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The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning

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From the author of Against Empathy comes a different kind of happiness book, one that shows us how suffering is an essential source of both pleasure and meaning in our lives Why do we so often seek out physical pain and emotional turmoil? We go to movies that make us cry, or scream, or gag. We poke at sores, eat spicy foods, immerse ourselves in hot baths, run marathons. So From the author of Against Empathy comes a different kind of happiness book, one that shows us how suffering is an essential source of both pleasure and meaning in our lives Why do we so often seek out physical pain and emotional turmoil? We go to movies that make us cry, or scream, or gag. We poke at sores, eat spicy foods, immerse ourselves in hot baths, run marathons. Some of us even seek out pain and humiliation in sexual role-play. Where do these seemingly perverse appetites come from? Drawing on groundbreaking findings from psychology and brain science, The Sweet Spot shows how the right kind of suffering sets the stage for enhanced pleasure. Pain can distract us from our anxieties and help us transcend the self. Choosing to suffer can serve social goals; it can display how tough we are or, conversely, can function as a cry for help. Feelings of fear and sadness are part of the pleasure of immersing ourselves in play and fantasy and can provide certain moral satisfactions. And effort, struggle, and difficulty can, in the right contexts, lead to the joys of mastery and flow. But suffering plays a deeper role as well. We are not natural hedonists—a good life involves more than pleasure. People seek lives of meaning and significance; we aspire to rich relationships and satisfying pursuits, and this requires some amount of struggle, anxiety, and loss. Brilliantly argued, witty, and humane, Paul Bloom shows how a life without chosen suffering would be empty—and worse than that, boring.   


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From the author of Against Empathy comes a different kind of happiness book, one that shows us how suffering is an essential source of both pleasure and meaning in our lives Why do we so often seek out physical pain and emotional turmoil? We go to movies that make us cry, or scream, or gag. We poke at sores, eat spicy foods, immerse ourselves in hot baths, run marathons. So From the author of Against Empathy comes a different kind of happiness book, one that shows us how suffering is an essential source of both pleasure and meaning in our lives Why do we so often seek out physical pain and emotional turmoil? We go to movies that make us cry, or scream, or gag. We poke at sores, eat spicy foods, immerse ourselves in hot baths, run marathons. Some of us even seek out pain and humiliation in sexual role-play. Where do these seemingly perverse appetites come from? Drawing on groundbreaking findings from psychology and brain science, The Sweet Spot shows how the right kind of suffering sets the stage for enhanced pleasure. Pain can distract us from our anxieties and help us transcend the self. Choosing to suffer can serve social goals; it can display how tough we are or, conversely, can function as a cry for help. Feelings of fear and sadness are part of the pleasure of immersing ourselves in play and fantasy and can provide certain moral satisfactions. And effort, struggle, and difficulty can, in the right contexts, lead to the joys of mastery and flow. But suffering plays a deeper role as well. We are not natural hedonists—a good life involves more than pleasure. People seek lives of meaning and significance; we aspire to rich relationships and satisfying pursuits, and this requires some amount of struggle, anxiety, and loss. Brilliantly argued, witty, and humane, Paul Bloom shows how a life without chosen suffering would be empty—and worse than that, boring.   

