Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Torture and Contentment

Isn't it fascinating how some people love things that other people hate? I know, I know...that's a simplistic statement. But emphasis on "love" and "hate" in the most literal sense.

It is a real testament to how different our inner worlds are.

Sitting on the beach is a great example. There are people for whom sitting in the sun on the beach is a Sublime experience in the most seriously Wordsworthian sense. For me, sitting on the beach is a few degrees short of a living hell. I despise sitting in the sun. (It almost induces in me a feeling of panic.) Walks on the beach and swimming? Sign me up. Sitting on the beach in the evening? Delicious. But to sit in the sun for hours at a time...no thanks. If I wanted to feel that way, I'd have gone to college and majored in being a dinner biscuit.

But as humans, how can we all be humans and have such wildly different instinctual reactions to things? It's mind boggling. That is why I recoil so violently from generalizations, even when those generalizations are made by the experts -- psychologists and sociologists, etc.

Often, I have seen advice on "how to be happy." Often, I have given advice on how to be happy. But how much is that worth if there are guys like me running around hiding from sunlight and other people literally basking in it? (I even have a friend who has said she adores the feeling of a sunburn. I can't even imagine. Sunburn, to me, is natural torture.)

This being so, how can we say: People are happier when they spend time outdoors; people are happier when they have a large network of friends; people are happier when they have dogs"? To answer what you probably expected to be a rhetorical question, the answer is: because these things apply to most people. I think it is really important that the "most" part be emphasized. If not, the minority who like being alone; who only have one or two good friends; who don't like pets...these people might come to the conclusion that they are broken. That doesn't help anyone.

Another simplistic statement to close this out: The bottom line is that we are similar and wildly different, but I think we pay more attention to the similarities because that is easier. I'm only suggesting we almost use a boilerplate qualifier when suggesting formulae for contentment; a "your mileage may vary."

....because if being around friends is good for you mental health but gatherings drive you crazy...

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