Nathanael Garrett Novosel, December 15 2021

How Things You Don’t Like Can Benefit You

Mosquitoes.  People who cut you off in traffic.  Unexpected bills.  Mondays.  If you’re like me, your heart rate is rising just thinking about these things.  Yes, there will always be things in this world that you don’t like, and no one likes what they don’t like (by definition).  So what can you do to alleviate the discomfort associated with this reality?  Well, there is a lot of good news associated with things you don’t like, and we’re going to cover them in this post.

First, you should be grateful for your ability to like and dislike things.  Generally speaking, you like things that benefit you: food, water, shelter, warmth, sleep, relaxation, leisure activities, socializing, and reproduction.  Similarly, you don’t like things that are bad for you: waste, hurricanes, people screaming in your ear, etc.  Ironically, all you have to do is see people who, through childhood trauma or unresolved issues, seek things that are bad for them to see how important it is to differentiate between the two.

Second, you should note that things are not inherently “good” or “bad”; instead, they are deemed good or bad based on how they can be used or how you perceive them.  For example, manure is not something that people seek for its aroma because the human nose knows to be repelled by it for sanitary reasons, but manure is a good thing because of how it fertilizes soil for plants.  So it’s good in how it can be used to create fruits and vegetables, but it’s bad that direct ingestion would be detrimental to a person’s health.  Now, here’s the interesting question: do you wish manure didn’t exist?  Maybe, but likely not because you know that it’s necessary for you to live and all you have to do is avoid it unless you’re planting something and appreciate that, while you don’t like it per se, it benefits you.

Third, you have to realize that the world is like an “all you can eat” buffet: it exists so you can look at the whole slew of things available for your consumption and choose the things you like while ignoring what you don’t like.  This is very important because if people could wish away things they didn’t like that other people did like…then others would also be wishing away the things that they didn’t like until there was nothing.  Asexuals wishing away sex would take away that from everyone else; people who hate gambling would take that away; people who hate the cold would take away white Christmases from people who like it.  Instead of pushing the buffet to eliminate everything you don’t like from the menu, you have the ability to pick from everything just what you want and either ignore or, if you accidentally select it, discard anything you don’t want.

This third piece is very important because people liking different things very much benefits you.  If you hate math, you benefit from the millions of other people who learned it and created amazing products that you use every day with it and you didn’t have to do a single math problem.  If you hate doing dishes, there are restaurants where people will gladly do your dishes for you while you perform another job.  And because you have the right to choose what role you have in a free society, you can spend your whole day doing work that you enjoy (or at least don’t mind doing) while others do the work that you hate.  If there were only things that you liked that were possible, all of that stuff that you didn’t like that you benefit from wouldn’t exist.

So, taking those three things (and other great things about it that I’m sure I’m forgetting), it’s very important to appreciate the fact that you have the ability to like and dislike things so that you can focus more on what you like and ignore or arrange for (willing) others to do what you dislike.  However, there is one final scenario that bothers a lot of people: not knowing whether you want/like something.  Let’s take a final look at that piece.

There are two thresholds that people use: you either like it or you don’t, or you either really like it or you don’t (often stated as, “if it’s not a ‘hell yes,’ then it’s a ‘hell no.’”).  We’ll stick with the former since the latter is just a higher threshold on the same scale.  This is where arguably the best value in what you don’t like existing: it helps you figure out what you do like!  This is commonly stated as, “When you know what you don’t want, then you know what you do want.”  Use this insight in two ways:

Note that you might just be satisfied to know what you want, but I do recommend understanding why in case you either want to use that information to save yourself time in selecting from options in the future or if you want to help someone else understand what makes you prefer that option.

So now you hopefully understand why things that you don’t like exist and how you can use them to find out what you do want and focus on it while still allowing the things you don’t like to exist so that you can benefit from them.  Don’t like fire?  Let someone else cook your food.  Don’t like noise?  Let other people do drilling and go to clubs while you stay at home in the woods while benefitting from the facts that someone else did a lot of drilling for your house to be built and there are thousands of people at clubs on the weekends so they’re not in your woods bothering you.  While it can be hard to remember the benefits of things you don’t like when your kitchen catches fire or someone is drilling or hosting a dance party next door, remember that you can always take action to focus or move toward what you do prefer without having to necessarily abolish things that you don’t like.

Written by

Nathanael Garrett Novosel


Previous Is There a Best or Right Way to Live?
Next What Do You Value?