Sine curve

20 04 2015

Life is a mixed bag –  joys and sorrows, highs and lows, blah blah. It’s neither a revelation nor news. But I discovered that it has a pattern. Well, at least in my case. It’s a sine curve. Being a Libran, I always tend to waver this way and that a lot before gaining a brief respite of balance and then get tipped off again. I can’t tell you how taxing it is. Peace (balance) seems forever elusive many times. There are periods of times when I feel very enthusiastic and energetic, when I feel I can do anything, followed by times when I feel outright lethargic and disinterested in everything. Some part of it is maybe biology’s own way of restoring its energy. But still, the acute disparity between the two extremes seems  absurd sometimes, to say the least.

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There are two things here – wavelength (which determines the frequency with which we oscillate between the two extremes) and amplitude (the extent of each extreme). Let’s consider the wavelength first. Oscillating between the two extremes too often is exhausting at the best and makes you unpredictable and undependable at the worst.   But the problem is if we make the wavelength larger, effectively we have to endure negativity for the same period as we experienced positivity. Well, this doesn’t seem appealing at all. So, how can we tackle this?

Maybe we should look at the amplitude instead. Really, how extreme are these extremes? Getting high up to cloud 9 when everything goes well and sinking to the bottom of the sea when it doesn’t isn’t a good strategy, in my opinion. I think I should hasten here to clarify that it doesn’t mean that we should avoid extreme emotions, at any cost. Emotions, by definition, are transient. We should experience them and then get over them. Otherwise, they will doom us. I think we learn this as we grow older. Or at least we ought to. We call this “maturity” or “wisdom”. Wisdom is all about achieving the right balance. So, can I say that a smaller amplitude is better? Of course, I admit that making the pattern a straight line would be “no fun” at all but when your sine curve has zero amplitude, you can count yourself as a true sage, an enlightened being. 😉

I truly don’t think my assumption of perfect sine curve – with same amplitude for the crest and the trough – holds.  Quite often we “perceive” that the amplitude of the trough is much larger than that of the crest. Here, “perceive” is the keyword. Reality might be quite different. And this is because of something called “negativity bias”. The negativity bias  refers to the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things (Wikipedia). It makes sense. Isn’t it? However, in reality, we have many more positive and/or neutral moments compared to the negative moments. It’s just that we need to be really aware of them, experience them consciously and savor them. I read somewhere that positive moments are like manholes; they are everywhere once you start looking for them :P. (Link) To counter the negativity bias, we need to leverage “positivity offset” – which basically refers to the tendency of people to interpret neutral situations as mildly positive.

Despite the universal knowledge that joys and sorrows are both part of life, we seem to be surprised, caught off-guard, and even feel cheated when a misfortune occurs or when we face a disappointment. A friend once gave me a profound perspective: “be prepared”. Whenever you experience a high, even while you are enjoying it, take a moment to observe that there will come a moment in future where there might be an opposite experience. And vice-versa. This cognizance sets you free. Ride your sine wave with confidence and courage. 😉

Image Source: TeachEngineering

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