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Next Big Idea Club: A Psychologist on Why We Love Sad Songs and Spicy Foods

Think about your own favorite type of negative experience. Maybe you go to movies that make you cry, or scream, or gag. Or you might listen to sad songs. You might poke at sores, eat spicy foods, immerse yourself in painfully hot baths. Or climb mountains, run marathons, get punched in the face in gyms and dojos. All of this is what the psychologist Paul Rozin has called “benign masochism.” So why do you pursue this “benign masochism?” There’s no single explanation, of course. Choosing to suffer can serve social goals; it can display how tough we are or, in other circumstances, can serve as a cry for help. Unpleasant emotions such as fear and sadness are part of play and fantasy and can provide certain moral satisfactions. And effort and struggle and difficulty can, in the right contexts, lead to the joys of mastery and flow. Read more in Next Big Idea Club.

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