Why extreme experiences are so important in our life

Every day of our life consists of a sequence of events. Very individually we often evaluate these moments subconsciously positive or negative and give them a certain degree of intensity. Most people avoid negative situations in order to avoid being disappointed. Positive moments come into focus, because they seem to give us happiness and satisfaction.

But what is happiness and satisfaction? Basically, happiness is always an improvement on the previous situation and satisfaction is felt when we assign meaning to a situation.

The psychologist Roy Baumeister from the University of Queensland in Australia has discovered that both positive and negative moments contribute almost equally to the creation of meaning and thus to satisfaction.

But why is that? One possible reason is that happiness and satisfaction are brought about by dealing with a negative event. Because they represent an improvement on the previous situation. So we can literally take our happiness into our own hands.

“The most thrilling moments of our lives are often balanced on a knife edge between pleasure and pain”


The psychologist Brock Bastian sees the desire for positive experiences as the reason for being unhappy. This is plausible, because an improvement of the situation becomes more and more difficult with time. We need the negative experiences in order to feel happy more easily and to give even simple moments a positive meaning.

In parenting, we constantly show our children limits, which are usually evaluated negatively by them. Nevertheless it gives them security and structure in their lives. Only in this way can children develop trust in themselves and their environment. It is the same with us adults.

It seems that the search for extreme experiences is in contrast to mindfulness, which seeks happiness and satisfaction in peace and meditation. However, we believe that these two things can complement each other very well in life. Mindfulness protects us from being overloaded and through intensive experiences we develop ourselves further.

Extreme experience shows us limits which give us an impulse to rethink or which inspire us to find a creative solution (resilliance). Dealing with them leads to a higher tolerance of comparable moments and therefore also to an extended horizon.

At the end of our lives we will remember those moments of greatest importance.

Further information about:

Roy Baumeisters Article
Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life

Brock Bastians book
The Other Side of Happiness

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