The Allure of Dissatisfaction

How can dissatisfaction be “alluring”? That seems counter-intuitive, right? I mean, people put a lot of effort into trying to “feel” happy, satisfied, and content. Or to “not feel” anxious, depressed, or empty.

Dissatisfaction is like a grain of sand irritating the soft body of a clam: it provokes a response. In the case of the clam, the response produces a pearl.

Pearls in oyster

I believe our responses are meant to create something valuable, too. Our moods are messengers; our thoughts are clues. And our “dissatisfactions” are challenges to grow, stretch, and push out of our comfort zones.

So what’s the allure? It’s what’s behind the dissatisfaction: the call to step away from the status quo and toward the authenticity of your inner wisdom.

On the surface, a frustrating situation may seem like a condition imposed on you from the outside. But if you listen more closely, you can often hear a deeper calling for change, or expression, that you need to honor to grow.

Sometimes, I experience dissatisfaction as a vague wish that something was different. Other times, I’m more clear that I’m not happy with my surroundings, my daily habits, even other people. But when I take the time to look more deeply, I can discover something new about myself and others, or deepen my learning about something I already know.

There have been times in my life when, instead of seeing my dissatisfaction as an invitation to make a change, I’ve focused on the grain of sand, not the pearl. And the grain of sand is often what we can’t change. It’s there to provoke us to grow. Focusing on the grain of sand can make you feel helpless, and even more frustrated. But when you focus on the pearl, you’re responding, you’re creating—you’re both responsible and free.

Sometimes, I didn’t want to be responsible and free. I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted something outside of myself to change so I wouldn’t have to.

You can guess how well that worked!

We’ve all known people who complained about their circumstances but did nothing to change them. I’ve been that person at times in my life. Often, those were situations where I was so entrenched in a negative perspective that I couldn’t see my way out.

I had one of my favorite dreams a few years ago when I was working with a life coach. I dreamt that a little hedgehog was in a cardboard box and could not get out. I empathized so much with the little creature that it was painful for me to watch it struggling to climb up the sides, only to fall back in.

Then, in an “ah-ha” moment, my dreaming self gently turned the box onto its side, and the hedgehog was able to escape.

Hedgehog in a cup

Changing my perspective seemed so easy in the dream, but it took a lot of time, effort, and support to change my perspective in my waking life.

Dissatisfaction calls to us to look deeper. But it can be scary to dive so deep that you brush against your own monsters, that you lose your sense of what’s up and what’s down. So we “stay busy.” Or tune out. Or complain. Or focus on everything that was wrong, is wrong, could go wrong.

And often, friends and family give us lots of sympathy in response to our complaints. It just seems easier to blame the world than to grow ourselves.

And for a while, it may be easier. But in the long run, it’s harder, because we keep ourselves stuck, and guarantee that we keep having the same type of experience over and over again.

How we choose to respond to something we are dissatisfied with makes all the difference.

In a challenging situation, when have you focused on the pearl you could create, rather than the grain of sand?

How did that change the experience for you?

What did you learn?

Posted in Growth.