We all have our moments, some better than the others. So, whenever you feel that life, instead of handing you the lemons, is forcibly shoving them down your inflamed throat while Justin Bieber is being blasted through your ears, you go surfing on the Internet to find something to cheer you up, probably a video of a cat floating through space and time looking surprisingly ,well, surprised. You see, the sciency people have figured out that your brain through a paradoxical series of response loops (paradoxes interlinked with other paradoxes, the sort that would make Heisenberg proud) is ruining your chance at happiness and is, in fact, the traitor giving mean old life all those juicy, bitter lemons to shove down your throat.
“It’s like life is an underpaid lemon farmer.”
Before you close this article thinking this is some self-help crap for emo kiddies who cut themselves “because the pain makes them feel alive”, we need to start with and make you understand:
5- The Region Beta Paradox (Small Inconveniences are much much worse than actual tragedies for us.)
How many times have you felt a creeping sense of futility when a nightmare inducing human right violation got nothing more than a few shares or retweets but a small change to the calibrations of a gun in a video game results in a heap of death threats and furious demands that the whole gaming industry be burned to the ground and reborn from its ashes? It’s not because the Internet is filled to the brim with sadistic trolls but because our brain is erratically wired for exactly this type of response.
Quick question: What would be worse for you, the closing of your favorite restaurant, the one with the hot servers and hotter food? Or having your hand chopped off by your newly adopted pet dog? Obviously the one where you’re one bloody hand (pun intended) short, RIGHT?
“The demonic red eyes are probably a bad sign.”
NOPE, statistically you’re more likely to get used to your single handed reality quicker. The reason? Your brain has a pretty great system of coping mechanisms in case of actual tragedies but the catch is that the situation has to be bad enough for them to start working. You’ll find all sorts of thoughts circulating your mind like, “Sure, I lost a hand but Johnny lost his whole arm. Man, this dog seriously looks like a wolf, we should probably get rid of it…” But these processes come at the cost of a huge amount of focus and energy so they don’t kick in unless you’re absolutely screwed. This is widely known as the region-beta paradox. Think about all the times you played a prank on someone many years ago and they still remember it like yesterday or the time you made an offensive joke in your rebel phase and your parents still bring it up. If those were major offences, those people would have been forced to work in order to forget about the atrocities but since they weren’t, they’re likely to linger for a long time.
“Basically you’ll be this guy, but only a fraction as hot.”
4- The Hedgehogs Dilemma (Closure hurts but solitude hurts more)
We’ve all had that time in life when someone we cared about hurt us so deeply that we were forced to hermit up, survive solely on ice cream mixed with salty tears and made us get in the groove for some Adele. I’m not talking about the time some random asshat swiped the last box of choco bears right in front of you, we’ve made peace with that. No, for someone to hurt you so deeply they have to be really close to you. Arthur Schopenhauer writes about it as a story about some porcupines which bundle together in the winters, the closer they get to preserve body heat, the more they prick each other, so the more it hurt. Thus, they learned that they needed to maintain a safe distance but if they remained isolated for too long, they’d die. Frued later adopted this and wrote that intimacy, by meaning, requires lowering your defenses thus leaving yourself vulnerable. But once you’ve let someone into the deep end, just to see them blow it to smithereens. This forces you to vow that you’ll never let anyone get close so that they don’t hurt you. That, dear friends, is the Hedgehogs Dilemma.
“Who’s up for some hedgehorgies.”
Humans are social animals and solitude is like going to sleep, it feels great and refreshing but keep at it for too long and you’ll end up in a public hospital pronounced dead by a non-caring doctor. So, as an anecdote, Schopenhauer explores three distinct choices in this matter:
- a) Start distancing yourself more and more from society until it turns into unresolved rage.
- b) Accept that all relationships hurt and contain some elements of pain and disappointment. And keeping this at the forefront of your mind, get out there, ready to hurt again. For most this is the only valid option.
- c) Follow Schopenhauer’s advice and maintain a modest distance. Harmless and shallow relationships which provide some semblance of closure with minimal danger of being hurt. This seems like the best option but has many startlingly obvious repercussions.
3- The Self Absorption Paradox (misery resulting from too much self-awareness)
How would you define a happy person? A foolish sitcom character or a weirdo dancing gayly in the rain? It doesn’t matter what you thought of because it most definitely involved the age old thought that, “Happiness is for stupid people”. You don’t think these people are really happy, they’re just oblivious fools who don’t know any better. They’re happy like a goat, chimpanzee or toddler is happy.
“I bet they sniff each other’s farts too. How dare they be happy?”
After all, it’s all the intellectual geniuses sulking in their miseries who kill themselves or drink themselves to that point. Psychologists call this the “Self-absorption paradox” and it says that too much self-awareness is fatal. You need to have a clear understanding of your own limitations and problems to actually be happy, but there are two ways you can act upon this knowledge:
1) Self Rumination, which is basically focusing endlessly on each and every way you suck. (*wink**wink*)
2) Self Absorption, which is using this knowledge to work on your flaws and actively work to become a better person.
You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the latter makes you happier and more satisfied whereas the former makes you bitter to a point that you now hate every happy (foolish) person for not joining you in your painful existence in the abyss.
