Shi*t happens: when things are falling apart

The negativity bias is the tendency to pay attention only to harmful stimuli and brood over the same. It simply means we take the sting of a rebuke more seriously than the joy of praise.

Shi*t happens: when things are falling apart

Our loved ones die because death is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the heart stops pumping blood in the body. People cheat us because, for them, the priorities and ethics are different, We fail to get our dream job despite putting in years of effort because someone else grabs it or we fail to meet the expectations of the recruiters.

Any event that happens in our life is neutral in nature. It is us who paint a meaning to it, according to our biases, desires, and wishes.

Human beings are a natural storytelling species. Their brains are wired so that they have a natural proclivity towards intelligible and logical stories. These stories have ambitious narratives with a predominant plot and satisfying ending. The human brain is not content with randomness. It strives for a pattern to drive meaning in events. So questions such as "why me?" and "why did this happen" come from the inability to get the desired pattern into real-life manifestation.

Here are a few things you should consider while evaluating a situation that turned against you:

Theodicy: The wrath of God factor

Theists often tend to think they are being punished by God and are just experiencing his wrath. They ponder over all the wrong things they've done wrong, or 'sins'. An intended lesson for their suffering is assumed. Theodicy talks about the vindication of God. It elaborates on why a perfect, all-mighty, and powerful God permits evil and suffering.

According to physicist Steven Weinberg (Nobel laureate), "if there is a God that has special plans for humans, then He has taken very great pains to hide His concern for us. One can argue about whether God is free from "pain and pleasure" or not, but Steven Weinberg made a point worth considering: If God loves us, why does he puts us in pain, and if it is a punishment from his side for our wrongdoings (defined by the law of religion you affiliate to)  then he must be feeling pained for punishing us!

In the book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People", written by Rabbi Kushner, bad things are said to happen for no particular reason. Instead, we can convert these tragedies into situations that inflict less suffering by imposing meaning upon them. The question to be asked is, "Now that this has happened to me, what will I do about it?".

When Bad Things Happen to Good People - Wikipedia

Negativity and self-pity: Ignoring the blessings and dwelling on the curses

The negativity bias is the tendency to pay attention only to harmful stimuli and brood over the same. It simply means we take the sting of a rebuke more seriously than the joy of praise. This concept of dwelling only on the negatives could be another explanation for the question, "why do bad things happen only to me?". We often fail to see the positive side of things and see the glass as half empty. This often leads to self-pity.

Self-pity is a term that we are all aware of. The concept is where one feels sorry for themselves and frequently seeks attention from others in empathy or help. This, too, could lead to the manifestation of questions about why only the subject suffers. Much like questioning the reasons for your suffering, self-pity stems from the aftereffect of a dramatic event.

Beck's cognitive triad: The vicious cycle of negativity

Beck's cognitive triad - Wikipedia

Beck's cognitive triad could be yet another possible explanation. It primarily revolves around the negative thoughts one has. Negative thoughts about the world lead to negative views about the future. This, in turn, then leads to negative views about oneself. This triad could possibly be lowkey related to why people think so negatively about the things that happen to them. The lack of research on this phenomenon raises doubts.

Assume you were impaired visually and audibly and had no sense of smell. In addition, your skin receptors fail to function. Now imagine if someone close to you passed away. Would you feel bad? Would a bad thing have happened to you? For sure, it could be regarded as a 'bad situation', but you would definitely be oblivious to it.

Suppose you were born in a hypothetical tribe, say Yululu in Zambia, in 3000 B.C, and there was a widespread belief that if you were handicapped, you would be rewarded with a lot of gold in heaven after you die. Handicapped people would be treated with a lot of respect since they were fortunate. Would a "bad thing" have happened to you?

What is being portrayed here is that good and evil concepts are subjective and depend on one's perception. Hence for the cognitive triad to prove correct, the situation one is in has to be first perceived as 'negative'.

The scientific perspective: f(events)=f(cause and effect)

The most significant and fundamental conclusion by science is this, "the universe has no inherent purpose or design". Nothing happens for particular reasons; they just simply happen. In science, there is a cause and there is an effect. Once humans can wrap their minds around this, the answer to why bad things happen only to me becomes straightforward to solve.

Someone who loved you left you for someone else because they found them better. They found them better because they have their own mating criteria. The mating psychology developed over million years of human evolution players a key role here. You feeling cheated is your idea of love as an "honest feeling". Your belief may be an effect of the cause: Bollywood style of depicting "true love".

When things happen, humans either term is as good, bad, or neutral. And in connection with the negativity bias, we tend to look at the bad more often and highlight the same.

Maybe you're just unlucky: The uncalculated probability factor

Let's be honest; we all believe in some sort of luck. Even if we say we don't believe in luck, we have to believe in the theory of probability. Whether dumb luck or luck we've gained through all the prayers remains unknown; nonetheless, everyone says "best of luck." Bad things may have been happening to people simply because they've been unlucky. There is literally nothing anyone can do about this but deal with it. No one controls all the events that happen in one's life.

Suppose you are in a car that is about to fall from a cliff, struggling to come out of it. The only force it requires is 0.05N to fell from the cliff. There is a butterfly on a tree nearby that flaps its wings that generated a force of 0.03N. Somehow, you are almost out of the car, about to jump and grab a tree's branch on which the butterfly is sitting. Now you have successfully grabbed the tree's branch before the butterfly flaps its wings with a 1N force this time and makes the car fall from the cliff.

You are lucky!

Now the branch that you grabbed can bear just 45 kgs of weight, and you are 44Kgs!

You are lucky again!

All the life that you spent considering yourself unlucky because you were underweight as per the Body Mass Index had a "meaning" or "purpose"!

You were lucky to be unlucky for these years!

You didn't calculate the force generated by the butterfly or the capacity of the branch to bear weight still it was all an unknown calculation!

How to cope when sh*t happens:

The reasons why bad things happen to people are innumerable; the list is endless. But, there are methods to deal with these unfavorable situations and unpleasant thoughts.

  • The first method being acceptance is an essential part of the coping process. By solely accepting the fact that something disparaging has happened, people can move on quicker.
  • Much like the question put forth by Rabbi Kushner in his book (now that this has happened to me, what will I do about it?), look for a way to deal with the situation. Possible ways out or fixing what has happened.
  • Evidently, if you are not able to deal with the situation, ask for help. Asking for help is often associated with embarrassment and high levels of ego.
  • Never, ever play the victim. As mentioned before, self-pity is an attention-seeking behaviour. Yes, something unfortunate has happened to you, but playing the victim is not helping your case. Shift your thinking in such a way that you see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Determination about getting through the situation is essential. One needs to be strong and resilient to aversive situations. In fact, these type of situations is unavoidable. Granted, a moment of weakness is allowed for everyone. We all break down, which is entirely natural. The bigger picture is whether or not you manage to overcome the condition.

How do you see something "bad" that happened to you after reading this article? Introspect and comment below!