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The "there are people worse off than you" argument

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posted on Sep, 18 2012 @ 07:40 AM
I admit to using this line myself when I hear other people complain about the issues in their lives. Especially when I hear them say things like "what do I have?" or "what's good in my life?". It's become mainstream advice to "think of all those worse off than you" or to "appreciate your health, the clothes on your back, roof over your head and food on the table". I admit that many people do take these things for granted and only realise their value once they are no longer there. I have been fortunate my whole life to have these securities and even though times are tough at the moment, I strive to remind myself just how lucky I am to have them.

A major problem I have with this line is that it encourages people to take a sense of comfort in the misfortune of others. This can provide emotional comfort for an individual, but it is superficial. You see, by others being in worse circumstances than you, your need to grow or develop as a person is tarnished. You are content with the bear minimum and there is no real motivation to strive for something better. What is the point in desiring something that you lack ambition to obtain? It doesn't matter whether you compare yourself to the person next door or the most unfortunate person in the world, your circumstances are not improved.

Another problem I have with this line of advice is that it makes the assumption that physical health and material wealth are the most important aspects of life. It does not take into account your mental health, your personal level of happiness or your sense of fulfillment as a human being. Some of the happiest people in the world are poor and some of the most depressed are rich. Some of the most optimistic people have physical ailments while some of the most pessimistic are in relatively decent shape. A fit body, an assortment of clothes, an abundance of food and a place to live does not make somebody of ill mental health happy.

Encourage others to be grateful for the securities in their lives and all the things they do have, but also remember to remind them that mental health and a sense of personal fulfillment go a long way to determining one's true sense of happiness.

posted on Sep, 18 2012 @ 07:49 AM
reply to post by Dark Ghost

Good morning to an awakened being! S&F, for bringing up a phrase that so simple, yet cuts people deep. Build your brothers and sisters up, don't tear them down. One day they might just be your only support. We must build our fellows up!
edit on 18-9-2012 by RABiam because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 18 2012 @ 07:59 AM
I think it is simply one tool amongst many, that can be used in developing happiness, no matter what your situation.

Contrast and relativity is like the toggle switch you can use to turning up your emotion/energy levels, or turning it down, as necessary.

Looking at your situation in comparision with those who have "more" of what you like turns up the energy... it stimulates ambition. It stimulates physiological changes. If you USE that energy in motion, one way or another, it good- if you do not.. if it is blocked with either thoughts or beliefs you have that are contrary, or lack of necessary skills, or some sort of exterior obstacle, it is bad for your mind and body and results in unhappiness.

If you compare your situation with one that is less of what you like, it turns down the gas- less ambition. This can be good if you are actually able to coast without much effort. But if you have physical survival needs or challenges come up while in that state, you may find distress happening to your body and mind as a result.

Stress and depression can come from either creating too much energy and having it stagnate within, or trying to take action without enough energy production!

The method isn't bad or good in itself...... it is all in how and when you choose to use it!

It just hit me that it is like in the Serenity Prayer?
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Have the wisdom to discern when you need to create acceptance and when to create courage.
This relies highly on a very balanced and realistic perception of the world, and of yourself, in the moment.

edit on 18-9-2012 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 18 2012 @ 08:22 AM
Well I'd rather be a psychologically unbalanced fool that gets to live in a house and eat than a starving child in Africa born with AIDS.

Yes, people do have it worse than you and it's worth acknowledging.

Not everyone has the time or resources to complain on the internet about how they have nothing to complain about...
edit on 18-9-2012 by Hawking because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 18 2012 @ 09:48 AM
I agree another persons misery does not make yours any less miserable. Being happy is not about being comparably better off to another person but learning to work with what you have. I do however feel sometimes pointing out the misery other people have survived can help put things in perspective and instill enough strength and faith in your own ability to pull through a rough period.

But rather than telling a person they should be happy they have shoes even if they are too small because someone in another country does not have water just does not make any sense. However telling that person that because they do have some shoes albeit small ones they are able to walk through the snow hopefully far enough that they can get to a point where better shoes can be obtained. The fact that they have snow will also ensure they have some water on their way and as such can concentrate on finding something to eat with it in order to survive the walk to find the shoes.

It is all about gaining a new perspective from which to tackle the perceived problem. So if your complaint is that you only have sweetcorn to eat it may be a good view changer to point at someone who have nothing at all to eat but only as a reminder that food is there to sustain you and sweetcorn will be sufficient to do that until you can find something better to eat. The person with no food has another problem very different to yours. Yours is about preference theirs about survival.

Just thoughts.

much love

posted on Sep, 18 2012 @ 05:05 PM

Originally posted by Dark Ghost
A major problem I have with this line is that it encourages people to take a sense of comfort in the misfortune of others.

No. There is a big difference between schadenfreude and being grateful for your situation.


posted on Sep, 18 2012 @ 05:09 PM
your mom meant well

maybe you should call her

posted on Sep, 18 2012 @ 09:21 PM
There is always someone better than you and worst than you in pretty much everything you do. You just don't make your whole well being based on how good you think you are at something. There is a balance of things. You can't know good without the bad or know having a full stomach without felling hungry. Be grateful for what you have when you are poor and when you are rich and be grounded....keep on thinking and puzzling over things and being aware ..cheers good thread

posted on Sep, 19 2012 @ 10:35 AM
I think the main point of saying this is because most of what people worry about these days (in western society) really is petty unimportant stuff. Obviously you would not say this to be someone who has just found out they have cancer or has just lost everything.

But most of what I hear people complaining about really are petty trivial matters, white people problems so to speak.

"Really, you got the wrong sized garbage bags...? You poor thing. You do realise that there's people being massacred in Somalia as we speak don't you?"

I really dont think it has too much to do with taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. It's more just throwing a different perspective onto their situation. Sometimes people need to be reminded just how much there life doesn't suck.

edit on 19/9/2012 by 1littlewolf because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 21 2012 @ 09:35 AM
Very well said. It encourages apathy and mediocrity and gives people no will at all to change because "at least its not Iraq" or wherever, "we are actually free". They become content with imperfection.

Barbarians will never fully grasp freedom though as they are too engrossed by the toys in the playpen, by being part of the system in any way whatsoever is what keeps it going, true awaking is revolution but on an individual, thus collective, level.

The ones who are meant to will rise up and out while the quitters and perpetual complainers/scaredy cats dwell in this hell.

posted on Sep, 21 2012 @ 03:54 PM

A major problem I have with this line is that it encourages people to take a sense of comfort in the misfortune of others

Yes, but not everyone will take comfort in the misfortune of others. There are many people who I know would never do that, because that's just wrong. It's more like, one can look at those people who have experienced all those misfortunes as inspirations. That if they can get through all that, then I can get through this little thing.

I actually try to get my partner to understand this idea. So often he finds life so hard and difficult because he does not get along with his sister, and I try to make him see people like my Mom who has been through a civil war, with bombs and explosions and poverty and losing everything, but still working hard and making ends meet and surviving. And she doesn't ever complain about the things she had to fight for or how hard life is or was for her. So watching her in my life, I learned that the things that seem bad in our lives, really aren't as bad as they seem.

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