Why bitterness helps you hit the sweet spot

Paul Bloom’s The Sweet Spot is an interesting and sometimes difficult read, arguing for the importance of challenge, fear, struggle, and sacrifice in our lives. The author points out the centrality of suffering in many religious traditions (for example, the First Noble Truth in Buddhism and the Protestant ‘work ethic’).

Why does anyone sit in a sauna? People have burnt themselves, collapsed and even died in sauna competitions, but the reason many still partake is for the perceived benefits and the pleasure of cooling down afterwards. Perhaps you can tell I’ve never been a big fan, although maybe you need to live a cold country to really appreciate a sauna (and what is the thing with birch twigs?).

Paul Bloom discusses a recent analysis of plot structures and shapes which shows three positive plots (rags to riches, man in a hole, and Cinderella) and three negative plots (riches to rags, Icarus and Oedipus). Although some are positive all include ‘falls’ except the first, and perhaps this is the reason that pleasure needs some pain. In stories, the pain is what gives our lives meaning.

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