Why We Hate Surprises: Un-numbing Our Emotional State
Is it not strange that some people hate surprises? There is nothing inherently wrong with surprises, so why would someone hate them? It is a strange emotional phenomenon that happens to many people in cases of overly heightened emotion. Not just with surprises, but anything that elicits high emotional response, there seems to be a bad trend in how we manage these states. Since there are good surprises and bad surprises, it doesn’t seem rational to hate all of them altogether. Why would someone grow to hate something that doesn’t inherently have a negative value on them?
Why We Hate Surprises
Like I said before, there are good surprises and bad surprises. If every single surprise that you had in your entire life was a positive experience, you would probably be thrilled at the idea of another surprise. Why wouldn’t you? To you, a surprise is highly associated with pleasant news and good feelings. Inversely, if every surprise you ever experienced was terrible and heart wrenching, you would probably grow to dread the concept.
We know that neither of these extremes are true for anyone. There are always some variety of positive and negative surprises that people experience. The question is why would we grow to hate surprises. It is just a method of delivery.
Negative Emotional Association
The problem comes up when we begin to associate surprises with negative outcomes even though history might not indicate as such. You might have 10 good surprises to every one bad surprise. However, the emotional toll of that one negative experience is the one that sticks to your psyche. We easily forget the good things that happened to us, while the bad things seem to be stained in our memory with a vivid detail. So what does this cost us?
Our false association of negative emotional states and surprises makes us think it is a good idea to block off our emotional availability to surprises at all. It becomes an internal trigger to shut down and disassociate at the concept of anything that might throw our emotional state off-balance in either direction.
We become numb. It is impossible to allow ourselves to only feel positive emotions are completely numbing ourselves only to the negative ones. You have to open yourself up to both if you want either. So at the cost of all of your positive emotions, you no longer have to feel any negative emotions. That is the deal that so many of us take. And we know them ourselves of anything that might throw us off equilibrium.
Consequences of Numbness
Consequences is a harsh word, but it still really just means “the outcomes”. There can be positive consequences, too.
If you maintain a constant 5 on an emotional 0-10, you never have to risk being lower than a 4. At a certain level of numbness, even the most traumatic events can leave you relatively unshaken.
At equilibrium, it is very easy to be logical about your situation. Without any extreme emotions getting in the way, you can rely on pure deductive reasoning to handle problems.
Now for the backside. If you are always at a 5, then you can never experience anything above a 6. 6-10 is where we get to enjoy life. Without that end of the spectrum, we go from enjoying life to just living life, waiting for our next meal, and trying to survive. Have you ever asked someone how they are doing, and they respond, “Surviving!”?
While numbness makes us more logical, it in turn makes us cold. We become computers calculating our way through life. We get a safe job rather than one we enjoy. We marry someone because they are safe and logical rather than loved. By the end of our safe job that we had as a means to an end, we embark on a retirement with no recollection of how to enjoy it.
Our life is measured in memories. We can live 1000 years, but without any memories it would feel like an instant. The only way to make memories is to have an emotional attachment to them. We remember how we felt. Without emotion, life starts to speed up and pass us by.
We put too much value in logic while it is only one side of the coin. You need logic and emotion to gain wisdom through experience.
What we see very commonly in the numb is an undying need for more. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your life, emotional numbness takes away the enjoyment of it. It leads to the urge for anything that will give them a dopamine burst— like money, cars, power, control— because they are the only means that they can experience a heightened emotional state anymore.
The Knight with No Armor
This isn’t supposed to be a bash of the logical. As someone who has experienced both methods, I want to say how there is beauty in emotional vulnerability. Think about it like this.
There are two knights. One has the most well-constructed, sturdy, impenetrable armor that no sword can pierce. The other has no armor at all. When the armored knight is engaged in battle, his opponent’s strikes are futile. Their swords barely scratch his armor. Because of this, the armored knight hardly has to train to dodge, counter, or strike. He could train, but there is no real necessity. He ends up just swinging his sword around until his opponent gets tired of dulling their sword and goes away.
The knight with no armor, however, has to be extremely skilled in every aspect of combat. He can’t risk any mistake as he is vulnerable from all angles. When opponents come to fight, the sight of a no armored knight becomes more frightening as they realize that he doesn’t need the armor. The knight may lose, but his scars show where he needs improvement—only to come back better than before.
Which knight do you want to be?
The Over-Armored Knight never loses a battle, but he also never really wins one. There is no thrill from victory or growth from defeat. He just stays the same, safe in his armor.
The No Armor Knight becomes a great warrior because he HAS to. He gets to enjoy the art of combat and even learn to appreciate his opponents. He has scars from his loses, but they serve as lessons and stories.
Vulnerability is not a weakness. It is the opposite. It makes us stronger. It lets us experience, learn, and grow. Being vulnerable is the harder and more dangerous path to take, which is why it leads to more rewards than not.
You can’t experience a hug while in a suit of armor. While being exposed has its dangers, it has it benefits as well. As we learn to travers life with vulnerability, we begin to learn emotional dexterity. We learn it through pain, but pain is the best source of beauty.