This is Part 7 of Bliss & Struggle blog series and introduces us to the exploration of our daily life and the first symptom that not all is well: the feeling that many of us get every now and then that life sucks. You can visit the series home page for the full table of contents.

Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world, you don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne)The Matrix

It’s hard to be a human these days.

Oh, what’s that? I see you there, rolling your eyes: “This guy is full of bullshit.”

Well, maybe you’re right; maybe it’s not so hard to be a human these days. You could argue that we don’t have to deal with lots of crap that we had to endure in the past:

Like living in cold, wet caverns without Internet, Netflix and 3-ply toilet paper…

or being forced to slave away for despotic overlords…

or dying from the common cold, scurvy or just because the village doctor hasn’t taken a shower in three months…

Just to name a few.

And yes, as far as you and me are concerned, that’s true. We shouldn’t forget, though, that most of those things are still happening, in other places, to some other people… And sure, that’s really fucked up (specially when most of us choose to pretend that it’s not happening…) but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.

So if we are just talking about the immediate “us”, it should be pretty obvious that we are better off. It shouldn’t be too hard to be a human these days, should it? And yet:Why is it that so many of us are feeling like shit ever more often? Click To TweetHere, now, amid all this unprecedented well-being, this feast of technological advancement and never-ending supply, in this the supposedly single fucking greatest time in history to be alive.


when life sucks

The prevalence of the everyday struggle

Do you think that I’m exaggerating? Do you think that this doesn’t apply to you? Let’s see:

  • Have you ever looked back on your day and wondered if it had any meaning, perhaps even regretting what you’ve done with a time that is now forever lost?
  • Have you ever failed to act on what you thought was the right thing to do, falling short of your own expectations, perhaps wishing that you were just a bit stronger, smarter, more persistent?
  • Have you ever had the feeling that you are being shortchanged on rewards based on your level of efforts, or that the high that you get from those rewards is losing intensity and is ever more fleeting?
  • Have you ever tried to reason against any of those feelings, perhaps even feeling ashamed of having them and believing yourself unworthy of all the good things that you do have and that you seem to take for granted?

I sure have, and I bet you too; frankly, I’d be surprised to find someone who hasn’t felt this way. There’s no point in denying it:I struggle, you struggle, she struggles, he struggles, and we all fucking struggle. Click To TweetAnd you know what?

It’s OK.

all is well life sucks

That self-doubting, conflicted, belittling asshole who lives in our heads, doesn’t make us bad, worthless or weak. There’s no shame in admitting that there’s some of Pete within us. What would be the point of pretending that he’s not there? Would that make him any less real? Would it hurt any less? Does the infection go away just because I refuse to take my temperature? No, it doesn’t. Click To TweetAnd yet, we feel an urge to dismiss those feelings, to put their meaning and significance into question: “Boohoo, I struggle that’s right, so what? Look at me, at my life, can I really complain? Can I really say that life sucks? Aren’t there bigger problems?”

Why does it feel wrong to feel the way we do?

When “life sucks” but we’re ashamed to say it

While we intuitively reject (or at the very least treat with suspicion) our internal struggles, few other problems are so universally accepted as such as extreme poverty and hunger. Excluding natural and career-based sociopaths, most of us consider these issues worthy of our compassion and deserving of the efforts to solve them. We see our concern as fully justified and we even feel better about ourselves because of it: “I’m such a nice human being for caring and an even better one when I do something about it”. Why? Because these challenges make perfect sense within our understanding of reality, they seem to be unquestionably real.

But what experience do we have to support that assessment? Surprisingly, little to none. For the most part we are NOT the ones suffering – our knowledge about these problems is derived from more or less distant third party accounts.

South Park poor kid life sucks

GIF By South Park

The fact that we are perfectly capable of legitimizing problems that we only perceive by proxy makes our reaction towards Pete even more puzzling. Our awareness of our internal everyday struggle doesn’t rely on data aggregates or third-party accounts, we have a direct and personal experience of it. We are the ones feeling that sometimes life sucks.

Pete is within each of us, here and now, and while we might not be able to see it, to a larger or lesser degree we can all feel the disconnect. Isn’t it then ironic that we think of that struggle as less real and of lower value and importance? Isn’t it odd that we feel compelled to deny those feelings? Isn’t it nuts that the very fact of having them makes us feel worse about ourselves?

What the fuck is going on?

The proximity paradox

It would seem logical that the closer we feel something, the more real we would think it to be. I might not believe that aliens regularly visit Earth, but if I ever were to be abducted into a flying saucer, I would probably change my opinion on the matter.

Rick & Morty abduction life sucks

GIF By Rick & Morty

But if that were so, then my own problems would feel undoubtedly more real and important than any other problems; which is clearly not the case. So even though proximity might be a factor in our perception of problems, there seems to be a much stronger variable at play: their perceived legitimacy. In other words, the way we understand the world defines the way we evaluate it; which let’s face it, is not that surprising at all.

So the question is: What sort of perception of the world could explain the attitudes that we have described above?

The materialistic bias

We seem to readily accept that those experiencing material deficits are suffering a problem and most of us feel empathic towards improving their condition. We feel their urgent need for our help: here and now. Even the adjective we use to express pity, “poor”, plays on our materialistic perception of their struggle. We assume that indeed, their life sucks.

Why do we react in such a different way when the ones expressing anguish or need for help are materially well off? Why don’t we feel that same empathy for their problems? Why do we think that their suffering is less important the wealthier they are? Why do we feel the urge to claim that whatever their issue, they shouldn’t complain, even when the “they” is very often simply “us”?Why does my life as a member of a relatively well-off society with a job that pays the bills seem to invalidate my own internal struggles? Am I not entitled to be dissatisfied? Click To Tweet

cry money life sucks

The glitch

Could it be, perhaps, that such type of unhappiness clashes with the way we are being told to see the world and build our lives? Pete doesn’t discriminate by wealth, age or gender. He doesn’t care if we vote left or right and no amount of material wellness can stop him from showing up in our heads. That is disturbing.

We seem to be playing by a set of rules which point towards material wealth as the means through which we win: the more wealth we have, the better we play, the closer to a life of bliss we should be. Because (as we previously argued) if that is not the prize, then what’s the point?

Something is clearly not working, there is a glitch.

We claim to know that there’s more to humans than the individual mass of meat and bones scrambling to survive in a material world, that there’s more to our needs than food, shelter and sex. We repeat like a mantra that money does not buy happiness and that it is not the answer to all our problems… but judging from our actions, we are not buying that message at all.

devil wears Prada life sucks

It would seem that we are assessing our problems from a highly reductionist view of reality; a reality where the ultimate measure of legitimacy is material well being (or lack thereof); a reality built on a clear underlying assumption: if you don’t have, poor miserable you; if you have, then you should be living a great life; and if despite having you still feel like something is missing (or that your life sucks), then you are an entitled prick. End of story.

Cut the crap: Pete matters (your struggles matter)

I told you: It is hard to be a human these days, and the fact that based on all the usual indicators, it shouldn’t be, the realization that we live a life of privilege and we shouldn’t complain, yet we still feel the way we feel, makes it even harder. As a result, we are moved to foolishly dismiss our own, very much tangible and present problems as constructs of our incorrigibly weak and spoiled human minds.

That bullshit must stop now.

Instead of wasting energy on futile attempts to bury Pete, wouldn’t it be more productive to reconsider whether he is the result of something cringing in the way we understand reality? Shouldn’t we be alarmed that the way we are feeling seem to be contradicting the way we assume we should be feeling? Quick answer: HELL YES!

It is time to pay attention to a struggle that no amount of rationalizing can ever stop. Ignoring or dismissing it is not only unhelpful but actively preventing us from understanding what is not working and blocking our ability to move forward.

We must see Pete as the useful little bastard he is: a symptom that something is not quite right, a lighthouse shinning in the darkness that informs us that perhaps there’s something to our feeling that “life sucks”, and warns us of the danger ahead. A beacon that lets us chart the path towards the right direction.

I invite you to join me in this exploration trip to embrace our inner asshole. It is only through him that we will finally find redemption.

matrix white rabbit life sucks

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