To begin with, allow me say I am fascinated by the views of Mark Manson on the backwards law especially in chapter1 of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: where he states that desiring a positive experience is itself a negative experience.
He uses the metaphor of Drawn Proofing. A navy seal training to explain this law.
In this training they bind your hands behind your back, tie your feet together and dump you into a 9 ft deep pool and your job is to survive for five minutes. Like most of the navy seal training, majority of the cadets who attempt drawn-proofing fail.
Upon being tossed into the water, many of them panic and scream to be lifted back out. Some struggle until they slip under water where they proceed to lose consciousness and have to be fished out and resuscitated. Over the years a number of trainees have even died during the exercise.
But some make it. and they do so because they understand the counterintuitive lessons. The first lesson of drawn-proofing is paradoxical:
1. With your arms and legs bound, its impossible to maintain your self at the surface for the full five minutes. Even worse, your limited attempts to keep your body afloat will only cause you to sink faster.
-The trick to drawn-proofing is actually let yourself sink to the bottom of the pool floor and let your momentum carry you back to the surface. Once there, you can grab a quick breath air and start the whole process over again.
-strangely, surviving drawn-proofing requires no superhuman strength or endurance. It doesn’t require that you know how to swim. Instead of resisting physics that would normally kill you, you have to submit to it and use the same to save your life.
2. The second lesson of drawn-proofing is a lot more obvious, but paradoxical;
-the more you panic, the more oxygen you will burn and the more likely you are to fall unconscious and drawn.
-in a sick and twisted way, the exercise turns your survival instincts against you. The more intense you desire to breathe, the less you will be able to breathe. The more intesnse your will to live, the greater the chance you will die.
This training tests man’s ability to relax in the face of immediate death. The ability to let go of control when one wants it most.
He states that whereas the relationship between work and reward is one to one, this is not applicable to happiness, love among others. Thus, the relationship between work and reward produces a linear curve. Implying that the more effort you put in work, the more reward one is likely to get.
He further states that most curves in life don’t operate in a linear curve because they are not basic nor based on mindless and/or emotional taxing. They require adoption.
Note: therefore, most activities produce a diminishing returns curve. “the law of reversed effort”
Diminishing returns means: the more you experience something, the less rewarding it becomes.
For example…the more you have sex, the more you eat something of the same kind, the less rewarding it becomes.
Note: the feelings in life operate on an inverted curve. This is the gist of backwards law. He states that the more you press for love, happiness and respect etc. the more likely you will get the opposite. Thus, pressing for a positive experience itself creates a negative experience. Implying that you cannot get the same outcome.
That small things in life operate on the inverted curve but they are the most paramount. Well this true.
Having provided the above background, allow me proceed to give my opinion on the same.
I must say that his theory is an introduction to the foundations of humanity. Definitely the basic needs of humanity do operate on an inverted curve. These basics include:
-fairness and natural justice.
This is the basic structure of man. For example one cannot say that the more you experience happiness or love, the less rewarding it becomes. I will disagree with him on one ground. That, it is not true that the more you press for happiness and love the more you will get the opposite. In fact, humanity is made for this. Humanity is made for love, happiness, justice, joy etc. without these, humanity is meaningless. That is why humans are different from goats.
Let’s face it; there can never be complete fulfillment of these basics in this world but the life drama dictates that humanity must press for theses because it is constitutes the meaning of life.
Therefore, his theory raises a question of forum. I will agree with his theory to the extent that, questions of love, happiness, joy, fairness and natural justice cannot be addressed by man completely. Thus, fellow man is not the right forum to address these questions. It follows that man can’t give complete happiness, justice and love to a fellow man. And that is why any attempt by man to seek complete love and happiness from a fellow man only creates a state of sadness.
NOTE: man’s desires are beyond man, sex or food. They penetrate beyond this terrain to the mystery. Desires such as food, sex, work etc. are a slide into the ultimate desire of humanity which is destiny (God). The sadness and the backwards law as put by Manson is a demonstration of a human trajectory. It is a manifestation of man in the journey to the destiny.
This insufficiency man experiences even in the face of food, sex, money, wife etc. is a reminder that something is lacking. This situation created by a human heart whispers to man reminding him/her that what he thought was enough is not. Indeed, it is true that the more you eat or have sex only creates a diminishing return curve. This is because food, sex etc. are not the destiny of man.
That is why the more you experience them, the less rewarding they become. Thus, the destiny of man is love, justice, joy, happiness and these can’t be provided by fellow man but destiny. This is what constitutes the meaning of existence. The value of man is synonymous with his/her identity with destiny.
Thus, to live the experience of love and happiness is to appreciate the human value. That is, that humanity is meant for something greater. Humanity is meant for the destiny. Thus is will agree with his drawn-proofing metaphor..that for man to be happy or feel loved he/she must let go. He/she must a firm his humanity as an empty being with limitations. That fellow human beings that man attempts to get love and happiness from are defined by limitations. Thus, their capacity is simply to guide.
In conclusion, it is not true, that the more we press for happiness, the more we are less likely to get it. The most paramount issue here is the forum where and whom do you seek love and happiness from? As already stated herein above, man cannot house the fundamental desires of fellow man. To be happy is to affirm one’s humanity. Fellow human beings simply guide us in this adventure to God but they are not the ultimate providers. Thus, when we press for happiness and love with the awareness that fellow humans are not the ultimate providers of these fundamental human basics but they are simply guiding to the higher love and justice, solitude can’t arise. Implying that we get exactly happiness not the opposite. This is because the mystery is part of the deal.
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