Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is suffering really suffering?

  1. Dec 1, 2009 #1
    They say you learn more when you lose. If your a card player you know that its true that you remember your biggest defeats more then your biggest wins. So it would see that losing makes you smarter in a way. Would it be going to far to say the biggest loser in the world is probably the smartest man in the world? I don't know if thats really true because wisdom requires understanding both winning and losing I would hope. So anyhow what im wondering is when is the point where you win too much and you start to become stupid. Would 50% winnings be the breaking point or would it be more/less? What im getting at is if suffering can be useful and if so when and why ect...?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Actually study gamblers and their problem is that they don't learn. They do indeed fail to feel reward for wins and focus only on the pain of losses, so end up chasing their losses in the reckless hope of breaking even. In reducing the pain.

    If they instead focused on the pleasure of winning, they would soon quit gambling as it would be clear that pleasure is infrequent in the long run.

    It has to be added that problem gamblers are usually first triggered by an initial unexpected win. They get hooked by the first big jolt of pleasure that results. The desire to erase the pain comes later.

    And we should also consider the cleverness of the industry in designing addictive technology. Slot machines are designed to create the illusion of control and predictability with all those hold and feature buttons. The unwise gambler believes in these manipulations.
  4. Dec 1, 2009 #3
    Losing can make you better, but sometimes it can make you worse. Like if you're a boxer, getting knocked out repeatedly does more harm than good.
  5. Dec 1, 2009 #4
    Doesn't gamlbing have to do more with the feelings involved? (in those who are addicted.) I think that it can be safe to assume that addicts are dellusional, so a reference to them in comparison to 'average' people isn't the greatest of analogies. I see where you are going though.
  6. Dec 1, 2009 #5
    Um? Did this get moved here or was I really on too much crack when I posted it? I was sure I posted this in the philosophy section um... fix?
  7. Dec 1, 2009 #6
    I don't think it really has any philosophical merit. It's more of a semantics game and they definitely do not like playin the semantics game. :tongue:
  8. Dec 2, 2009 #7
    Would you play some gambling games with me and be a wise person ...?

    A wise person would be someone who either wins or does not lose anything (knows when to enter into the game) IMO.
  9. Dec 2, 2009 #8
    I think you have it a bit backwards. Gambling addicts focus on winning. If they truly focused on the pain of loss I doubt they would continue playing. Its the singular euphoria of victory that an addict has on their mind and to their detriment this fixation makes them ignore losses. You are right though that many addicts get to a point of severe depression over losing streaks that makes them irrationally continue playing and making riskier bets but this is driven by a fixation on winning and a lack of attention to losses. If you listen to most gamblers talking you will most likely hear them discussing their greatest wins and those games where they "should have won" or only just barely lost. You will hear few gamblers talk about their worst defeats where they made horribly stupid bets, and I assure you that any aggressive gambler or addict has done it often.

    Good gamblers pay attention to their losses and know when to quit.
  10. Dec 2, 2009 #9
    You can not gamble without loss. Good gamblers know this. They assess their chances and risk what they feel is an appropriate sum considering the probability of success. They know that they may not win and know how much they can afford to lose before they should quit. When gambling there is no "Sure Thing". Only bad gamblers think they can gamble without losing.
  11. Dec 2, 2009 #10
    losing is better only when taken positively.
    but in games like boxing both losing and gaining is really painful.
  12. Dec 2, 2009 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    OK, quoting from the Journal of Gambling Studies (:rofl:)

    Findings. There were significant differences between responses of problem and social gamblers. A significant interaction indicated that social gamblers became more aroused in reaction to winning than losing, whereas problem gamblers became equally aroused in response to both tasks. Conclusions. The results suggest that it may be responses to losing, rather than winning that are paramount to the development and maintenance of problem gambling.

    To put it more carefully, the key is the anticipation of reward. This is what gambling machinery is geared to exploit with its flashing lights, bells, jackpot clanking, etc. It is about generating a continual impression of near misses.

    So for most of us, a loss is a loss - an unrewardingly painful experience that means it would be wiser not to continue feeding the slot.

    But for a problem gambler a loss is instead a near miss. Painful, but oh so close, so one more spin. A win if it comes is almost just a vague relief rather than a jolt of excitement. Anticlimactic compared to the agony of expectation.