30 review for The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning

  1. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

    The Sweet Spot from Paul Bloom is an enlightening read that draws as many points from the reader's own mind as from any theory. I'll explain momentarily, but what Bloom excels at is explaining his ideas through analogy and anecdotes such that we gain quite a bit of knowledge without realizing it. I'll start by admitting I like Bloom's work. I am not always in complete agreement but I can count on him to make me think about and reconsider many of my own ideas. In addition to several of his books I The Sweet Spot from Paul Bloom is an enlightening read that draws as many points from the reader's own mind as from any theory. I'll explain momentarily, but what Bloom excels at is explaining his ideas through analogy and anecdotes such that we gain quite a bit of knowledge without realizing it. I'll start by admitting I like Bloom's work. I am not always in complete agreement but I can count on him to make me think about and reconsider many of my own ideas. In addition to several of his books I also took a couple of his online MOOCs, and his books are a lot like listening to his lectures. Before you think that is a negative, let me explain. His lectures are almost conversational in tone, so the book is also almost conversational in tone. As humans we have an amazing ability to state unequivocally that we believe two things that are not only incompatible but contradictory. An area where we do this quite a bit is when we discuss the purpose of life or, another way, how we live our lives. Are we pleasure seeking animals, plain and simple? Are we selfish and only think of our own best interests? And so on. Bloom doesn't so much counter all of the ways we think about this as make us think about all of them with more nuance and less certitude. Like so many things, how we define a term makes a big difference. Pain or suffering defined using a broad spectrum allows for more variation in how we will answer the question about whether suffering (sometimes and certain types) is good and even desirable. This book entertains while it educates, and many of Bloom's points seem to be drawn from our own experiences. His examples of ways of thinking or acting will resonate with us and from these he illustrates the value, and necessity, of suffering. In particular when it serves to give our lives some meaning. My convoluted commentary does not do the book justice, but hopefully it shows how Bloom engages his readers to consider old ideas with a bit more nuance. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Disappointing Read! No insight or fresh perspective, pages filled with anything the writer has ever heard, read, watched or experienced just to prove a vague hypothesis. A worthy addition in a happiness industry's pile of garbage. Disappointing Read! No insight or fresh perspective, pages filled with anything the writer has ever heard, read, watched or experienced just to prove a vague hypothesis. A worthy addition in a happiness industry's pile of garbage.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marne - Reader By the Water

    Not a good fit for me, so I’m abandoning it at 10%. Impressed that in these few pages, the author quoted both Viktor Frankl and Eminem.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stetson

