Inspired and Blessed by Bob Acebedo
Inspired & Blessed

We’re Hardwired to be Dissatisfied With Life

Aug 3, 2022, 12:34 AM
Bob Acebedo

Bob Acebedo

Columnist

All of life is change. And by “change,” I intend to mean the never-ending process of transformation or conversion in all aspects of life – physical or scientific, metaphysical, social, psychological, spiritual, etc. Not only is change always happening, it is also unavoidable.

Heraclitus of ancient Greece cannot be more right in positing the age-old truism: “The only constant in life is change.” In the same vein, John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is a law of life.”

How would you imagine if all change throughout the entire universe completely ceased? Or if everything will simply come to a halt or just freeze? Or, if not, entropy (scientific property associated with disorder, randomness, or uncertainty) will cease to exist? Probably so, the opposite will take place – stagnation, rest, or death.

The same is true with being dissatisfied with life. Dissatisfaction is an observable property of life’s law of change. Being constantly dissatisfied in life is but a normal part of life.

Research findings from the field of psychology reveal that we’re hardwired to be constantly dissatisfied with life. Our ancestors worked harder and strove further because they evolved to be perpetually perturbed – and thus we are today.

Researchers have found that feeling contented isn’t good for the species because it impedes us from seeking further improvements or benefits. As the “Review of General Psychology” research noted, “If satisfaction and pleasure were permanent, there might be little incentive to continue seeking further benefits or advances.”

Now, according to Nir Eyal, in his article “Why You’re never Going to Be Satisfied With Life” that appeared in psychologytoday.com, there are four determinants or factors of hardwired dissatisfaction with life:

1. Boredom. Humans are psychologically wont to avoid boredom. One study demonstrated that people dislike being alone with their thoughts so much that they’ll prefer to do anything else, even if that activity is negative.

2. Negativity bias. It’s been defined as a “phenomenon in which negative events are more salient and demand attention more powerfully than neutral or positive events.” Researchers suggest that this pessimism (being aware or cautious for bad things) has been embedded in us since early in life and motivated us to avoid the bad and survive. Negativity bias almost certainly gave us an evolutionary edge.

3. Rumination. This is our tendency to keep thinking about bad experiences. One study noted:

“By reflecting on what went wrong and how to rectify it, people may be able to discover sources of error or alternative strategies, ultimately leading to not repeating mistakes and possibly doing better in the future.”

4. Hedonic adaptation. The tendency to quickly return to a baseline level of satisfaction. A classic example of this is: people who win the lottery are likely to revert to their original levels of happiness after the novelty of winning has worn off. David Myers, in his “The Pursuit of Happiness,” writes:

“Every desirable experience – passionate love, a spiritual high, the pleasure of a new possession, the exhilaration of success – is TRANSITORY (underscoring mine).”

Apropos these four indications of discontent with life, Nir Eyal appends that dissatisfaction is normal, and certainly NOT A DEFEAT:

“If you find yourself feeling unhappy with life, that doesn’t mean you’ve been defeated. Dissatisfaction is responsible for our species’ advancements, and if you never felt it, you’d be at a serious disadvantage. Discontent is not a reason to give up on success. Rather, it’s a reason to introduce the opportunity for frequent and meaningful victories into your life.”

In sum, vis-à-vis the above ruminations on constant dissatisfaction in life, let me adduce the following insights:

1. That indeed dissatisfaction, like change, is a sine qua non of life verily points to the truth that life – from womb to tomb – is a constant work in progress. Hence, with no reason for giving up, the human person has the unlimited potential to reach the unreachable, as affirmed by Paulo Freire when he wrote: “Man, who is an incomplete being, and yet conscious of his incompletion, has the inherent potential for completion.”

2. If we are perpetually restless and unsatisfied in this life, and all of life is in constant flux of change, motion, imperfection, unbroken causation, necessity and possibility, randomness, uncertainty, and finiteness – can this not be an allusion or plausible basis for the existence of an infinite future, of heavenly perfection, of divine certainty or God – who is the unchanged change, the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause, the necessary and perfect Being?

Perhaps, we’ve been hardwired to be dissatisfied in this life in order for us to appreciate and cling to a higher reality that could provide us complete satisfaction or perfect happiness.

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” (St. Augustine of Hippo).

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