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Pessimists live longer: what is wrong with positive thinking and why suffering is good



In our society, pain, suffering, negative thoughts and feelings are considered a bug that needs to be fixed. A modern person is required to be positive and certainly happy. Is this correct - says psychologist Katerina Zykova in her article for Next - from the first person.

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"He who is happy is right," and if not, then this must be corrected. I propose to consider a different point of view on the presence of pain and suffering in human life (no, this is not an article about the joys of BDSM).

Harmful “bird of happiness”

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Psychologists have been talking about the dangers of “positive thinking” for a long time and confirm this point of view with various studies. For example, during a long experiment by Frieder Lang (professor of psychology, University of Martin Luther, Wittenberg, Germany), it turned out that elderly people who saw the world in darker colors had a longer life expectancy than their optimistic peers. Lang explains this by the fact that critical thinking triggers caution, rational planning, and health care in people.

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A study by American social psychologists says that the pursuit of happiness leads to the development of depression: people pay too much attention to the symptoms of stress and negativity, scolding themselves for it (you have to be happy, but I can’t do it!). Thus, the inability to comply with the given framework of a happy life makes people deeply unhappy.

To be a living person

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There are no “good” and “bad” feelings; there are more and less pleasant ones. All feelings are necessary and important, they are signals that indicate what is happening to you here and now. Each person experienced pain and suffering, and will experience them more than once, because this is a normal reaction to life itself, in which a variety of events occur, not only joyful and happy.

“We all have to suffer to one degree or another, we all have to work and earn a living, we all ultimately face guilt because we have not been able to meet our own expectations or the hopes of other people, we are all controlled chance, and we all will ever leave this world, and among all these temporary things we are doomed to inevitable loss. " (C. Jaspers).

Ignoring and avoiding “negative” feelings is a departure from reality and the fullness of life. You can try to “forbid” yourself anger, fear, pain, sadness, but you cannot “cut them off” forever, stop feeling them.

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Self-deception (I live only in a positive way, the world is beautiful) makes the encounter with reality more painful, intensifies the chaos (why this happened to me) and self-abasement (probably I myself am “bad” and did not try enough). If it hurts and is bad for you, this does not mean that you are “some kind of wrong person” who does not know how to enjoy life and only get positive experience from everywhere. This means that you are a living person.

As the elderly hero of the TV series “Kominsky Method” said after the death of his beloved wife: “It hurts to be a man, it hurts to hell, and all the explorations of the world will not expel this pain from you, because being a man and suffering is the same thing.”

Most likely, the question is not how to permanently rid oneself of the “negative” (this is an impossible task), but how to be able to meet unpleasant feelings and events, to endure them. The point is not to never fall, but to get up faster when you fall.

Add existential philosophy

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Philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote about the “genuine” and “non-genuine” ways of human existence. We all mainly live “not truly”, that is, we are immersed in everyday life, we follow the requirements of society, we live according to generally accepted guidelines.

In a “genuine” existence, a person encounters being as it is - meaningless, absurd, indefinite, experiences its existential loneliness, inevitable finiteness. On the one hand, contact with a “genuine” layer of existence brings anxiety, pain and despair.

On the other hand, through all these unpleasant experiences, each person can find courage and courage in himself in order to live. Despite the anxiety and fear about the uncertainty of the world, "the destiny of man rests in himself." You can recognize the randomness and meaninglessness of the world and at the same time build your own life, find your meaning, values ​​and support.

And what do I do?

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I don’t think that life should be seen in gloomy tones or chasing permanent suffering. In my opinion, there are many tones in life, as in your inner world there are many different feelings and conditions. And it is important to give yourself the right to all this diversity, because ignoring and skewing in only one direction deprives life of fullness and authenticity.

It becomes sad and insecure when the ideology of happiness becomes a dictatorship and a dominant tendency that considers a person within the framework of “norm” and “pathology”.

I also think that finding support and meeting your pain and other experiences is sometimes unbearably difficult. And in this situation, it’s so normal to seek help: friendly support, bibliotherapy, psychotherapy, or any other way that suits you specifically. The ability to acknowledge one’s difficulties and ask for support is a sign of courage. Being a man is basically a courageous thing.

The original column of Katerina Zykova published on the portal

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