    Paul Bloom, a well-known Canadian cognitive psychologist, has added a third popular science book to his body of work, The Sweet Spot. It makes for a great addition to his prior books on the innate, evolved moral systems of the brain (Just Babies) and the social limitations of empathy (Against Empathy), fitting well thematically with little overlapping content. The Sweet Spot is "an extended argument that chosen suffering can generate and enhance pleasure, and that it is an essential part of mean Paul Bloom, a well-known Canadian cognitive psychologist, has added a third popular science book to his body of work, The Sweet Spot. It makes for a great addition to his prior books on the innate, evolved moral systems of the brain (Just Babies) and the social limitations of empathy (Against Empathy), fitting well thematically with little overlapping content. The Sweet Spot is "an extended argument that chosen suffering can generate and enhance pleasure, and that it is an essential part of meaningful activities and a meaningful life." While the work is somewhat light on profundity (purposefully so in some ways), Bloom writes lucidly on the topical empirical research (and its limitations) and provides careful reflection on these insights by drawing on relevant literary theory, philosophy, and general commentary on the human condition. Bloom brings a balanced humility to this topic and is gentle with his prescriptions, which seems appropriate given the methodological and epistemic limitations to the available science. Bloom's central claim builds on a sort of syllogism. First, certain ways of struggling or hurting can be sources of pleasure. Second, living a meaningful requires more than hedonic pleasure, including some sort or morality and worthwhile pursuits. And finally, the conduit to achieving a well lived life will require struggle and adversity. Some readers will find this argument axiomatic (or otherwise unoriginal) and may think a book length discussion of these ideas are unwarranted, but I think Bloom's succinctness and ability to draw expertly from multiple disciplines and bodies of literature justifies the work. However, I am a bit concerned that the self-evident nature of these claims may have lulled me into a less critical space as a reader. After finishing the book, I was still somewhat left with a feeling that some aspect of this topic was being overlooked or not considered (despite Bloom's thoroughness and thoughtfulness). Overall, The Sweet Spot is an engaging, short read that only briefly loses a bit of focus and punch in its middle-late chapters. I found the portions drawing on literary theory to be especially edifying and thought provoking. There is also an interesting and somewhat poignant contrarianism to the work. Bloom is bold enough to argue for the necessity of suffering and the good it can do, while otherwise immersed in a zeitgeist that looks increasingly receptive to and on the precipice of Brave New World type transformation. *Disclaimer: I received this work as an ARC through Netgalley.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    It took me far too long to start reading Paul Bloom’s books, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. After binging his other books like Just Babies, How Pleasure Works, and Against Empathy, I was itching for more from Bloom, and fortunately, I was able to get an advanced copy of this new book. This book was inspired by Bloom taking a look at the world and seeing our high rates of suffering while also this rise in people trying to find happiness through self-help and pop psychology. In Paul Bloom fa It took me far too long to start reading Paul Bloom’s books, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. After binging his other books like Just Babies, How Pleasure Works, and Against Empathy, I was itching for more from Bloom, and fortunately, I was able to get an advanced copy of this new book. This book was inspired by Bloom taking a look at the world and seeing our high rates of suffering while also this rise in people trying to find happiness through self-help and pop psychology. In Paul Bloom fashion, he started asking himself a bunch of questions about pleasure and suffering, and this book is a culmination of his research and theories about how we can find the “sweet spot” between pain and pleasure. This book is insanely good and like nothing I’ve read before (and this is coming from someone who reads hundreds of non-fiction books a year). Is there such thing as too much pleasure? Why do we find more satisfaction after suffering? Is there something about people who self-harm that we’re not seeing? Bloom tries to answer all of these questions and so much more, and the book really makes the reader reflect on how we pursue pleasure. Sometimes, there are books that are so good and thought provoking that even though I want to binge them, I have to take some time after each chapter to really let it all sink in, and that’s what this book does. The Sweet Spot has such a great blend of psychology, philosophy, and scientific research, and I really think it’ll help a lot of people have a shift in perspective when it comes to how we perceive many important topics when it comes to our personal well-being.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This was awesome! Super interesting. Basically, humans find pain and suffering to be compelling. We actually are drawn towards it, IF we have some semblance of control over it. For example, I am a manic for cycling. But if I woke up in the middle of the with my legs burning, my heart beating at 180 bmp, struggling to breath, I would freak the heck out. It would be a literal waking nightmare. But when I have control over it, I seek it. This same type of situation manifests in challenging intellec This was awesome! Super interesting. Basically, humans find pain and suffering to be compelling. We actually are drawn towards it, IF we have some semblance of control over it. For example, I am a manic for cycling. But if I woke up in the middle of the with my legs burning, my heart beating at 180 bmp, struggling to breath, I would freak the heck out. It would be a literal waking nightmare. But when I have control over it, I seek it. This same type of situation manifests in challenging intellectual pursuits, exercise, bdsm. Fascinating deep dive into the psychology of suffering.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Nierenhausen

    3.5/5 This was a pretty enjoyable book. Nothing in it was truly surprising or groundbreaking, but it was a good primer on the topic of human suffering. Bloom often references Frankl, and Man's Search for Meaning. I think that book does a better job covering many of the ideas presented here. Still a good read, and I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject. 3.5/5 This was a pretty enjoyable book. Nothing in it was truly surprising or groundbreaking, but it was a good primer on the topic of human suffering. Bloom often references Frankl, and Man's Search for Meaning. I think that book does a better job covering many of the ideas presented here. Still a good read, and I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Simon Tudge

    Not quite mind blowing, but it's a nice short and snappy book filled with interesting ideas and thoughts, so well worth the read. Not quite mind blowing, but it's a nice short and snappy book filled with interesting ideas and thoughts, so well worth the read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    I was really hoping this wouldn't be a collection of summaries of research from psychologists and sociologists and all that. It is, essentially, and that's a bummer. I was really hoping this wouldn't be a collection of summaries of research from psychologists and sociologists and all that. It is, essentially, and that's a bummer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Jedrasik

