Understanding human nature

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Human beings, like other living things, are creatures of habit. And while people may differ in their social practices, physical appearances, ideologies, and perspectives about the world, they are similar in so many ways. For example, people hunger, thirst, talk, hear, smell, and so on. One major characteristic of the human nature is her response to pleasure and pain. In fact, all human behaviors are contingent on this primary human characteristic. Man will not engage in an activity unless he derives pleasure from such activity. Even seemingly painful activities are endured or passed through because of a future reward that promises a much greater pleasure.  

We sit, stand, write, eat, talk, yearn, and stare because we find all these actions comfortable. And the refusal to exhibit these actions when we have been psychologically motivated by them often gives rise to discomfort. When hunger motivates us to eat, and we do not respond to this need (or desire), we experience discomfort. And when we are feeling sleepy, but do not respond to this feeling, we feel terrible. The extreme form of comfort is pleasure, and the extreme form of discomfort is pain. Humans do not only want to be comfortable, but also want to experience sublime pleasure. And human beings do not only avoid discomfort, but are also deeply terrified of pain. We therefore lean towards comfort, and avoid discomfort as a result of our nature. 

Comfortable activities are activities that we have a tendency to engage in, while uncomfortable activities are activities we try to avoid. For example, you love to play golf, talk dirty, sing, and eat a lot because you derive pleasure from these activities. However, you are averse to the idea of sticking pins into your eyes, cutting your nose off, lying inside a refrigerator, or going to prison. The existence of comfort and pleasure make man essentially motivated by want and greed, while the existence of discomfort and pain make man essentially motivated by fear. Therefore, it is human nature to not only want to have sublime experiences, but also want to avoid agonizing experiences. 

Want and fear are the two forces that drive human actions. Like a puppet, he is controlled by these two forces of human nature (the puppeteers). Man is not satisfied with little; he wants more. He is essentially an insatiable creature. He wants more money, more knowledge, more security, more respect, more love, more attention, and more power. No matter how much he has acquired, he still wants more. The disinclination to yield to his greedy desires is likely to give rise to discomfort, which he certainly isn’t overly fond of. Although, he may be able to tolerate mild to moderate degree of discomfort, usually in an effort to wait patiently for the experience of a greater future pleasure, or in an effort to avert a possible disaster, he is likely to yield without restrain if he is overpowered by intense discomfort, irrespective of the consequences of his action. The greater the pleasure derivable from an act or activity, the greater the discomfort man is bound to experience if he denies himself of this pleasure. And if a desire is really overwhelming, then the withdrawal symptom associated with not giving in to such desire can be agonizing. 

Fear is also a force that drives human actions. We are afraid of economic insecurity, loneliness, death, pain, rejection, powerlessness, sicknesses, and humiliation. And because we have fears, we avoid those circumstances that may lead to experiencing these fears. For example, out of the fear of economic insecurity, we may docilely comply to the exploitative actions of our employers, especially if we live in a country with little regard for human right. For fear of discomfort, we will put on the fan or air-conditioner when it is hot in the room. And out of the fear of humiliation, some of us may choose to avoid social encounters altogether. You go to work every day because you don’t want to be impoverished, you want to be able to provide for your family, and you have desires you want to satisfy through the use of your income. The forces of fear and desire are indeed dominant in our lives. 

If feeling inferior or powerless makes us uncomfortable, then feeling superior or powerful, which makes us comfortable, will give rise to such negative emotions as envy, resentment, anger, arrogance, and hatred. It is due to this human nature that most people tend to exhibit such emotions. If satiation or absolute satisfaction is uncomfortable, then wanting more makes our lives more exciting and enjoyable, and people will be greedy, desirous of more and more. People, therefore, have the tendency to be aspiring, ambitious, and hungry for the best things of life. It is not easy for anyone to overcome the temptation of that which seems better, more enjoyable, or more fulfilling, especially if they are confident that these experiences are not beyond them. Overcoming great temptations will certainly be accompanied by discomfort. 

Human beings may exhibit similar or different habits as a result of two forces: nature (which consists of genetic proclivity and mysterious natural brain chemistry), and environment (which consists of family upbringing, life experiences, and socio-cultural influences). Your interests may differ from those of another person, either because of the difference in your natural proclivities or the difference in the experiences you have had, or a combination of these two factors.