Yes, it is true. The reason it may sound ridiculous is that we are biologically set up to respond positively to gain and negatively to loss. A useful trick I’ve found in life is convincing my hoodwinking emotions of the actual benefit of loss and the hidden downside of gain.
Years of evidence, hard-won through personal experience, helps keep me constantly convinced now. The Tao Te Ching echos this view in chapter 58, It is on disaster that good fortune perches; It is beneath good fortune that disaster crouches. The proverb “be careful what you wish for, it may come true” points in the same direction.
There are countless examples of this ‘open secret’. Just go throughout the day looking for them, although they are mostly fleeting and subtle. Being that these are subtle, such gain and loss doesn’t trigger emotion strongly enough to make the process easy to notice. When major loss (or gain) occurs, the emotions overwhelm reason and so all you see is one side, feeling either euphoric or miserable. Both emotions blind-side rational impartial observation.
Looking for evidence of this is really quite easy, yet the usual response would probably be, “Why bother spending time and energy on this?” Well that’s easy… Deal with a thing while it is still nothing; Keep a thing in order before disorder sets in. Without a doubt, the better I know myself, the more likely I am to ‘deal with a thing while it is still nothing‘, and looking deeply into ‘gain and loss’ is simply an essential side of getting to know myself.
The photo here is of a Japanese shishi odoshi (“deer scarer”). Every now and then I’d come across one on the grounds of a Japanese temple. I always assumed it was symbolic of the process: loss brings about gain, gain brings about loss (i.e., when it fills, it empties right away, and then begins filling again). Looking for this photo I discovered its practical and perhaps traditional use. But does it really scare deer away? They are probably smarter than that.