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Balancing life- part 1- the thermostat

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1 month ago

We are impossible characters, so difficult to please. When we are alone, we dream of having someone special in life and when we have someone special we look for some 'me' time. When we have too many drinks and a terrible hangover, we curse ourselves and decide not to drink again but then again we do it in a few days. We will find many such examples in our life. We oscillate between our conflicting needs and desires. Even in the best and worst of situations we are in a constant state of dissatisfaction.

We make our life an endless series of problems and one solution leads to the next problem. It is futile to think of a life without problem but what we should look for is good problems. A classic case is that we all want to make money and be successful and once we reach there, we live in an anxiety of losing them.

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With all this confusion, is it possible to be content in life? It is but for that we have to understand some psychological principles.

Thermostat

Thermostat is an amazing little invention but we seldom take notice of it. Only when your partner sets the AC in too hot or cold, that you notice its function. It is meant to keep the temperature within the range we set it. If it is too hot, it starts the AC and vice versa. It creates equilibrium by self correcting itself to a specified range. It’s similar to things that are happening in our mind and body.

It is called homeostasis. When we feel hot, the body sweats to keep us cool. When we feel cold, we shiver to create heat inside body. It is also applicable to regulate our food intake, sleep, pain, etc. When we break out of the comfortable range then it self- regulates to bring it within the comfortable range, otherwise there is a chance of system breakdown.

The personality thermostat.

Suppose we take the simple case of extroversion. The brain says you need more social time, and then it will say that you need to be alone. The normal range varies for each individual. Once you reach an extreme, the internal thermostat will signal you that it’s time to spend some time alone. Maybe your wife can party out 7 days a week continuously with friends but for you 3 days may be the limit when you want the opposite of it. Your extroversion thermostat is set at a lower level, that’s why you reach your limit earlier.

This personality thermostat is applicable for other aspects also like cleanliness, adventure spirit, fear, happiness, satisfaction etc. The settings for this personality thermostat are different for different people therefore we react differently to different environments. It is like a psychological homeostasis.  But there is no perfect number or amount for this thermostat. It is a range within which we feel comfortable and acceptable and return to it.

Slowly by the time we grow up we understand the limit within ourselves. We understand when we should push forward and when to back off. We understand our ‘content’ zone. But still we suffer from discontentment. That is because we give meaning to our desires which forces us to overstep in one direction or the other.

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Our philosophical thermostat.

Just as we have a biological homeostasis to keep us in a comfortable range, so we have a psychological one which keeps us from hating or loving everyone. This helps us manage our belief systems which are tuned to give us satisfaction and meaning in life. If we can keep our philosophical thermostat in balance then we can think of a persistent state of satisfaction and happiness. In a nutshell, we can be content.

Next I will touch upon three conflicting pair of paradoxes which we experience in life. These are like irresolvable contradictions within which we feel impossible to win. We oscillate between these, sacrificing one for the other. These paradoxes are universal but play out differently for each of us as our thermostats are set in our personalized setting.

(The article will get too long, so I will complete it in the next part. Please bear with me.)

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Thank you Telesfor sir

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