    A nice short book that explores the perspective between suffering, pleasure and how we derive meaning from it all; however, nothing really new or mind blowing. Some of the studies do tend to have low sample sizes or rely on anecdotal evidence, but Paul isn't here to claim to have the answers, just inspecting the evidence at hand to think about. Overall 3.5 stars A nice short book that explores the perspective between suffering, pleasure and how we derive meaning from it all; however, nothing really new or mind blowing. Some of the studies do tend to have low sample sizes or rely on anecdotal evidence, but Paul isn't here to claim to have the answers, just inspecting the evidence at hand to think about. Overall 3.5 stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    The Sweet Spot by Paul Bloom is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November. Pain and suffering is seen as a kind of downside within a life that's spent safely and cautiously seeking happiness and comfort, yet someone could also deliberately choose to suffer in order to a achieve balance and discipline (though not so much like the book I’d read a month or so ago, Hurts So Good, had empathized). Bloom brings up a new outlook and topic every four or so pages in an effort to explain and rea The Sweet Spot by Paul Bloom is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November. Pain and suffering is seen as a kind of downside within a life that's spent safely and cautiously seeking happiness and comfort, yet someone could also deliberately choose to suffer in order to a achieve balance and discipline (though not so much like the book I’d read a month or so ago, Hurts So Good, had empathized). Bloom brings up a new outlook and topic every four or so pages in an effort to explain and reason with a large amount of things - all described in a one on one conversational yet frenetic style.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Dea

    Kinda suffered to get thru it . About 70% fluff like a hs or college kid needing to meet a min page requirement. At one point he said “I have to explain something obvious for a bit.” I thought it ironic bc most of it was obvious with a few twists. I bought bc of his podcast with Sam Harris. That served his argument better. Much respect for Paul bloom and his work in total; just not this book. Might be bc I read a lot of non fiction, philosophy of life, etc that his argument touches on, therefore no Kinda suffered to get thru it . About 70% fluff like a hs or college kid needing to meet a min page requirement. At one point he said “I have to explain something obvious for a bit.” I thought it ironic bc most of it was obvious with a few twists. I bought bc of his podcast with Sam Harris. That served his argument better. Much respect for Paul bloom and his work in total; just not this book. Might be bc I read a lot of non fiction, philosophy of life, etc that his argument touches on, therefore not much of anything new. The data and surveys he provides give it a 2 star instead of one. His explanations are overdone though. I bet one can read the first sentence of every paragraph and understand all the book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. That has not influenced my review in any way. What if life was nothing but goodness? What if you could choose that nothing bad ever happened to you again? That's quite a tempting offer! Many people would go for it. What Bloom explains in this book the benefits of taking the bad with the good--particularly when the bad is something he calls "chosen suffering." Bloom claims that chosen suffering not only serves to enhance our good and pleasurable experiences I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. That has not influenced my review in any way. What if life was nothing but goodness? What if you could choose that nothing bad ever happened to you again? That's quite a tempting offer! Many people would go for it. What Bloom explains in this book the benefits of taking the bad with the good--particularly when the bad is something he calls "chosen suffering." Bloom claims that chosen suffering not only serves to enhance our good and pleasurable experiences even more, but it serves as a way to bolster human connections and help give out, frankly miraculous, existence meaning. This book is compelling not only because of the content, but the impact it had on me as I read it. There were many times when I paused reading to do some introspection or think about related experiences I've had. This book took my mind to fascinating places and really is great food for thought!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Mikulsky

