7/12/15. Published in the Michigan Psychology Newsletter, Spring 2015
I am going to live forever. So far, so good.
--- Steven Wright
Most people don’t know that the songs that defined
the boomer generation have taken on new meanings
for this aging population.
For instance, take Ray
Charles’s 1959 song What’d I Say:
The memorable lyric in this song is:
See that girl with a diamond ring
she knows how to shake that thing
Baby boomers take this song literally due to hearing
loss (“Why is everybody mumbling?”) and memory
And what about Aretha Franklin’s great 1967 tune
The memorable lyrics in this song are:
Find out what it means to me
Take Care, TCB
Aging boomers crave respect because they tend to
think of themselves as special, very different from
previous generations, rejecting traditional values,
seeking higher levels of consciousness through drugs,
sex, and an expectation to change the world for the
But, try telling your grandchildren about your
specialness and see how much RESPECT you get.
Then there was Motown’s Marvin Gaye who sang
What’s Going On in 1971.
Even today, this is a frequently heard greeting
members of the boomer generation: “Hey, what’s
But the memorable lyric from this tune was:
Brother, brother, brother…
There’s far too many of you dying
I hate to tell you this, fellow baby boomers, but when
someone in your weekly card group doesn’t show up,
it’s not because they found another group to play in.
And remember At the Hop by Danny and the Juniors
And remember when you, aging boomer, could
actually hop, roll, and stroll -- and not fall down?
But think of the memorable lyrics from At the Hop:
You can rock it, you can roll it;
Do the stomp and even stroll it.
At the hop
If you were to listen to this song today, you’re more
likely to say to yourself: “Why is this music so loud,
and why can’t I hear anything?”
Of course, everyone’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll group
was the Rolling Stones. In 1965, they sang (I Can’t
Get No) Satisfaction. This song captures the spirit of
aging, although today, for us boomers it should be retitled:
I Can’t Get the Satisfaction I Used To.
But recall the memorable lyrics in the Rolling Stones
And that man comes on to tell me,
How white my shirts can be,
But he can’t be a man cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarettes as me.
You know as well as I do that your greatest
satisfaction today is eating an early dinner and going
to bed at about the same time your children and
grandchildren are leaving their houses to go to a
concert, restaurant, or bar. And if you’re still
smoking cigarettes, it’s likely to be on the porch or in
the garage --some satisfaction!
To comment on this article, contact Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D., at
7/12/15. Published in the Michigan Psychology Newsletter. Spring, 2015
I don’t think I’m either pessimistic or optimistic; I’m
realistic. I don’t disparage your joy, but I think true
joy only arises from acknowledging our despair.
--- Rollo May, Ph.D.
As part of their training, psychologists have worked
to understand the roots of their joys, miseries and
despair. None of us wants to suffer, or experience
pain, but we learn, and relearn to acknowledge, bear,
and put into perspective our inevitable unhappiness.
This learning often brings greater emotional maturity,
resilience and empathy --- post-traumatic growth
some say, making us better prepared to help others.
There is an upsurge of research on positive
psychology to teach people ways to aspire to virtues,
character strengths, and happiness.
Since suffering is inevitable, it makes sense to teach
our patients methods to systematically promote selfpunishment,
guilt, and anxieties ---- on the route to
post-traumatic growth. If you know how to make
yourself miserable, just think what you can do with
Teaching misery is not easy task.
Tolstoy, in the first sentence of Anna Karenina, tells
us why understanding unhappiness is so challenging -
-- “All happy families resemble each other; each
unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Tolstoy,
The message here is that happy people have no
history --- they get up in the morning, go to work,
and come home --- drama, they don’t have.
Psychologists are exposed to the dramatic stories of
their patients in predicaments and interesting events -
-- the more narrative a life is, the worse it is.
Unhappy families all have stories ---- and each story
is different (Morson, 2015).
Since each story is different, we must teach our
patients some general principles of misery that apply
to all unhappy people.
To help psychologists teach
their patients how to make the most of their
individual unhappiness, I turn to a wonderful book:
“How to Make Yourself Miserable. Another vital
training manual” (Greenburg, 1966).
SOME GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF MISERY
Seventeen Basic Pessimistic Philosophies
1. I can’t do it.
2. I never could do anything right.
3. I have the worst luck in the world.
4. I don’t have a chance, so why try?
5. I’m all thumbs.
6. I’d only get hurt.
7. It would never work.
8. It’s not in the stars.
9. It’s never been done before.
10. It’s not who you are, it’s who you know.
11. It’s too late now.
12. It’s later than you think.
13. You can’t take it with you.
14. What good could come of it?
15. The piper must be paid.
16. The wages of sin is death.
17. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
How to Make Yourself Miserable about the
1. Refuse to accept what cannot be changed.
2. Establish unrealistic goals.
What not to accept
1. Don’t ever accept your age, or your weight, or
your height, or your face, or your ethnic
group, or your socioeconomic level.
2. Don’t ever acknowledge the fact that you
3. Don’t ever accept the possibility of failure,
and don’t ever prepare for it with alternative
4. Don’t ever accept the fact that most people
will never realize how great you are.
5. Don’t ever believe that the things other people
have which you’ve always thought would
make you happy aren’t making them happy
What goals to establish
1. Find the perfect mate.
2. Find the perfect job.
3. Write the Great American Novel.
4. Get even with the cable company.
5. Develop a foolproof system to beat the stock
6. Fight City Hall, and win.
7. Get revenge for every injustice you’ve ever
had to put up with in your entire life.
8. Never be unrealistic again.
THE REJECT-ME MOVE:
YOU: “Tell me frankly, what do you think of me? Be
REJECTOR: “I think you’re very nice.”
YOU: “No, tell me exactly what you think. I admire
frankness more than any other quality.”
REJECTOR: “Well…to be perfectly honest I do
think you act a little neurotic at times.”
YOU: “Is that so! And I suppose you think you’re
I could go on and on with sure-fire methods to be
miserable -- but did you expect all the principles in
Tolstoy, L. (2014). Anna Karenina. New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press.
Morson, G. S. (April, 2015).
The moral urgency of Anna
Karenina. Commentary, 139 (4), 1-3.
Greenburg, D. & Jacobs, M. (1966). How to make yourself
miserable. New York: Random House.