Dissatisfaction: A User’s Guide

Provided by Marushka from Skeleton At The Feast

Image courtesy of Havoc at IHaveKungFuPhotography.com

There are many good arguments on behalf of contentment. I am in fact completely in favor of contentment, so if you find yourself at peace with your life please don’t read any further – because today I make the case for a creature called Dissatisfaction.

What is this beast? I often catch it prowling around my thoughts. It haunts late afternoons, slow days, sleepless nights and glimpses of other people’s lives. Sometimes it’s large and sometimes, small. It’s always impossible to ignore. I used to think it was a bad luck charm: somewhere I must have gone wrong, to bring Dissatisfaction on myself. But lately, it looks a bit different. Its tracks have led me to a lot of places marked “Change.”

You see, I’ll tell you the moral of this story right now: Dissatisfaction doesn’t mean bad luck or bad morals. It simply means an awareness that the “real” world doesn’t match up to the world in your head. And once you’ve accepted that, the next logical question becomes: what are you going to do about it?

Dissatisfaction is not something to waste. Unlike Contentment, who sits alone in its garden and smiles through sun and rain, Dissatisfaction is almost never still. It has the energy of an insomniac pacing at midnight: constant, restless, untamable. That’s powerful stuff.

It’s a force strong enough to drive change. It’s a force just contrary enough to see where the world can be repaired – and refuse to rest until it’s found the duct tape.

Here is a truth: today I lost a battle. It’s one I’ve been fighting for about five years, alongside many other humans. As you may suspect, Dissatisfaction is howling outside my door right about now. And it’s the best sound I’ve heard this morning. My nature’s better angels are busy nursing their wounds, so there’s not much help from Faith, Hope, and Charity. But Dissatisfaction has just enough wit to know what not to accept.

You, too, may have lost a battle. If it hasn’t happened today, or yesterday, it may happen tomorrow. But you have strength enough for two: you and Dissatisfaction. And Dissatisfaction will keep you going when Contentment has fled. Dissatisfaction remembers what the world inside your head looks like, and it isn’t going to let you forget until you’ve done everything you can to bring it to fruition.

Now, most stories have only one moral – but this one has two. So here’s the second one: understand you may never be content. But let it be because of the strength of your vision of the world. Once you understand what that vision requires, “dissatisfied” can become another way of saying “visionary.”

If you’re content, long may you live. If you’re apathetic, good luck. If you’re dissatisfied, well, there’s work to be done on this planet – and I have the feeling you just may have what it takes to do it.

And whether you are content or dissatisfied with this post, I’m eager for your thoughts in the comments!




Author’s Bio:
I dream curiosity and write words that change brains. 
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19 thoughts on “Dissatisfaction: A User’s Guide

  1. A beautiful and valuable perspective on valuing experiences it would be all too easy to ignore or bury. We can let these experiences be great teachers if we let them.

  2. I find myself disturbed by your post. I have lived the great majority of life with an acid working in my brain and it has not been an uplifting or useful experience. As for change and its necessity, that is a difficult one. No changes in the external world will have any success unless we change our internal world and dis-satisfaction is such a destructive emotion. So, I hope you don’t mind my expressing my belief that internal calm and acceptance (contentment? I’m not so entirely sure) may be a better engine for a better world than discontent. In my view at least, discontent is destructive and change for changes sake serves little purpose. I would like to save the ecology, eradicate hunger and poverty and violence. Bring about peace and love on earth. But my own instinct is that internal peace and yes, perhaps content, would be better catalysts than dissatisfaction, discontent and anxiety.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment – I actually agree that, if one can achieve it, internal peace may be a better vehicles to address our world’s needs. But for those of us who don’t have it, and possibly never will – I believe it’s better to look for ways to use what we do have in the most positive ways possible. Otherwise, all we’re left with is waiting until we’re “good” enough to help others.

    2. This post is wonderful. You’ve hit on a profound paradox about acceptance and rejection. We don’t want to get fat and happy, but we need to accept where we are.

      Interestingly, though, I found myself thinking very similarly to Anthony Garner. Both contentment and dissatisfaction have their place, but I think true happiness is found in contentment. If you’re not okay with what you have, can you guarantee you’ll be happy when everything is different? Yet, the world never stops changing, so you must be ready.

      Thank you for such a wonderful post!

  3. I completely understand where you are coming from and I absolutely love your post. Perhaps you have redeemed the word dissatisfaction. Much like the ego getting the bad rap for just about everything wrong with well… everything.
    But what wonderful tools! Both catalysts for growth and without growth there can be no experience.
    I have struggled with dissatisfaction my entire life and you are so right – it is when the outside doesn’t quite jive with the inside. Mostly for me, I have come to understand it is because I am not being honest with myself. I really appreciate this post and your perspective.
    Next time dissatisfaction raises its precious little voice, I will thank it and take a closer look inside my heart.

    1. You are very right, self honesty is something I too am still learning to listen to – a work in progress! Thank you for sharing!

  4. I love this post!! I’ve been working on my own blog on a similar topic for weeks and couldn’t quite find the words to make this exact point. I’m finding the same thing – there’s always something useful and attention worthy in dissatisfaction as it simultaneously reveals what we *do* want. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thank you for “listening”! It often takes a lot of patience and persistence to untangle what discontentment really means – but I find it’s nearly always worthwhile.

  6. I have nothing to add or contest (it seems more qualified folk have beaten me to the punch) except to say that this was another thoughtful post that challenges and inspires me to assess my emotions and the way in which I see the world. I’m also thrilled to see such civil and inspired discourse in the comments. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

  7. Thank you for this provoking post. I guess that we need darkness to appreciate the light.
    Dissatisfaction invites searches for wisdom, clarity, peace of mind . Changes are often stimulated by dissatisfaction and changes when made with wisdom encourages us to grow.
    May be dissatisfaction can be likened to the effect a grain of sand has on an oyster……
    There is a silver lining in every cloud and all that….
    Great post!. It encourages me to go deeper within and to observe how I feel about my own dissatisfactions….

  8. What a great read! Thank you for sharing such wise words on a difficult mental challenge we all face at sometime. At 18 I’ve come to accept that dissatisfaction is a part of life and that fighting it was stopping me from appreciating the present moment. This post worded it perfectly however that dissatisfaction is when “the real world doesn’t match up with the world in your head”. There is nothing stopping us from using this feeling as a source of desire to build the world you truly imagined.

  9. So very excellent! Acknowledge and accept dissatisfaction as a gift of awareness. We can choose to make friends with dissatisfaction and use it as fuel for creating more satisfaction, little by little, each day 🙂

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