Deborah Hill Cone

Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: A little bit miserable and loving it

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Having a cold is quite convenient as it gives you a legitimate reason for being glum. Photo / Thinkstock
Having a cold is quite convenient as it gives you a legitimate reason for being glum. Photo / Thinkstock

Rachel Johnson, sister of the more famous Boris, says women are constantly being told to pamper themselves and to spend time 'on themselves', but there is nothing more anxious-making than indulgence.

Oh, how I miss pseudoephedrine. I have a dirty old upper respiratory infection but will have to just soldier on. In other news, the cat threw up three times in the middle of the living room carpet. And our nits are back. If they ever went away. I can't find a green T-shirt for my daughter who is being chlorophyll in a school dance performance about photosynthesis. "It's better than being carbon dioxide mum."

This is just the everyday detritus of life in a middle-class household. And yes, I realise this "mummy hell" sounds close to parody. I have come to the realisation I'm more comfortable with a certain level of chaos. But I also wonder if, perversely, I'm more comfortable with a certain level of unhappiness.

On one level, having a cold is quite convenient as it gives you a legitimate reason for being glum. Could we be conflicted because all this endless sun has stopped us being able to moan about the weather? Could we prefer to be unhappy?

Rachel Johnson, sister of the more famous Boris, says women are constantly being told to pamper themselves and to spend time "on themselves", but there is nothing more anxious-making than indulgence. "A woman is often never happier than when she is feeling exhausted and put upon."

You don't have to be a woman to enjoy suffering. A World Health Organisation study quoted by Radio New Zealand reported how in the Protestant country Norway there are only a handful of analgesics available over the counter, whereas in Italy there are scores of them. In Norway "a little suffering is good". I bet they don't have any pseudoephedrine either.

In the same way, test marketing of an effective but foul-tasting cough syrup found Dutch people bought it enthusiastically while Italians didn't. But when the cough medicine was given a pleasant taste, the Dutch distrusted its effectiveness and stopped buying it, while the Italians started buying it.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychology professor at Ivy League university Amherst, says although we seem to idolise happiness as the be-all and end-all of life's desired outcomes, certain cultures actually fear the state of happiness. Cultures that believe worldly happiness to be associated with sin, shallowness and moral decline will actually feel less satisfied when their lives are, by other standards, going well.

This week has been such a happy time for left-wingers who have been positively joyful about Margaret Thatcher dying. It has given them great delight recounting how miserable she made them. (Even if they are too young to know what the Winter of Discontent was and have never listened to Billy Bragg). There is nothing so enjoyable as feeling righteous in one's misery.

Whatever floats your boat. But it might be a bit more honest to admit you don't really want to be cheered up.

Most of the lobbyists reported on National Radio would fall into this category. What would they do if they got what they wanted? They would have to be happy and that would be terrible. It could also be helpful to know if we are indulging in a level of self-sabotage, or psychological reversal as shrinks call it.

Even for people who are mostly happy and successful in life, if they are "psychologically reversed" they find a return to an underlying state of unhappiness or bad luck in some uncanny way feels to them more normal. That is because being happy means they have to face up to fears and anxieties they find uncomfortable to examine.

As to me? Drat. I am feeling much better. How annoying. Now I have to get up and do something. I was so enjoying having a jolly good moan.

- NZ Herald

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