Another closely related phenomenon is that most people (pessimists) don’t really grasp what optimism really is. They think it’s about ignoring that what’s wrong with you and the world while everything around us just crumbles and dies. No, it’s about accepting them and knowing that no matter how grim the situation is, you can make it through. This is the Stockdales Paradox (Optimism is a necessary illusion) and it was named after a Vietnamese prisoner of war’s rather intriguing story.
2- Abeline Paradox (Lying about our wants to seem unselfish)
Logically, the worst, biggest assholes are people who put their needs before the needs of others, not giving a single fuck about anyone except themselves. Whereas, the best, most saintly person would be that who do the exact opposite, putting the needs of others over their needs, caring only about what others want. However, these people are actually hell to be around and if you gather a few of them in one place, everything slows to a crawl. This is the Abeline’s Paradox though I like to call it the McDonald’s Paradox. It works like this; four friends just got free from their excruciatingly tiring jobs and decide that they’re all hungry. Ali asks everyone where they’d like to eat because he doesn’t want to make the suggestion himself, after all, he’s not an asshole who imposes his will on others. The group turns to Jake, who promptly says McDonald’s because that’s where everyone went last time and it was okay. He secretly wants to go to Yum’s but he remembers no one complaining last time about McDonald’s. Then it is Junaid’s turn who thinks for a while before adding another vote for McDonald’s despite feeling that their burgers are pretty underwhelming and dry. He craves some decent Chinese cuisine from Yum’s but Ali has already said McDonald’s, and Junaid does not want to be the asshole who contradicts Ali. At last, then it’s Hailey’s turn who again says McDonald’s despite knowing full well that they’re overpriced (price of health) for the standard of food they serve but she also doesn’t want to be the asshole who cares about only herself so her choice is clear too. After Jake, Hailey and Junaid have had their say, Ali adds another customary vote for McDonald’s because it’s a done deal and he’s not John Mclane who’s gonna force everyone into the submission of his explosive will. So, before you know it, they’re all McDonald’s, AGAIN.
“For just $7 you can get a full meal, obesity, diabetes
and a bonus cardiovascular disease….”
This is the real paradox: Everyone absolutely needs to be the good guy so they continuously lie about what they really want just to make others happy and thus they work on set of falsely fed assumptions to do this. What happens, ultimately, is that everyone involved turns out miserable and the cycle continues as more fake assumptions have been established. What people don’t realize is that saying your wants doesn’t make you an asshole, it’s how you react when you don’t get them which is the judge of that. Come to think of it, lying about what you want to seem noble and to do the other person a favor (unknown to everyone except you) is a pretty shit move. Yet, this is the go to romantic strategy for most people who always seem astonished when they eventually end up in the friendzone. Not caring about the need of others at all is obviously really bad. Lying about your wants ,though, is ultimately even worse.
1- The Dependency Paradox (You end up being the biggest possible burden on others by not wanting to be a burden on others)
Why do we think that Batman is the biggest badass of all time? There would be a lot of answers to this but the most accurate is that he’s independent of everything (except money) and doesn’t need anyone to help him but rather the world needs him. The fact that he’s a questionably sane human, dressed as a bat who single handedly beats the living shit out of everything remotely evil unfortunate enough crosses his path is just the icing on the calk. The death of his parents serve the purpose of making him even more self-sufficient and self-made, qualities common in all of our heroes.
“The holy grail of badassedry.”
This is also the logic most widely used when so many people say that giving alms/social welfare to the poor is wrong as it just turns them into a burden on the system making them solely dependent on the will of others. So far, so good, right?
Yet we’ve all heard a conversation that almost played out like this:
“Bro, I seriously need $500, they’re gonna kick me from my apartment.”
“You see I needed $150 initially so I went to the bank to borrow it, factoring in all the fees, interest rates and whatnot it’s risen to $500 over the past few months.”
“Why didn’t you ask for $150 before?”
“I didn’t wanna be a burden on you….”
You can pretty much apply this to any similar situation and get the same result; The Dependency Paradox. It can be applied to any relationship. Being dependent on your partner (emotionally, socially, financially etc) is obviously bad. The problem arises when you refuse to admit that you need anyone at all, not just for you but also the other person involved. By admitting you need the other person actually helps both parties function better and , rather ironically, makes them more independent down the line.
This starts in infancy as a toddler learns to form a dependent, meaningful bond with his parents as part of his growth. Throwing the baby out in the mountains in survival doesn’t make him tough. It probably kills him and even if he survives, he’ll grow into an erratic mess who may dress up as a bat and punch the living shit out of people but he won’t be doing it to serve justice. Speaking of broken humans trapped in hurtful relationships…
“Hugs, hugs are what is really needed.”
The world is full of broken humans who can’t bring themselves to ask for help piecing themselves back together. It’s exactly the reason why the miserable quickly dismiss anything with a chance of making them happy and instead light up when someone openly admits their needs and wants. Before we go separate ways, let me put one last question in front of you all. We’ve all heard of the badass soldier who bled out because he refused medical treatment for his gunshot wound, right? Well, ask yourself this: was he brave because he didn’t fear dying or was he a coward who preferred to die instead of seeking treatment because he didn’t wanna seem weak in front of his fellow soldiers. I ,for one, know which one is the nobler route.