    I enjoyed most of this book and several of the examples. Some sections just did not provide me with a lot of new insights or was a bit unnecessary. I still recommend it. Here are a few teasers from the book: The book talks about two different sorts of chosen suffering. One that can increase the joy of future experiences, provide an escape from consciousness, satisfy a curiosity, and enhance social status. The other includes activities that are effortful and often unpleasant. These two sorts of ch I enjoyed most of this book and several of the examples. Some sections just did not provide me with a lot of new insights or was a bit unnecessary. I still recommend it. Here are a few teasers from the book: The book talks about two different sorts of chosen suffering. One that can increase the joy of future experiences, provide an escape from consciousness, satisfy a curiosity, and enhance social status. The other includes activities that are effortful and often unpleasant. These two sorts of chosen pain and suffering - for pleasure and for meaning - differ in many ways. Think of phrases like “pain that’s also pleasure” and “the joy we can get from suffering.” It’s been said that we are governed by two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. Freud believed that the primary aim of a person “is the avoidance of unpleasure and the obtaining of pleasure.” Ursula K. Le Guin said, “Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting.” Fear is not boring. Haunted houses and scary movies are very popular, and fear is part of the appeal. Those who enjoy frightening movies like the fear; the more fear they experience, the more pleasure they get. You can savor being angry, perhaps fantasizing about revenge or enjoying the sensation of righteous outrage. People also enjoy sad movies - this being pleasant sadness. People appreciate the sadness of sad songs and take pleasure from them, feeling tenderness and nostalgia. Experiencing sadness in a safe context, without real world concerns, may reassure one that they are not alone in the world. “The effort paradox” points to the appeal of suffering. Effort itself can be a source of pleasure. We often choose to do something rather than nothing. The more effort you put into something, the more you value it. A meaningful activity is really centered around significance and impact. Meaning will inevitably come from suffering - with difficulty and anxiety and conflict and perhaps much more. The most meaningful events tended to be on the extremes – those that were very pleasant or very painful. Per Seneca, “Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember." “It hurts just as much as it is worth.” Pain can be a proper acknowledgment of value. Chosen suffering – in the right way at the right time in the right doses – adds value to life. Chosen suffering can lead to great pleasure. It can connect us to others and can be a source of community and love.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Craig Amason

    This is such an interesting topic that most people have at least considered at one point or another but may not have given too much serious thought. How do we define "suffering?" Is it pain, either physical, mental, or emotional? If so, wouldn't it make sense to avoid it entirely rather than actually seeking it? And yet, as Bloom explains, human beings do voluntarily submit themselves to all kinds of unpleasantness: fear, physical discomfort, trauma, etc. We will even pay to suffer, and I don't This is such an interesting topic that most people have at least considered at one point or another but may not have given too much serious thought. How do we define "suffering?" Is it pain, either physical, mental, or emotional? If so, wouldn't it make sense to avoid it entirely rather than actually seeking it? And yet, as Bloom explains, human beings do voluntarily submit themselves to all kinds of unpleasantness: fear, physical discomfort, trauma, etc. We will even pay to suffer, and I don't just mean the BDSM variety, although the author does include that form of "suffering for pleasure" too. Other examples he gives include watching horror films, visiting haunted houses, or riding roller coasters that scare us to the point that our heart rate is elevated, our palms sweat, and we have bad dreams. Bloom does a good job of exploring the fine line between suffering and pleasure, and again, not just involving sex. Perhaps the most provocative portion of the book is the discussion of how suffering, sometimes voluntary but usually involuntary, is associated with wellbeing, meaning, and purpose. It may be as common as the discomfort we all feel with vigorous exercise, know there is no gain without pain. More seriously, think of self-sacrificial actions such as enlisting in the armed services and enduring boot camp, not to mention the real risk of serious injury or death. He points to examples of people who have been maimed and disfigured during acts of heroism who have said they would do it all over again and would not have their scars removed even if they could. Bloom misfires sometimes. He repeatedly uses the example of people climbing into a tub of hot water and enduring the temporary pain for the relaxation that the activity soon yields. I'm sorry, but I don't think climbing into a hot bath is considered too uncomfortable by most folks. Who in the hell scalds themselves while soaking? He also made a comparison of someone undergoing a painful dental procedure without anesthesia to a woman giving birth without any pain relief - the end games of those two examples are just too disparate for a proper analogy. All in all though, this is an accessible study of a topic with which almost everyone can identify.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    This was a really interesting listen. Bloom discusses the role of suffering in life. His main idea is that suffering has an important role to play in the meaningful life. Along the way, he critiques various forms of hedonism (life is only/primarily about seeking pleasure or happiness). At the same time, he's not arguing for some kind of ascetic life or a life beset with suffering. His point is more that suffering is always, in some way, a part of a meaningful, full life. We can't banish it compl This was a really interesting listen. Bloom discusses the role of suffering in life. His main idea is that suffering has an important role to play in the meaningful life. Along the way, he critiques various forms of hedonism (life is only/primarily about seeking pleasure or happiness). At the same time, he's not arguing for some kind of ascetic life or a life beset with suffering. His point is more that suffering is always, in some way, a part of a meaningful, full life. We can't banish it completely; and we wouldn't really want to if we could. He details various forms of what he calls chosen-suffering: from BDSM to watching scary movies, to mountain climbing and so on. Another part of his argument is in favor of what he calls motivational pluralism. This is the idea that we are motivated by many things: not just one. It's not just pleasure, or just happiness, or just _fill in the blank_. It's all of that and more. We have lots of different goals, ends, values that motivates us. Some of this involve some measure of pain or suffering. Indeed many of our life-projects; life long goals, involve a lot of pain and suffering of some kind. It's part of process. Sometimes we would, if we could, avoid that. But sometimes the grittiness, the hardness, the painfulness of the thing is an integral part of it and we wouldn't choose to remove it. Bloom shares lots of fascinating anecdotes and relevant psychology findings. There is a lot to learn and think about here -- even if you don't agree with Bloom's conclusions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    3 Things About This Book

