I.2.3 The Yin and Yang of Groupflow - "No Pain No Gain"

“Change is like a river: nothing is the same, even for an instant. Everything is continually moving through the six stages of change: about to come into being, beginning, expanding, approaching maximum potential, peaking, and finally, passing its peak and flowing into its new condition.”  ― Wu Wei, I Ching

Certainly, trying to evade pain at all cost can lead to huge pain in the end. Because 51-year-old Darren Wilkinson was afraid of the dentist , he skipped dentist appointments for 27 years. But for evading the small pain of going to the annual dentist checkup, he paid with huge pain after 27 years. When one morning he discovered blood on his pillow, he finally mustered the courage to go to the dentist. The dentist’s X-ray showed a black hole in the middle of his face, eventually an ameloblastoma was discovered, a rare, benign, tumor of the bone which mostly occurs in the lower jaw. As a consequence, in seven surgeries, 90 percent of his lower jaw and most of his teeth had to be removed, and for three months Mr. Wilkinson had to be fed through a tube inserted into his nose and going through to his stomach. After that his jaw had to rebuilt from bone transplants from his lower leg bones. Had Mr. Wilkinson accepted small pain each year – going to the dentist – he could have avoided this huge pain in the end.

The same is true for achieving high lifetime satisfaction. Accepting small pain now will lead to big gain later! In a famous experiment, the “marshmallow test”, researchers offered six-year-old children a marshmallow. If they would be able to wait for fifteen minutes until eating the marshmallow, they would get a second marshmallow. When the researchers ten years later checked on metrics of success of the children such as educational achievements, body mass index, and ability to cope with stress, they found that the better children were able to pass the marshmallow test at a young age, going through the small pain of having to wait for fifteen minutes until they ate the marshmallow, the higher was their success later in life. This means that if they were resilient in resisting the short-term temptation at six, they were also far more likely to work harder in their school years towards higher educational grades, and resist the temptation to overeat. In other words, gaining more lasting happiness – by getting a better education and thus access to better opportunities in life – can mean to give up short-term gratification and reward and accept pain in the moment to gain happiness and satisfaction in the long run. While the scientific rigor of the original marshmallow test experiment has been criticized, the long-term benefit of being able to resist short-term temptation for deferred gratification has been verified many times.

While the flow experience in an entangled group is a source of happiness, fulfilling and its own reward, this does not mean that the members of the group are constantly happy. Rather, the steps on the way towards happiness might occasionally be full of pain. Any sports trainer knows that triggering anger among his athletes is a sure way to create additional energy. This can be done by swearing at them and insulting them, however there are better ways to inject small amounts of pain in a respectful way to create energy and positive stress. Anger creates energy and negative stress; the goal is to create energy and positive stress to give the individual a highly pleasurable experience of thrill and elation. How can we introduce the highest amount of gain with the least amount of pain?


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