The survival instinct is one of the strongest driving forces that conditions human behaviour. So, if we’re meant to safeguard our survival, why do we insist on learning the hard way and exposing ourselves to ‘unnecessary pain’?
The perception of growth is essential to our survival instinct. When we stop growing, we feel stress because our instinct gives us the perception that we are not adapting to the evolutionary rate of our environment. This stress is what makes us rebel against advice and common sense.
It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve been warned against making a mistake, we are typically driven to learn from first hand experience.
When we learn through theory (advice), we create a rational consciousness of that information. However, when we learn through practice (experience), we create an emotional consciousness that shapes our values and therefore, our behaviour. Thus, we are designed to learn through experiences in order to grow.
But why the pain? Why the hard way?
The experience itself causes an emotional impact which drives our behaviour. When we ‘learn the hard way’, we perceive a negative emotional impact that causes a value transformation. For example, if we feel pain because someone has lied to us, we forge values like: honesty, trust, loyalty, faithfulness, etc. We would value honesty as much as the fear to avoid the pain caused by this event; this is what we call emotional consciousness.
The negative emotional impact forges our values and therefore the perception of our identity: “Honesty is now part of my life”. The value transformation is proportionate to how much pain we felt when we perceived that this value was missing the most. The stronger the pain, the stronger our transformation, and thus, the stronger our perception of growth.
All in all, we are instinctively driven to learn the hard way because our behaviour is conditioned by our survival instinct. This is linked to our perception of growth, which happens through the transformation of values caused by experiences with negative emotions. In order words, we are just a bunch of stubborn masochistic fools.
Why not the Good Way?
Positive emotional impacts don’t transform our emotional values, rather reinforce them. The perception of growth that happens with the reinforcement of values may not be sufficient for some. Each person is different. Some people will take advice and learn the good way, while others prefer to learn the hard way: not once, not twice, but as many times as they need to fulfil their perception of growth.