A good life involves more than just pleasure. Suffering is essential too.
It seems obvious that pleasure leads to happiness - and pain does the opposite. And yet we are irresistibly drawn to a host of experiences that truly hurt, from the exhilarating fear of horror movies or extreme sport, to the wrenching sadness of a song or novel, to the gruelling challenges of exercise, work, creativity and having a family.
In The Sweet Spot, pre-eminent psychologist Paul Bloom explores the pleasures of suffering and explains why the activities that provide most satisfaction are often the ones that involve greatest sacrifice. He argues that embracing this truth is the key to a life well lived.
Drawing on ground-breaking findings from psychology and brain science, he shows how the right kind of suffering sets the stage for enhanced pleasure, and how pain itself can serve a variety of valuable functions: to distract us from our anxieties or even express them, to help us transcend the self or project our identity, or as a gateway to the joys of mastery and flow.
As Bloom argues, deep down we all aspire to lives of meaning and significance, and that means some amount of struggle, anxiety and loss. After all, if the things that mean most to us were easy, what would be the point?
Endlessly fascinating and counter-intuitive, this deeply humane and enlightening enquiry is packed with unexpected insight into the human condition.
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