Before I get into answering the title “Why is life full of ups and downs?”, I would like to define what I mean by “ups and downs”. I define ups and downs as the pleasant and unpleasant feelings that we experience in our lives. Now I don’t have to argue that every person’s feelings on this planet alternates between those categorized as ‘up’ and ‘down’ over their lifetime as they interact with various living/non-living objects in their environment. There is research to back up this obvious statement that feelings alternate between states of “feeling good” and “feeling bad”.
“It appears that the human brain generates a special code for the entire valence spectrum of pleasant-to-unpleasant, good-to-bad feelings, which can be read like a ‘neural valence meter’ in which the leaning of a population of neurons in one direction equals positive feeling and the leaning in the other direction equals negative feeling”, says Anderson.
Anderson and his team also learned that the same subjective feelings, whether from the tongue or eye, led to a similar activity pattern in the OFC. This also suggested that human brain has an emotion code that is common throughout distinctive experiences of displeasure or pleasure.
The activity patterns of OFC for both negative and positive experiences were somewhat shared among people, the study found.
“Despite how personal our feelings feel, the evidence suggests our brains use a standard code to speak the same emotional language,” Anderson says.
The highlighted section seems to indicate that if we consider our experience through different sense organs, the emotion associated with all of them can be explained by a common code in the brain. Which in turn makes me interpret this as saying that we connect everything with our feelings either consciously or unconsciously. I have also used the terms the “good and bad” above so I would like to define what I mean by that in order to define what I mean by “ups” and downs” in life.
I claim that we consider an event, object as good/bad if:
it results in a pleasant/unpleasant feeling in ourselves or our loved ones or
we think that that it will do the same in the future
or did the same in the past
We also change our positions about something being good or bad based on similar reasoning when we learn more about the future or the past. And we consider our life to be going through a pleasant/unpleasant phase only if it brings about pleasant/unpleasant feelings either in us or our loved ones. That seems like an oxymoron but I wanted to make it clear that that is my position about “ups” and “downs” in life. I mean, many people believe and claim that something being good or bad (morals) can only be decided by a god, or a holy book etc. But I believe and claim that it all comes down to our feelings, as explained above.
For example: Consider access to guns and guns themselves. Now there are people who like guns and consider them as good. And then there are some who don’t like them and consider them as bad/evil – because they allow anybody to start using them which might hence lead to bad events from their perspective. Now those who consider them as good might or might not have encountered such bad events. But when some of them do, their perspective about guns might change and they might start considering them as evil/bad. This is an example of a pleasant feeling about something turning into an unpleasant feeling. Now the opposite is also possible where people who consider guns as evil might begin to like them after some time because guns might save their lives someday. This is an example of an unpleasant feeling about a particular object, leading to a pleasant feeling. In all the cases, the judge of something being good/bad was the person who was feeling the pleasant/unpleasant feeling about some object. If the gun was involved in hurting them or a person they loved, the gun will be considered bad and the opposite is also true. But there might be some people who have been conditioned to think that hurting others is good. And even in that case, they consider it to be good only because it brings about a pleasant feeling in them as they have been conditioned in such a fashion.
Coming back to the question of why life is full of ups and downs. I believe that anything in this reality has a law that describes its behavior. So why must life be outside the purview of those laws? There must be laws that govern the transition of feelings from pleasant to unpleasant and vice-versa – if we haven’t discovered what the laws are now, doesn’t mean that we will not discover them at all. And as explained above, everybody’s feelings, on this planet, alternates between different states. So I ask, how do the natural laws of reality explain the alternation between pleasant and unpleasant feelings? The answer to this should in turn answer why is life full of ups and downs. I have also used the term “reality” quite a few times here, so what do I mean by that? I explain that in the next part.
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