The sweet is never as sweet without the sour. That’s what we tell ourselves and one another. When the obstacles of life accumulate and become seemingly insurmountable, it’s comforting, I guess, to remind ourselves that it won’t always be this way. Even the religious, when faced with a dilemma of faith, often quell their doubts with some thought that “His” plan always included this trial, and that afterward there will be some reward of understanding and happiness, or at least of calm.
Sure enough, don’t we feel better when success follows struggle? With the worst behind us, there is a surety, a confidence that might not have been there had success simply been thrust upon us unexpectedly. It’s more than appreciation of our good fortune; it’s the understanding that we won a battle against all the negative voices, both from without and within. Even with everything stacked against us, we prevailed! And now we stand, victorious and unbreakable!
Positive psychological research suggests that our individual viewpoints are generally static. While a line graph of a person’s happiness over time will have a peak here and trough there depending on their circumstances, the line will stay basically even. This speak to human adaptivity. As long as we satisfy our most basic needs, our happiness, and thus how we see interpret our circumstances, will remain unchanged whether we win the lottery or receive a demotion. If this is the case, does it really matter what our immediately preceding experiences were? How we receive good news is just another quirk of personality, isn’t it? Likewise, Aristotle and Buddha both believed our only path to happiness was through balance. We must master our emotions, thoughts and desires to find a mean. So, if happiness is solely a product of one’s self, achieving said happiness would ensure life would always be enjoyable, wouldn’t it? Through objectively good or bad times, one’s interpretation of either would always be positive.
I’ve always been one to see most everything as either bad luck, or bittersweet. So on the rare occasion when, like today, something happens that I’m just happy about, I try to hang onto it for as long as I can. I try to understand the parts that make it up so I might replicate my understanding of it in the future, as if feelings could be manufactured (then, if you listen to Buddha and Aristotle, all feelings are). I think you can appreciate good without bad. It just takes a certain amount of mindfulness. We appreciate the good whenever we look for it. When we play the lottery, the more we feel we need to win, the more we hope to win, and in turn the more grateful we are for winning. Imagine if we anticipated goodness for the future? By always expecting good fortune, you may always see the fortune in your life.