The Backwards Law

The Backwards Law

The weather this weekend was just fantastic and on those kind of days I dare to do some really crazy things.  Like browsing a bit through Facebook feeds...  For over four months, I hadn’t updated myself on the life of family, friends and acquaintances.  And when wandering through Facebook, it seems as everybody is living in paradise.  

However, I often wonder what the true story is behind that perfect façade of happiness and joy.  Is our culture today not too obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expections and crazy optimism?  Be happier.  Be healthier.  Be sportier.  Be the best.  Be better than the rest.  Be more popular.  Be more admired.  Be more perfect.  Be more amazing.  And don’t forget to kiss your selfies every morning.  

What I learn from looking at Facebook feeds is this: we are anxious about feeling anxious.  However, the desire for more positive experiences is in itself a negative experience.  And the following sentence may sound like a paradox: accepting negative experiences is in itself a positive experience.  That’s exactly what philosopher Alan Watts used to call “The Backwards Law”: the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become.  And why?  Because pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.  Some examples?  You will never be happy if you constantly search for happiness.  You will never truly live if you are constantly looking for the meaning of life.  

What I’m trying to say is this: don’t panic if you sometimes suffer. Did you know that suffering is biologically useful?  It’s how nature inspires change.  Evolution would never have been possible without a certain degree of dissatisfaction and insecurity.  That’s exactly what has kept us fighting.  And creating.  And conquering.  So if you ever feel pain or if you ever feel miserable or if you ever feel lost – in private life or in business life – then remember this: it’s not a bug of human evolution.  It’s a feature of it – and a great one to motivate you to act.  

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