    See also....

    It is certainly beyond dispute that when problem gamblers enter the losing phase they "chase" losses.[53] This involves continuing to bet in order to win so as to recoup earlier losses. Pathological gamblers can continue to gamble in the face of the most distressing anxiety. This is because they learn to associate the distress of losing with the anticipation of the subsequent powerful reward of winning.[54] As one writer explains:
    "A partial and random reinforcement schedule ... is the most powerful behavioural conditioner. A typical casino-gambling game is just that - a partial - and random-reinforcement game where rewards occur with irregular frequency."[55]
  13. Dec 2, 2009 #12
    I think that you are coming at this bit here from the wrong angle. The issue that they are having with their response to losses is that they are not responding to them properly. They are not computing a loss as a loss but as a near win (as you have noted). They are ignoring their losses because they are too focused on winning.
    As I already noted "good" gamblers are the ones who actually pay attention to their losses. They have a healthy and proper perception of their losses.

    Precisely. In the pursuit of a win they are ignoring the suffering even as it unconsciously drives them to more erratic behavior and greater loss. If they realized what they were losing they would stop. With any addiction it is the realization of consequences ("realizing that you have a problem") that is the first step to seeking help.
  14. Dec 2, 2009 #13
    This would be a ridiculous assertion.

    The smartest man in the world would be the one who learns the quickest and most solid lessons from any losses, and avoids them most diligently in the future.

    Suffering is bad: it distresses and erodes.
  15. Dec 2, 2009 #14
    Welcome Zoob!

    This was my first thought as well. Though I was side tracked by the gambling discussion.

    I am of the opinion that the only "good thing" about suffering is the ability to learn from it. Otherwise all of the traditional rationalizations of why suffering is a good thing are really just attempts to find meaning in something that has no meaning. "The problem of evil". I believe that a person could easily live, learn, and find pleasure in life regardless of the quantity of suffering that they endure. It is not a necessary or meaningful component.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2009
  16. Dec 2, 2009 #15
    Yeah. I recently read a little book about Post-Traumatic Stress in Vietnam Vets, and it's clear that they were plainly and simply damaged. Same holds for Katrina victims, and anyone whose been thrown into unexpected trauma.

    Engaging in deliberate effort to strengthen yourself is a different matter. It might entail some voluntary deprivation, sacrifice, and arduous pushing beyond limits, but, being deliberate and voluntary, it's quite different than suffering.
  17. Dec 2, 2009 #16
    No, the biggest looser in the world remains the biggest looser in the world.

    Professional card players are focused on winning. The most successful ones will probably not dwell on failures too much. You do treat it like any other business, you keep the books, and let number speaks. It can be a stressful job, but then again, its not for anyone.

    So it is in other avenues of life. Dwelling on failure, falling to suffering , will only impair you.
    The most successful man have the ability to shake it of very fast, learn the lesson (and the lesson is learned from facts, good or bad, not from sensations) and move on. Action is much more useful than endless introspection, pain and suffering :P

    You wont learn anything from suffering. Your psychiatrist on the other hand, will.
  18. Dec 5, 2009 #17


    User Avatar

    I'm going to guess that the original post wasn't explicitly about gambling, but life in general - card playing and gambling being just an example.

    Sure, but how did that person become wise to begin with? You can learn a lot from your mistakes, and not everyone wins all the time. Half of everything is luck, and everything eventually evens itself out.

    Onto a more off-topic note...
    I once went to a casino and tried the slots for the hell of it. About half an hour and 20 dollars later, I decided that playing the slots is probably one of the most unsatisfying things imaginable. It basically felt like being charged 20 dollars at a vending machine for a soda and not getting it even after having paid for it.
  19. Dec 5, 2009 #18
    One might bear in mind that not all suffering is equal. People may learn different lessons from suffering, but some of these lessons are assuredly not good. For example, someone who is abused by their parents are very likely to "learn" the lesson that physical violence is an expression of affection.
  20. Dec 5, 2009 #19
    No, suffering isn't really suffering. If it was, then it would be called sufferi...oh, wait.
  21. Dec 5, 2009 #20

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thank you for pointing out the tautology. :rofl:
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook