Don’t Enable The Unhappy

On his radio show Friday, Dennis Prager says: You out there who enable the chronically unhappy should feel awful because you are making your own lives miserable and you are enabling the miserable to stay miserable.

Everybody does this. You have to be very strong not to do this.

If we did not enable the chronically miserable, they would change.

I’m talking about unhappy people who take out their bad moods on others.

I don’t think we enable friends as much, because we simply drop them if they’re too drippy.

You can’t make the unhappy happy. We have to tell the chronically unhappy people in our lives — I can handle your depression, but I can’t handle you taking it out on me.

Nobody can make the chronically unhappy happy but the chronically unhappy people themselves. Anybody who tries to make such people happy will only reinforce their unhappiness. People don’t do things for which there is no reward.

The ability of other people to make us unhappy is infinitely greater than their ability to make us happy.

What does decent person does not feel sorry for the unhappy? But you can’t act only on feelings. If you act on feelings, all you will do is to try to cheer the person up, you will act fake, you will walk on eggshells, and all you will do is to reinforce the person’s belief that acting unhappy gets them attention.

A 25-year old woman calls: “I have a perspective from the other side. I’ve been the unhappy one in most of my relationships. You are right. I took it out on them. I made them responsible for making me happy and a lot of my relationships failed. But I’ve been dating a wonderful man named David who listens to your show regularly and he showed me the video you made on happiness. Throughout our relationship, he stood up to me and said, I’m sorry for your unhappiness but it is not my fault.

“That hurt me and made me angry at him but so much of that got through to me. I’ve taken responsibility for my unhappiness. I’ve been getting therapy…”

Dennis: “It is not easy to change, but we can help you change by not tolerating your bad moods. Tolerating bad moods is like bringing an alcoholic another drink. There is no difference.”

Janine calls. “When my two year old throws a tantrum, I send her to her room and tell her to come back out when she can be happy.”

Dennis: “The earlier you can teach a child that they may not inflict their bad mood on others, the easier it is for them and for you.”

Dennis advises a son: “Tell your parent you are obligated to honor her, but you will not enable her. You save your marriage and your life by saying that to your mother. You don’t have to be abused.”

A spouse has to handle his own moods. You can’t handle his moods. A vast number of people go to war and when they come back, they don’t take out their moods on others. He can get moody, but he can never mistreat you. I cannot control your moods, my darling, but you must control how you treat me.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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