Is everyone equally unhappy — as a rule?
A thought experiment to explain why no-one is ‘all happy’
Everyone I’ve ever met seems to be unhappy in their own unique ways. I think I have a mental model to explain that.
All parties are the same
I noticed a pattern in all parties I’ve been to. It starts with a jolly mood. People start getting comfortable with each other. Then, they open up their problems to others. Sometimes in search for sympathy. Sometimes in search of a solution. Sometimes as humor. Sometimes just to blow off the whistle. I have nothing against it. I do it too. I want to know why we do what we do.
Everyone seems to be going through some problem all the time. Unless there’s a black swan event in someone’s life — like a health issue, sudden loss of wealth — I notice everyone has equal measure of unhappiness.
A scale for sadness
Everyone perceives every situation through their own lens. But, for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume 0 unhappiness to be that of saint who’s attained enlightenment — if there was such a thing. No regrets, no complaints. Note that 0 unhappiness is not being happy. We’re talking about the lack of unhappiness. 100 unhappiness is the maximum sadness a human brain can take. 100.1 and the person dies, commits suicide. She can’t take a fraction more of unhappiness.
“Humans crave misery”
A friend of mine made this statement. I’ve never been able to disprove it. It always seems to be true. There always seems to be something a person does that looks as if she’s inviting misery in an otherwise simple happy life. People seem to always seem to be over-complicating stuff.
But the basis that the craving is for the misery itself seemed off. I’ve been digging for a better answer ever since.
Evolution theory would say a species will expand till it reaches an equilibrium with the surroundings. If humans operate the same way, we’re hardwired to always push to the limits.
Let’s say 75% sadness is the tipping point before it starts affecting people around you. If someone is 76% sad, they start demoralizing people around them and stop others from gathering more happiness.
Let’s say 50% sadness is the tipping point for self motivation. 51% sadness and you stop motivating yourself to do things more ambitious.
But if you are 25% unhappy, you are very well motivated. You’ll pick up hard tasks. These hard tasks would have invited hardships. Pushing your unhappiness towards the 50% mark. If you aren’t doing something yourself, the society (aka the species) will encourage you do more with your life. The species wants you to contribute as much as you can while you live.
Everyone seems to be operating, in some aspect of life or the other, outside their comfort zone. Society pushes you to 50% and beyond.
If you are 80% unhappy, the society will force you to get your shit together. It’ll ask you to simplify your life, be less ambitious. It will push you below 75% so that you aren’t affecting others who are progressing humanity. So you’re forced to be under 75% sadness.
In aggregate every person arrives at an equilibrium.
Every person is 50% — 75% unhappy. Exactly in that range.
Under this mental model is where the following quote comes to shine
You seriously have no idea what people are dealing with in their personal life so just be nice, it’s simple
Not only that you have no idea what the other person is dealing with, you can be absolutely sure that the other person is definitely going through a tough time. The exact same amount as you yourself. :)