“How to build your life” is a column by Arthur Brooks that addresses issues of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on happiness. how to build a happy life.
“Ohdī et amō” The Roman poet Catullus wrote about his lover Lesbia about 2,000 years ago. “I hate it and I love it. You’re probably asking why I do this. I don’t know, but I feel it happening and I’m tortured.”
Maybe you can relate. If you’ve ever had mixed feelings about someone you love, you know the intense discomfort it can bring. Of course, if your feelings are purely positive, the relationship is blissful. Even purely negative emotions would be better because the course of action becomes clearer: say goodbye. But mixed feelings leave you confused about the right thing to do.
Love isn’t the only place where complicated emotions can cause pain. Maybe your ambivalence is directed at your employer and you can’t decide whether to keep working and improve or go somewhere else. and may be difficult to interpret. Perhaps your childhood, both good and bad, didn’t fit into a neat framework and you find it impossible to explain to others or yourself.
Like a phone that connects to multiple networks simultaneously, complex emotions drain your emotional battery. They are one of the most complex psychological phenomena we can experience and cause us a great deal of pain. You might think that purely negative emotions are the most unpleasant. In reality, a cocktail of negatives and positives can be even worse.
T.his thoughts Being able to experience truly ‘mixed’ emotions is something completely new. Even in the 20th century, many psychologists believed that there is a continuum of positive and negative emotions. After a loss or trauma, if you feel “feeling worse” over time, it simply means “feeling better.” Researchers had no idea that a person could feel good and bad at the same time. Even today, people often talk about happiness and unhappiness in this way. As if the presence of one meant the absence of the other.
In the 1960s, new psychological research began to gather evidence that positive and negative emotions were in fact separable and felt simultaneously and in rapid succession, as further research observed. rice field. Neuroscience added support for this hypothesis when scholars discovered that positive and negative emotions correspond largely to activity in different hemispheres of the brain (for many people, negative emotions are activity, positive emotions correspond to activity on the left).
Today, many emotion researchers believe that mixed emotions occur in nearly everyone. You may feel positive about a romantic relationship in the morning and negative in the afternoon for no apparent reason. Or, at one point, you’re happy with the overall partnership (I’m glad we were together!) but frustrated about certain aspects (she’s not very affectionate, which worries me). .
You might think that net happiness at some point is like positive emotions minus negative emotions. If good > bad, you are “net happy”. But as Catullus suggests, it’s not that simple. Complex emotions can impose a greater psychological burden than the outcome of that equation. You might say that good and evil are fighting within you and that you are mentally exhausted.
Last year, a researcher measured the effects of positive, negative, and mixed emotions on happiness and found that positive emotions boosted happiness and negative emotions depressed it. On the other hand, an independent measure of mixed affect also depressed happiness. more In other words, it’s easier emotionally to hate a relationship or job than to be vague about it, rather than just negative emotions.
〇It seems obvious The solution to complex emotional problems is to try to eradicate them through more dualistic thinking. For example, you can try to eliminate the shades of gray in romance by simply judging “good” or “bad” and acting accordingly. Told me he thought people were doing this. wonderful Also terriblePsychologists call this “dichotomy,” and studies show it’s not helpful or healthy. On the contrary, it is associated with many personality disorders.
Instead of trying to think in dichotomies, lean into the complex realm of emotions that psychologists call “dialectical thinking.” This is the attitude that opposite emotions are normal and compatible. Some cultures are better at dialectical thinking than others. My wife is correct that Americans tend to be particularly vulnerable to dialectical thinking. But it’s finally here.A chapter of my life is coming to an end and the future is still uncertain.I miss my neighborhood and the friends I’ve made.I really don’t want to leave.Sad It’s a nostalgic time.” Americans who read this were about 50% more uncomfortable than Chinese. This is probably because you didn’t realize or pay attention to the fact that missing your neighbors and friends means you have fond memories of them.
To become more dialectical in your thinking, start by consciously acknowledging conflicting emotions instead of subconsciously battling them. If you’re conflicted about your relationship, try writing down the good and bad sides of it. But if the benefits outweigh the costs, judge that there is nothing unnatural or bad about having positive or negative feelings towards your loved ones. It has been applied in many fields. It brings real relief and enhances my happiness.
Once you become comfortable with complex emotions, begin exploring the richness ambivalence brings to your understanding of life. A 2017 researcher showed that a deeper sense of purpose can be found when contemplating both happy and sad emotions about specific events, such as college graduation. Seeing the true complexity of our relationships and experiences takes us beyond the superficial “wonderful” or “terrifying” descriptions that obfuscate our lives more than they unravel.
Note the apparent contradiction here. Complex emotions can bring unhappiness, but they can also bring meaning to life. In retrospect, you will find no contradictions. The meaning is not only positive. On the contrary, a truly meaningful life is one that is filled with all kinds of experiences and emotions, including those that we find offensive. This is why some psychotherapies seek to not only alleviate emotional pain, but to find a deeper purpose in it. In a well-examined life, complex and negative emotions are not wasted.
HaAtulus’ Dilemma It has haunted and inspired us for centuries. In 1989, Rolling His Stones made a particularly direct calculation in their song “Mixed Emotions.” billboard Top 10 hits ever. The modern catulus, Mick Jagger, sang: “This back and forth hurts my gut.”
Of course life would be easier if there was a clear path to follow, but that is rarely the case. We are made to experience ups and downs, but almost everything that is truly meaningful has both. Sometimes it hurts your gut. But that’s the point. Don’t try to keep life simple. Rather, be fully awake and determined to live in the chaos.