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Why misery ?

  1. Jun 10, 2003 #1
    This world is full of misery and agony, does it make us to be a stronger person? Without misery, does it mean we can not know what is happiness?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2003 #2
    Misery is thought to be an evolutionary adaptation to environmental pressures. For example, depression is speculated to be among other things a means of encouraging wounded animals to seek out a quiet place, rest, and lick their wounds. In addition, negative feelings like misery, guilt, etc. may work to balance or moderate other emotions like anger to discourage dangerous behavior.

    Of course, subjectively we might say it certainly seems like overkill, but we could say the same thing for physical pain. Why does it have to hurt so much when we get a stupid sun burn much less a serious wound? The answer seems to be, this is simply what promotes survival of the species.

    As you suggest, our capactity for reasoning and consciousness themselves may also be dependent upon our emotional lives. Our emotions give us contexts which abstract thought and reasoning may ultimately be based on. This has some evidence to support it, but a great deal more research needs to be done on the subject.
  4. Jun 10, 2003 #3
    Sad thing is misery can overcome a person's will of living and resort to committing suicide.
  5. Jun 10, 2003 #4
    Not to sound trite, but your statement is dripping with irony and the circular logic. It is precisely because we can feel sad and conceive of suicide as sad, that people can commit suicide. If they were incapable of feeling sad, they would never be able to commit suicide because they were miserable.
  6. Jun 10, 2003 #5
    It can. It depends on how you respond to it, I guess.

    No, we can know happiness without having known misery. However, we might appreciate happiness a bit more, after having been miserable for a while.
  7. Jun 10, 2003 #6


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    Greetings !
    Intresting reading wuli, I agree.

    In light of the above, would you say that the apparent (?)
    growth of misery in modern societies reflective of the
    assumed by the individual modern standards of survival -
    life style ?

    Live long and prosper.
  8. Jun 10, 2003 #7
    Studies among lottery winners have indicated, as you might expect, that after an initial high they might return to somewhat normal levels of happiness, but in the long run maintain a benefit in longevity. In this same vein, Buddhists who practice meditation have been shown to have more activity in the frontal lobes. These two extremes, of searching for external support and internal support, has their distinctive advantages and disadvantages. Exactly what they might be is a matter of extensive research dating back to antiquity.
  9. Jun 11, 2003 #8


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    I don't believe that answered my question. I was
    refering to the seemingly relativly growing misery
    in modern societies compared to other societies in the past
    (due to factors like greater population and greater population
    density as well as much greater legislative control over
    the population in modern societies and also, primarily -
    like you said in your message, due to survival and its
    seemingly more standarized and limmited perspective of
    modern time - a high level material life-style).

    Or, I'll shortly rephrase that again - according to what you
    said about misery serving a role in survival. Do you think
    that the seemingly growing level of misery today is reflective
    of what we consider as modern survival ?

    Also, do you think that this misery may be a prime factor
    in possible radical changes in modern societies of the future ?

    Live long and prosper.
  10. Jun 11, 2003 #9
    The level of misery is not known scientifically, we are only now beginning to learn how to measure such subjective things objectively. However, it is a well documented fact that people from the developed world are often quite surprised at how happy people even on the verge of starvation tend to be in the third world.

    I experienced this myself as a child living in spain over thirty years ago. The pace of life in small towns everywhere is famous for being much slower and gentler in general than in the big city. However, this involves a clear trade off.

    Bottom line, people in more affluent countries live longer and appear willing to sacrifice some of their happiness in order to do so. This is, however, simply a rough preliminary assessment. Studies have also shown that people who have little control over their work tend to die younger and more comprehensive studies will certainly paint a more complex picture.

    Such studies imply that human happiness may be as flexible as any number of other traits. For example, people are genetically adapted to live either a sedate or hard working lifestyle. We can laze around all day like a mountain gorilla or work from sun up to sun down every day of our lives and it has little impact on our health, people merely need about twenty minutes of vigorous walking a day to stay relatively healthy.

    Ignoring accidents, our genes, the food we eat, and the polutents we absorb seem to have more impact on our longevity statistically than the overall levels of happiness. However, again, this picture may simply be due to the lack of serious objective numbers on the issue.
  11. Jun 13, 2003 #10
    The world is also full of happiness, joy, and goodness - people just don't like to acknowledge, remember, or appreciate that part of life.
  12. Jun 13, 2003 #11
    why misery

    This world is full of misery and agony, does it make us to be a stronger person? Without misery, does it mean we can not know what is happiness?

    No, but sometimes.

  13. Jun 14, 2003 #12
    Happiness is not like the air we breath, it ain't ubiquitous and unavoidable. People can be as vicious and discontent as a rabid dog or as content and affectionate as a suckling babe. The reason unhappiness gets our attention is the same reason violence gets our attention....... survival. Those who don't pay attention tend not to survive.
  14. Jun 14, 2003 #13
    Without the capacity to suffer, we wouldn't have the capacity to be happy, neither would we know the difference. The key is in dicovering what that happiness is (in relation to suffering), in order that we might work towards its fulfillment.
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