We dream of paradise—a life of happiness. We are idealist, entertaining beautiful visions of trouble-free existence. Often, we trudge through the moment fantasizing of something better, believing that we will find our utopia just over the next horizon. But life doesn’t play along, each day, month and year carries both joys and sorrows, reality continually pokes with reminders of truth—life is difficult. Daydreaming isn’t a crime; sometimes we need the escape from harsh realities. But too much focus on fairylands creates disappoints with ordinary fields of existence.
Ashley Moor aptly wrote, “the fact is, we all face times in our lives when we feel the coldest depths of despair, when the only thing we feel like doing is going somewhere quiet, staring at the ceiling, and crying. These are the moments when life feels way too hard” (2019). Certainly, we occasionally run smack into these moments. We want to scream, “life’s not fair!” And, you know what, it isn’t. This magnificent life doesn’t always feel so magnificent.
Why is Life So Difficult?
Life is difficult for a number of reasons. Perhaps, the most notable reason is survival take work. Fallacious beliefs that life shouldn’t require work magnifies the discomfort. Life requires work to put a roof over our head, and food in our bellies. Anybody that proclaims that they shouldn’t have to work denies a reality that has faced human since the beginning of time.
Logically, when we skeptically examine fanciful beliefs, we recognize the error. Our conscious catching of foolish beliefs mitigates the emotional impact. But many beliefs slither past conscious evaluations, hiding in the shadows and spiking emotions. When someone’s actions interfere with our intentions—whether big or small—their action demands either they or we need to adjustment. The forced change creates discomfort. This is normal.
Those who flourish, recognize the outside intrusion, evaluate current actions for adjustment, and move forward, in the face of life difficulties. Those less skilled become frustrated, sad or angry. The encroachment into their plans is disastrous. They label the surprise as evil, gossiping with cutting details, and retaliating with unmatched fury. The expectation of ease is exposed, and mandatory change is upsetting. An entitlement magnifies emotions when the world doesn’t act as it should. The entitled respond to displeasing experience with astonishment.
The Emotions of Living
Another reason life feels difficult is that we naturally experience emotions—both good and bad. Life feels difficult because difficulty is part of the emotional experience. The emotional ups and downs work for our benefit, directing attention and demanding action. But unmediated emotions, intense alarms to changes, may misguide and disrupt the purpose of emotional reaction. In the real world, we must wrestle with constant unmet needs and desires. When unplanned events (or people) interfere, emotions rage.
T. Franklin Murphy wrote, “the cycle of sadness (emotions—faulty meanings—and ineffective action) channels cheerless energy into hopelessness; strengthening the weighty winds of sadness into a full-blown storm of depression. Our emotions cycle between joyous and sadness, peace and disruption in magnificent patterns” (2016).
The biological system jumps to life to encourage action, pushing new behaviors to secure the threatened needs. Survival needs aren’t clearly discernible; wants and complex constructions of associations get mixed in. Emotions easily go haywire instructing obnoxious, damaging and corrupt behaviors; flourishing demands more than simple emotional driven action.
Securing success requires learning, skills and some luck. We could survive haphazardly doing whatever the emotions dictate, just not well. Without early planning, future benefits suffer. Our poor planning creates a more difficult life later on. Chaotic lives might survive but without gainful employment, comfortable shelter and reliable transportation. But these luxuries contribute to a healthier and longer life. Events threatening employment and relationships spike emotions.
See Feeling Discomfort for more on this topic.
When we expect a life that doesn’t exist, we heighten frustration with the life we experience. Unrealistic expectation distorts the normal push and pulls of emotions. The constant drive for an unchallenged life generates frustrations for the normal displeasing occurrences. The conflict between expectation and experience creates a constant upheaval dragging ordinary moments into a continuous drama; life is miserable.
Focus on the coming paradise of pain free living magnifies the lack of perfection in the moment. The idealistic life always remains around the next corner, just beyond our grasp. Basically, life is difficult because we compare it against the idealistic life free of demands. If perfection was necessary for comfort, then life would be dismal, each step tormenting. Reality doesn’t tire, constantly reminding of imperfection. If this is not what we expect, living frustrates, hindering action and discouraging achievement of well-meaning plans. Discouraged, we return to the disappointing life of the past; complaining of its terribleness, but never changing.
Throughout life, we continue to meet challenges, face inner demons, and confront challenges in employment, relationships and emotions. Amidst these struggles, we also encounter plenty of opportunities for joy, security, peace and acceptance; we must seize on these fleeting opportunities.
“Amidst these struggles, we also encounter plenty of opportunities for joy, security, peace and acceptance; we must seize on these fleeting opportunities.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Personal Responsibility and Difficulty
Accepting personal responsibility is a difficult. Many choose to focus blame on the outside causes. They expect the world to conform to their distorted beliefs. Instead of using the uncomfortable emotions of living to motivate positive change, they engage in manipulations, harsh judgments, and attempts of control, desperately trying to escape the haunting of personal demons. Demons, the little nasty personality glitches, are ever present—in us and in others. Partners and acquaintances act in flawed ways with occasional hiccups to their normal loving dispositions. We must accept this, working through the surprises that disrupt and sometimes even painfully impact our lives. Even when doing the right things, consciously examining responsibilities, and making life improvements, we will still encounter difficulty.
When multiple people are involved, goals conflict and worlds collide; we must adjust. We don’t exist independent of others. Most goals require cooperation from a few others. If we expect smooth implementation of change, we will be disappointed. The interference of others will provide instant justifications because they don’t play by our rules.
Successful achievements require focusing less on what others should be doing and more on what we can be doing.
If life and relationships are painful, within the hurt, we can find the answers. Slow down, experience emotion, enjoying the imperfect existence, try a few new things, find comfort in a few old things, savor the moment, and prepare for the future.
Moor, Ashley (2019). Experts Say to Do This When You Feel That “Life Is Too Hard.” Best Life. Published 2-28-2019. Accessed 4-17-2023.
Murphy, T. Franklin (2016). Magnificent Life. Psychology Fanatic. Published 4-16-2016. Accessed 4-18-2023