    If we have to sit down and do nothing for a long period of time, we might like it at the beginning. Having nothing keeping our brain and/or hands occupied should be nice for a change. But then probably after couple of hours of “hedonism”, we will start fidgeting. If not our body, our mind will start to go from nice and quiet to let’s think about all the things we could be doing right now or work the next day. So even when we are given the option not to stress ourselves, we still end up asking fo If we have to sit down and do nothing for a long period of time, we might like it at the beginning. Having nothing keeping our brain and/or hands occupied should be nice for a change. But then probably after couple of hours of “hedonism”, we will start fidgeting. If not our body, our mind will start to go from nice and quiet to let’s think about all the things we could be doing right now or work the next day. So even when we are given the option not to stress ourselves, we still end up asking for it. Because we, humans, like certain level of pain, displeasure and struggle in our lives. Otherwise, what are we going to whine about all day? Paul Bloom talks about that “necessary” level of struggle that we bring onto ourselves to find meaning and sense of accomplishment. No one likes to talk about “I took x number of breaths today” or “my heart circulated blood x times”. Although these are accomplishments and very necessary things that we need to do ongoing basis 😅, there is nothing heroic about it. We treat them as lifting a plate and dropping it in the sink. If we get what we want with “sweat and blood”, then it’s meaningful. The most important question is where do we cross the line. Where is the sweet spot? What level of pain and suffering is good and what is exaggeration? This book gives you enough food for thought to make that decision for yourself.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Will Norton

    Paul Bloom is one of the top theorists in the field of psychology. Unfortunately this book tends to read a little scattered. The endless results of different psychology experiments only somewhat remain held together by a central theme. The idea that we choose to suffer depends highly on the context of the situation. Perhaps we choose to put effort towards a goal like a work of art which involves pain and labor. Then perhaps we choose to listen to a sad piece of music that should be avoided if we Paul Bloom is one of the top theorists in the field of psychology. Unfortunately this book tends to read a little scattered. The endless results of different psychology experiments only somewhat remain held together by a central theme. The idea that we choose to suffer depends highly on the context of the situation. Perhaps we choose to put effort towards a goal like a work of art which involves pain and labor. Then perhaps we choose to listen to a sad piece of music that should be avoided if we truly seek pleasure. The problem is that these are two different situations and studies that don't make a conceivable whole. Effort towards a goal and leisure preferences are two different things. Perhaps we choose the pain in both but that doesn't fall into an underlying theory. The book is filled with interesting psychological findings but the thesis tends to be missing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kent Winward

