There is a general belief among people that “time heals all wounds”. Is it really true? Has anyone who has lost his very near and dear one sometime in his life can say time has healed his wound?! Not exactly! Actually, it can haunt them after years, even decades.
Frijda says time heals no wounds! He goes one more step further and states a law, interestingly, called as The Law of Conservation of Emotional Momentum (quoting from his book on The Laws of Emotion): emotional events retain their power to elicit emotions indefinitely, unless counteracted by repetitive exposures that permit extinction or habituation, to the extent that these latter are possible.
Hence time is the not the answer to heal the wounds, rather, either it has to be overwritten by some other event, or you become habituated to it within the extent to which it is possible. The effect of loss of a dear one never becomes a neutral event. Still life goes on for them. But does that mean the wound has healed? No. The studies have shown that anytime in future when the concerned person experience a stimuli that is similar to the original one, like, seen some unbidden images that resembles the dear one, that same fresh emotion can come back with the same or even more intensity. Likewise, there has been many instances that a person affected by a fire accident experiences a sudden shivering, panic like what he felt previously when he smells burning even after many years.
Thus as Frijda says beautifully “certain old pains just do not grow old; they only refer to old events”. So the time is not the healer!
Any human-being living in this world wants to be happy. We think that we strive for happiness and we believe happiness is the ultimate in one’s life. But biologically speaking its the other way! Our human mind is not for happiness but for instantiating the biological laws of survival! Although striving for happiness can be associated with the biological laws of survival, if you observe closely both are different. In the sequel, we will see how our mind is modelled for instantiating survival instinct than for happiness.
Frijda, in his book The Laws of Emotion, states a law called Hedonic Asymmetry that very well explains the above phenomena. Everyone in this world wants to live happily, but when they are happy do they realize it every day? Absoultely no! The reason is that we take it for granted. But, when a person goes through an ordeal, distress or a human rights violation he experiences it every day. The law of habituation says that even a so called hardship is habituated by the person after sometime but this happens only upto a certain limit. If this crosses a certain limit even a small hardship will look like a Himalayan problem and the reaction to this will be of a phenomenal order. Frijda says that the emotional nonhabituation for continuing negative events has no direct counter part for positive events. This is a big asymmetry!
Continuing pleasure, joy, relief will bring the person to a neutrality. In other words, positive emotional events do not addup unlike the negative emotional ones. Pleasure, joy, or relief depends on the change it has brought out to a person but it disappeares when it comes again and again. But pain or distress persists when adverse conditions happens to a person continously.
This gives a great lesson to all of us — emotions, for that, mind, are for signaling states that requires response. If there is no response required for some events then the signaling system swithces off. This is why happiness does not addup unlike the distress which adds up in a cumulative fashion. This shows the fact that our human minds are not made for happiness, that we always strive for, but for survival!