why "fixing" discontent is actually treating only the symptom

Several years ago I heard anger described as a "secondary emotion." When you're angry, you're actually feeling a primary emotion that's causing your ill temper. That's really stuck with me. Now when I feel angry I try to identify what it is I'm actually upset about: am I disappointed? frustrated? anxious? uncertain? tired? Only once you nail down the real problem can you make any progress in finding resolution.

Discontent is no different. If you're feeling unsettled and unhappy, there's a reason for it. Maybe it's something big like the job you have or discord in a key relationship; or maybe it's something as simple as disappointment at a canceled trip or even out-of-whack hormones. 

The key to understanding discontent is to realize that you actually are in control of how you feel and how you live. Don't drown in discontentment! Find the problem, and fix it! And if you can't fix it, find a way to work with it. The glorious thing about contented living is that it doesn't discriminate--you really can be content in any circumstance. And as I type those words I realize how easy it is to say something like that, and how difficult it is to make that happen.

Yes, sometimes we find ourselves in situations and periods that we can't see a way out of. Sometimes, for a period, discontent is inevitable. Yet, discontent need never defeat us. And that's a topic for a whole different post. So.

In those moments when you're swept over with waves of discontent, stop and listen and seek. Just as your doctor examines your symptoms to find a diagnosis, take stock of your life and find those areas that need fixing, or even removal. Let that discontent alert you to the real issues, because when you can fix the actual problems, contented living is not far behind.

This post is part of a 31-day series on contented living. You can find the other posts here.

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