    This book and Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgencewere the first two books I finished in 2022. They paralleled each other nicely, in looking at the differences between indulgence/hedonism/pleasure versus pain/suffering. The gist of both books is that it is a condition of humanity that we need both levels of the scale and one without the other is untenable. The sweet spot or the right hit of dopamine is when we've hit balance. I hope the seeming balance hits for all of us in This book and Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgencewere the first two books I finished in 2022. They paralleled each other nicely, in looking at the differences between indulgence/hedonism/pleasure versus pain/suffering. The gist of both books is that it is a condition of humanity that we need both levels of the scale and one without the other is untenable. The sweet spot or the right hit of dopamine is when we've hit balance. I hope the seeming balance hits for all of us in 2022.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erika Derr

    Decent summary of the relationship between happiness, meaning, suffering and struggle. Nothing earth shattering here, but a useful synthesis and a way of digesting some of the pain and distress that feels omnipresent in this particular moment. Of course, I’m reading this alongside the novel There, There, which tells stories of a particular, native, type of suffering, making Blooms examples of mountain climbing, BDSM, etc seem really privileged and specific. He tries to guard against this, but gi Decent summary of the relationship between happiness, meaning, suffering and struggle. Nothing earth shattering here, but a useful synthesis and a way of digesting some of the pain and distress that feels omnipresent in this particular moment. Of course, I’m reading this alongside the novel There, There, which tells stories of a particular, native, type of suffering, making Blooms examples of mountain climbing, BDSM, etc seem really privileged and specific. He tries to guard against this, but given the right juxtaposition it just seems like another attempt at explanation by the privileged class.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adriano Cavalcanti

    When I read a sample of this book, I got really excited about it once this book seemed to be a quite interesting reading. Also, I should say that while the author made some good points. However, the reading is way too exhausting and wordy. I felt like sometimes listening to a broken record due to the lack of the author's cohesiveness. Moreover, I disliked quite a lot the writing style once it is way too abstract and hard to follow (at least, I struggled with it). While the topic is quite fascina When I read a sample of this book, I got really excited about it once this book seemed to be a quite interesting reading. Also, I should say that while the author made some good points. However, the reading is way too exhausting and wordy. I felt like sometimes listening to a broken record due to the lack of the author's cohesiveness. Moreover, I disliked quite a lot the writing style once it is way too abstract and hard to follow (at least, I struggled with it). While the topic is quite fascinating, I highly do NOT recommend this book, if you are looking for a better understanding of suffering and other related topics. I wish I could have my money back.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jess Dollar

    I love Paul Bloom. It feels like he chooses an interesting subject and invites us into a funny, lively conversation about it full of insights from himself and other bright thinkers. I came away from this book with a much lighter conception of meaning and purpose than the one I’ve been beating myself over the head with for 47 years. I think this book pairs nicely with The Comfort Crisis, which inspired me to add more difficulty to my life. I think many of us need hard things daily to make our brai I love Paul Bloom. It feels like he chooses an interesting subject and invites us into a funny, lively conversation about it full of insights from himself and other bright thinkers. I came away from this book with a much lighter conception of meaning and purpose than the one I’ve been beating myself over the head with for 47 years. I think this book pairs nicely with The Comfort Crisis, which inspired me to add more difficulty to my life. I think many of us need hard things daily to make our brains work correctly.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Does a good job of countering other arguments, but his own argument rests on the assumption on we all know what "having meaning" means and can identify it easily so therefore he doesn't have to define it. That was too big and obvious a hole in his bucket for me to buy into his thesis. Too bad because I agree with his thesis, I'd just like to see if shown on more clear, solid, and defined ground. Does a good job of countering other arguments, but his own argument rests on the assumption on we all know what "having meaning" means and can identify it easily so therefore he doesn't have to define it. That was too big and obvious a hole in his bucket for me to buy into his thesis. Too bad because I agree with his thesis, I'd just like to see if shown on more clear, solid, and defined ground.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ransom Taylor

