Most people would argue that being happy is much more important than being unhappy.
Is that really the case?
You won’t find books with titles such as 10 Easy Steps Towards an Unhappier Life, or More Unhappiness: A Practical Guide Towards a Sadder You. If you do happen to find books like these, I’d bet good money they’re not selling that well!
When you Google the word “happy” there is an astounding 2.7 billion results. Searching for “unhappiness” only yields around 80 million results.
Society clearly has much more interest in happiness than in unhappiness, but does that make unhappiness any less important?
No, it doesn’t. They are equally important because happiness simply cannot exist without unhappiness. There can be no happiness without unhappiness.
Confused? Let me explain.
It’s All Relative
Close your eyes and imagine…actually don’t close them, otherwise you can’t read any further, so just imagine then, that every place on earth has the exact same temperature. In this world, the words hot and cold have no meaning, because after all, everything has the exact same temperature.
Suppose then the temperature in the Arctic decreases while remaining the same everywhere else. Now, and only now, can we refer to the Arctic as being cold. Why is this? Because now, and only now, is the rest of the globe relatively warmer than the Arctic.
The temperature imbalance was required to give meaning to the words hot and cold. Cold, being the one extreme, only found meaning once the other extreme of warmth found its meaning. The one extreme can’t exist without the other.
Happiness and unhappiness is certainly no different. Happiness after all is an extreme emotion, with unhappiness being the other extreme. Happiness only exists because unhappiness exists. It’s therefore essential to be unhappy at times so we can be happy during other times.
Still not convinced?
We’re All 55 Years Old
Suppose that every single person on earth is 55 years old. In this make-believe world, people are neither young, nor old because everyone has the exact same age. The words young and old have absolutely no meaning in this world because every single person is 55 years old.
The arrival of a 15 year old alien will bring about the change. As soon as he lands on earth, an imbalance is created, giving meaning to the words young and old. Now, and only now, that someone (or is that something) younger than everyone else exists, can the words young and old have their meaning.
The people who are 55 were never old. Only after the arrival of the 15 year old extreme can they be referred to as being old. The arrival of the 15 year old has given meaning to the words young and old. The one extreme exists, only because the other extreme exists.
Similarly, unhappiness has to exist for happiness to exist.
The Poor Makes The Rich (Or is it the other way around?)
Why are people rich? Sure, they work hard or got a lucky break, but the word rich is a relative concept. A rich person may be someone who is worth $100 million, $10 million or someone who is worth only $1 million.
In some developing countries, a person who is worth only $10,000 could be considered rich. Why is this? People are deemed rich because they have more money compared to those around them, and not because of the actual sum of money that they have.
Rich people therefore exist only because poor people exist around them. The one extreme can only exist because the other exists.
It is crucial for us to experience unhappiness in establishing benchmarks against which we can compare our current-day emotions. If unhappiness did not appear in our past, we will have a skewed benchmark against which to compare the emotions we experience today. It’s all relative and unhappiness is essential in making this relative comparison possible.
A person, who has had enough to eat throughout his life, will not be struck with happiness when presented with a plate of food, simply because he has never experienced the unhappiness associated with being hungry. To him it will be just another meal.
A person who has faced starvation on the other hand, has experienced unhappiness associated with lack of food. When this person is presented with the same plate of food, he will be overjoyed. His happiness results from the unhappiness of not having had enough to eat in his past.
Unhappiness plays a vital role in life.
In fact, it is absolutely essential for us to know unhappiness, if we ever want to know happiness. Without unhappiness, there will not be happiness; only a dull and monotonous journey through a life filled with mediocrity.
Whenever you experience unhappiness again, be consoled by the thought that you’re simply experiencing an emotion essential to your happiness.
The key to happiness is a regular dose of unhappiness.