not worthy of good things – i.e. defective, unlovable, destined to suffer, etc.

  • Somatic problems and issues

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