    I thought some of the premises were interesting and insightful, though I don't feel like I learned anything by reading or the limited reflection I have done on it. That very well might not have been the goal of the author (it's not a self help book) but I'm looking forward to going over it again soon. It's also my first read through of something like this on a Kindle, so that's something new to me as well which may be coloring my opinions. I thought some of the premises were interesting and insightful, though I don't feel like I learned anything by reading or the limited reflection I have done on it. That very well might not have been the goal of the author (it's not a self help book) but I'm looking forward to going over it again soon. It's also my first read through of something like this on a Kindle, so that's something new to me as well which may be coloring my opinions.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cody

    An insightful read that posits some compelling explanations for why we seek out activities that seem to make us less happy. I struggled some with Bloom's utilization of "pleasure," which at times he relegates to a mere aspect of happiness, while at others he (as the subtitle implies) seems to use as a measuring stick for meaning. Regardless, I applaud Bloom's commitment to balance--between pleasure and pain, ease and struggle, etc.--as a crucial component for a purposeful, enjoyable life. An insightful read that posits some compelling explanations for why we seek out activities that seem to make us less happy. I struggled some with Bloom's utilization of "pleasure," which at times he relegates to a mere aspect of happiness, while at others he (as the subtitle implies) seems to use as a measuring stick for meaning. Regardless, I applaud Bloom's commitment to balance--between pleasure and pain, ease and struggle, etc.--as a crucial component for a purposeful, enjoyable life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This book is about the relationship between pain and pleasure, the different kinds of pains and pleasures we experience, and how we live with those feelings and seek them out. This one was okay, I definitely got bored halfway through and found the information a little tedious. I don't really like nonfiction books that explain a concept with scientific summaries, give multiple examples, and then sum up, and I felt as though this one did that a lot, which made it a bit of a drag. This book is about the relationship between pain and pleasure, the different kinds of pains and pleasures we experience, and how we live with those feelings and seek them out. This one was okay, I definitely got bored halfway through and found the information a little tedious. I don't really like nonfiction books that explain a concept with scientific summaries, give multiple examples, and then sum up, and I felt as though this one did that a lot, which made it a bit of a drag.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    A very interesting book on pain and its role in humans. I enjoyed reading this book. The tone is more conversational than academic, though the topics covered are quite heavy at times. The author explores the purposes of pain from evolutionary, psychological, and philosophical perspectives. The role of pain in religion and in human cultures is also covered. Highly recommended.

  28. 4 out of 5

    DR22

    Interesting interview (text and audio) with the author about this book on the Vox website - including for instance "Paul Bloom: Hedonists say you should try to maximize your day-to-day moments of pleasure, while the rest of us say that you should try to maximize other things as well, including your satisfaction with your life" Interesting interview (text and audio) with the author about this book on the Vox website - including for instance "Paul Bloom: Hedonists say you should try to maximize your day-to-day moments of pleasure, while the rest of us say that you should try to maximize other things as well, including your satisfaction with your life"

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ivy Thomas

    The author writes about the balance between pain and pleasure, the amount of suffering that is ideal, why we seek pain, etc. This wasn’t an extremely compelling book, but it made interesting points at times, used humorous examples, and overall, gave good overview of the philosophical and psychological debate about pain/pleasure/suffering.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Schulof

    Caused me to think less of Bloom as a thinker. Nothing exciting, nothing challenging. Avoids big, relevant questions, particularly those pertaining to the definitions of the core concepts. Relies heavily on secondary sources, particularly mainstream popular psychology books. Wanders. Feels like he mailed it in.

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