It won’t get better until it gets worse. Most of us have made it that way for so long, that I don’t think it’s a paradox anymore. But bear with me, here comes the scientific reason for this phenomenon — the Region-Beta paradox.
The Region-Beta Paradox explains that we’ll often silently suffer through the things that are “not that bad”. But when shit hits the fan, we take immediate action.
These situations are more common than we think — take a ‘good enough but not that good’ relationship, a ‘not that bad’ job, or a health condition that troubles you, but it (still) doesn’t make you go to the doctor.
The paradox in region beta paradox is that we’d actually be better off if the ‘meh’ situations were worse. Why? — Because then we’d do something about it.
So, the Region-Beta paradox describes a situation where something is not bad enough to leave, BUT if you are really willing to admit it, it isn’t nearly good enough to stay.
It is the phenomenon where sometimes the worse situation in the short term is better in the long term.
Dan Gilbert, the social psychologist, coined the Region-Beta paradox when speaking about whether someone travels to work by foot or by bicycle. E.g. if your job is a kilometer away, you’ll probably walk. But, if it’s two kilometers away, you’ll cycle. The paradox is that you’ll get there faster and earlier if your job is further away. So technically, something that is “worse” for you — a further place of work —turns out to be better.
This paradox has been observed in the psychological effects of exposure to terrorist attacks and has been modeled in affective computing. But it’s not just limited to extreme situations — it can also apply to our everyday lives.
The Region-Beta paradox comes into play when we have a sense of comfort and familiarity in our current situation, but we also know that we could have more or better, No Story lost blog states. We may feel like we’re in a ‘good enough’ position, but we’re not truly happy or fulfilled.
For example, staying in a bad relationship for too long, refusing to find another job just because it’s not that bad, “not in this economy”, while still not liking it; you have a minor health issue but it’s not “serious enough” to go to the doctor — yet.
According to research (Haidt and Keltner’s, 1997), intense emotions or pain can actually trigger psychological defense processes that help us cope and recover more quickly. On the other hand, if the level of stress or discomfort is not as intense, we may not engage in these same defense mechanisms and the recovery process can take longer.
We’re creatures of habit and tend to stick with what we know. That may be the reason for the Region-Beta situation. We may be afraid to make a change or take a risk because it feels… scary.
But, staying in Region-Beta circumstances for too long can have negative effects — frustration, apathy, and even depression.
The first step to step out of the Region-Beta situation is to recognize that we’re in it. Be honest with yourselves about how you’re truly feeling and acknowledge that we’re not completely satisfied.
To sum up, paradoxically, sometimes, when shit hits the fan, you can get out of it sooner and actually be better off it. If things aren’t bad enough to make you do something about it, they are more damaging in the long term than a worse situation that will make you change. The first step out of the Region-Beta situation is to recognize that we’re in it. Your move, boo.