bad things

We apply labels of emotional value to our personal histories as well; to events in our past, our current situation, and our future.

Past events and their subsequent effect are assessed and labelled according to strict and self-interested criteria that are defined by our present circumstances and how we feel about our lives now. If we lost our job a year ago and now find ourselves destitute, then the job loss was a tragedy. If however we were then offered a much better one the event was a fortuitous one, and cause for celebration.

Possible futures, whether inexorable or imagined, are also assessed as already having (or going to have) a particular characteristic and implication based on the extent to which we think we can avoid or embrace their occurrence. Forecasting a particularly bad event severely limits our freedom of action because we assume that we can do nothing about it, as well as it ruining our present mood well before anything has actually happened. But at least we have defined it and labelled it as Bad.

This also has the curious effect of disconnecting us from it; that thing over there is a “bad” thing, and has upset me greatly. That other thing over there is a “good” thing, and I have taken advantage of it. In neither case does it occur to us that we have any part in the interpretation and labelling of it with an emotional content.

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