Many mysteries explain why triumph and disaster are impostors, which is what my book is about. Here is just one: Success often introduces uncertainty, whereas failure often removes it. And, as researchers are now discovering, people cope far better with disaster than with uncertainty.
The New York Times recently had a piece on a few of these studies:
Sarah A. Burgard, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan, has for several years looked at how perceived job insecurity affects people’s health… People who felt chronically insecure about their jobs reported significantly worse overall health in both studies and were more depressed in one of the studies than those who had actually lost their jobs or had even faced a serious or life-threatening illnesses. “Chronic stress is extremely damaging to your health,” Professor Burgard said. “I’m an academic and I’m going up for tenure. I know what uncertainty is. You’re unable to make plans, unable to take action. You’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.”…
Jacob Hirsh, a graduate student at the University of Toronto who has studied how different people respond to uncertainty…. found that those considered higher on the neuroticism scale would prefer knowing something for sure – even if it’s negative – than not knowing….
Another psychology professor said that “people who are anxious tend to equate uncertainty with a negative outcome”, even though 85% of the actual outcomes in his studies were neutral or even positive. People also underestimate their ability to deal with bad outcomes.