So this is going to be the final time I blog about the England football team and their performance at this world cup. By now, we are all aware that our boys failed to deliver any real element of what they are truly capable, and this ‘Golden Generation’ are heading home where the commander of all the UK media has just told his lieutenant; “on my command, unleash hell.”
For many of us, we did that thing again… We got hopeful. We believed. We feared at times, then we despaired. However, rather than moan or whinge… I have discovered why this is all a good thing for us.
This recent study conducted at Ohio State University in the US examined 113 college football fans as they watched a game between their school’s team and that of one of their closest rivals. So a bit like England playing Germany in some ways…
The subjects were asked to watch a particularly crucial game and then log their emotional state during the advertisements. They also logged their perception of their teams’ chance of victory. It turned out that fans who thought the game was the most enjoyable were those who were convinced at some point during the game that their team would lose – but then watched as the team turned around and managed to win. From the press release for this study:
The results showed how important negative emotions were to enjoyment of the game. “When people think about entertainment in general, they think it has to be fun and pleasurable. But enjoyment doesn’t always mean positive emotions,” [said study co-author Prabu] David. “Sometimes enjoyment is derived by having the negative emotion, and then juxtaposing that with the positive emotion.”
… “You need the negative emotions of thinking your team might lose to get you in an excited, nervous state,” [study co-author Silvia] Knobloch Westerwick said. “If your team wins, all that negative tension is suddenly converted to positive energy, which will put you in a euphoric state.”
In a sense this piece of research offers up a rather predictable conclusion… I mean, if you were to ask any screenwriter about how to craft a gripping plotline, you know they’ll tell you that the hero must find herself/himself in the grip of a major issue/problem/dilemma at the end of Act Two… So when we watch the football, the fact that we strolled convincingly through the qualifying campaign, then struggled incredibly poorly in our group games at the World Cup, made for even more compelling viewing by the time the Germany game arrived. The Germans had been playing well too… This was a perfect recipe in many ways.
The results of such a study also serve as a reminder of a larger, and very important point: that the pursuit of unabridged pleasure and joy is doomed from the start. We’re not really deriving enjoyment from life unless we are willing to admit some hint of fear and the possibility of disappointment. Pure pleasure-seeking quickly becomes deeply unsatisfying, which can lead us to seek even more pleasure, and more dissatisfaction, in a spiraling vicious circle that leads to endlessly unsatisfying indulgence…
In the cold light of day this morning as I strolled around my garden in my underwear, sipping my green tea and looking toward the day and new week ahead, I realise that this was a game of football, and there is going to a mass post-mortem, and we get to discuss feverishly… But in general terms, my life is wonderful and I am a happy, enriched man still at the end of the tournament.
There are those in the psychology field, that argue that we tend to approach pleasant and unpleasant things in a precise and wrong way. In general terms, we all tend to seek out pleasant, enjoyable sensations and do all we can to experience them over and over. As a result, the frequency leads to habituation, desensitisation and boredom and we then stop finding as much pleasure from doing those things.
The flip side of the coin, is that as we continue to avoid unpleasant and unenjoyable things, so that we experience them infrequently, and they become really sensitised things… Maybe we ought to be clever about this, and undertake all the unpleasant, unenjoyable stuff as much as possible so that we are desensitised to them instead, and if the pleasant things were a rarer treat, maybe when we do indulge ourselves, we then experience an incredible combination of joys and pleasures, no?
Of course, this is theory and by nature we seek out the good stuff… Yet I can’t help thinking of the cliches of the grass being greener on the other side for some people… And how many people really do not appreciate all the wonderment they have in their lives.
When I was at college and was in a band, I used to love the fact that I had a varied music taste. I used to love bands that were not known and wear their t-shirts. Then a couple of them that I had loved from their real early days, became household names and even got into the charts. Everyone started liking them and they lost their specialness to me.
When I was even younger, I remember my Mum and Dad having a dinner party. For a starter they made avacado and prawns!! My Mum even had special porcelain avacado dishes imported from Europe to eat the avacado halves in… As a treat, she saved me one (and would do so each time she hosted a dinner party) and I loved them, they were such a treat and very rare in those days. As of today though, 30 years later, you can buy many kinds of brands of avacado and to have half of one for a started with prawns in the middle is considered rather kitsche (up there with blackforest gateaux) and ut of fashion, and because I eat them regularly with salads, they are no longer as special as they once were for me.
To really get the most out of life, we should pay attention not just to what makes us happy, but how it makes us happy… What drives the happiness, how do you perceive things that drive happiness and how has it been conditioned?
I had a moment after the football yesterday… But heck, we won the cricket, I have new clients today, the sun is shining, and we’ll have another game of football that’ll make me happy at some stage, I am sure of it.
it’s Monday morning, life is good. I hope it is with you too.