Originally Posted by SonoranBob
I think it's basically true that everything we do is a calculus of whether an expected outcome will result in more pleasure, more energy, more love, more abundance, etc., relative to the effort we put into that thing.
But people often act counter to their rational self interest. They may do this because:
1. They believe that experiencing more pain now will on balance result in more pleasure later ("no pain, no gain"). Sometimes this is true, sometimes it is not.
2. They misjudge the primary or secondary consequences of an action. It's been proven that most people have a tendency to underestimate difficulties and overestimate positive outcomes. Hence, you might indulge in the pleasure of driving 150 miles per hour and ignoring train signals, but you might find a very painful outcome. Or, you might fear the pain of rejection and pass up an opportunity for love.
3. They may be in thrall to a religious or philosophical system that teaches some variation of the old "suffering is ennobling" fallacy. You do not want to give up too easily, but you do need to "know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em" as Kenny Rodgers would have it.
4. Related to (3) above, you may have an incorrect idea of how something "should" work. When experience proves this idea wrong, you can't let go of your attachment to the "should" so you just do the same thing again, only harder. Rinse and repeat. This is in my view the source of most human suffering: trying to make some aspect of life or love something that it's not.
5. Related to (4) above, you may be laboring under (perceived or real) expectations from authority figures, spouse, peers, employer, etc. to be a certain way or do certain things that are not in your best interest. Because you want to please and/or don't want to offend and/or hate fighting and/or don't want to go to hell and/or don't want to communicate honestly, etc., you may do all sorts of things that cause yourself pain.
So in summary I would say I agree with the statement as far as it goes, but because we are a sentient species with the ability to think ahead to anticipate consequences, and the ability to delay gratification when we judge it prudent, you can't always predict people's actions in some simplistic, Pavlovian fashion. People don't always behave rationally, judge correctly, or have the best perspective. In general they want to avoid pain and suffering, but they very often take action that brings them pain and suffering. I'm a former world champion at that; I should know!