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Behavioral paradoxes!

I think it was first on Joe Rogan’s podcast that I heard someone saying “I don’t believe in ghosts but I would never spend a night in a haunted house” and that made a lot of sense! Me too, actually. I don’t believe in ghosts either but I’m still sometimes scared of ghosts or evil beings.

A month ago I watched the Nun II (2023) movie and later that night I felt scared. I knew there’s no nun waiting for me down the stairs in the kitchen but I still was somehow scared that there may be an evil being there waiting for me. I know that’s ridiculous but I felt it. That feeling was real for me. I even forgot about it the next morning but I know that fear was real.

When I heard the sentence (the one on Joe Rogan podcast), I came to realization that there’s a lot of behavioral paradoxes in our lives without we even noticing them. My fear of the nun was one example but there’s a lot more. For example, we know fast food is bad and it hurts us but we still eat them. We know cigarettes will cause cancer but we still smoke them. We’re afraid of roller coasters, that’s why it causes excitement in us, but we still ride them.

Isn’t that fascinating? We know, deep in our hearts, that something should not be done but against all of our instincts and understandings we do them. What makes us do this? I believe it’s because we enjoy the paradox and we enjoy the feeling of excitement we get from those activities.

Well some activities may not excite us. Smoking, for example, causes real damage on our neurons, that’s why it’s addictive, and we are somehow forced to do them more and more but one who spends a night in a haunted house is not an addict, well unless he does heroin in the house.

The hormones we get from these activities are so strong that we get eager to do them again. Eating at your favorite restaurant may not be an exciting activity but it certainly gives you a joy you don’t experience at other places. And we remember these joys and we repeat them so they become more and more strong.

I used to walk the rain and I always got sick afterwards but the joy I felt from those walks compelled me to do it again. I knew I most-probably will get sick again but I did it anyways. It felt good and I would do it again.

But how does it happen? I know about the hormones and stuff but how does it really happen when we know for a fact that something unpleasant will happen next? When a child decides to disobey parents, while knowing a punishment awaits, what forces him to do it? Why we can’t control ourselves to avoid these situations or practices?

Life would become joyless, robotic. “Equilibrium (2002)” is a movie that shows a world in which having feelings is forbidden, against the law. Even in that movie the main character does against the rules. What made him do this? If I could choose between a joyless yet perfect or an imperfect but joyful worlds, I would definitely choose a joyful world. A world full of excitement, ups and downs, even if it’s imperfect, is much more desirable.

One of my hobbies is to watch football, the real one not the American one. Persepolis and Iran national team play too bad and they are far below the standard. They’re not even average players yet they get paid thousands or millions of dollars to play. In an economy that most people are struggling to afford their basic needs, they get hundreds of thousands of dollars to play football so bad even their greatest fans boo them.

I’ve stopped caring for these football teams long ago and I wish them lose their matches every time, so maybe there will be some reform if they lose a lot. They get paid by the government. Meaning I,  a taxpayer, am paying for these terrible players. That’s one of the things that angers me. However, I still watch them. I follow the matches, I follow their news from time to time and sometimes I get excited when they score.

I even follow the rivals of my favorite teams. I get upset when they win and get happy when they lose. I joke around with fans of the rival team and sometimes discuss the matches, the referees, club situations, and trash-talk each other. Yet deep in my heart and mind I know I wouldn’t pay a dime to these teams. I’ll vote for destruction of these clubs for a penny.

This is one of the behavioral paradoxes I have in my life. Not harmful so much but not joyful either. What makes this happen? It’s one of those paradoxes I can’t understand. How can I hate something so much yet follow it and get excited from time to time? I don’t even forget that I don’t like them. I don’t like fish and I sometimes forget why I don’t like it until I taste it again so I can understand if I have fish for launch sometimes but I don’t understand following my rival teams matches and sometimes even cheer for them. When they score a beautiful goal, or sometimes when they win, I cheer for them. That’s the magic of football I guess.

Humans are full of these behavioral paradoxes. I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences these and I’m sure there’s a good scientific reason behind all of these. Our body secretes hormones and these affect our behavior, that’s normal, but it still fascinates me a lot. It still makes me wonder about life and our decisions and human willpower.

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Ali Reza Hayati

Entrepreneur, hacker, cypherpunk.