How we come to value everything in life relative to ourselves is the sum of our emotions over time.

I can not get the point. I think my problem relates to the phrase how we come to. I found the definition below for come to do something:

  • to finally reach a state in which something happens or you do something

    but I still don't understand the meaning of the sentence.

So, could you please explain it to me?

The fuller text is here:

NEWTON’S SECOND LAW OF EMOTION Our Self-Worth Equals the Sum of Our Emotions Over Time [...] Newton’s First Law of Emotion states that when someone (or something) causes us pain, a moral gap opens up and our Feeling Brain summons up icky emotions to motivate us to equalize. But what if that equalization never comes? What if someone (or something) makes us feel awful, yet we are incapable of ever retaliating or reconciling? What if we feel powerless to do anything to equalize or “make things right?” What if my force field is just too powerful for you? When moral gaps persist for a long enough time, they normalize.16 They become our default expectation. They lodge themselves into our value hierarchy. If someone hits us and we’re never able to hit him back, eventually our Feeling Brain will come to a startling conclusion: We deserve to be hit. After all, if we didn’t deserve it, we would have been able to equalize, right? The fact that we could not equalize means that there must be something inherently inferior about us, and/or something inherently superior about the person who hit us.This, too, is part of our hope response. Because if equalization seems impossible, our Feeling Brain comes up with the next best thing: giving in, accepting defeat, judging itself to be inferior and of low value. When someone harms us, our immediate reaction is usually “He is shit, and I am righteous.” But if we’re not able to equalize and act on that righteousness, our Feeling Brain will believe the only alternative explanation: “I am shit, and he is righteous.”17 This surrender to persisting moral gaps is a fundamental part of our Feeling Brain’s nature. And it is Newton’s Second Law of Emotion: How we come to value everything in life relative to ourselves is the sum of our emotions over time. This surrender to and acceptance of ourselves as inherently inferior is often referred to as shame or low self-worth. Call it what you want, the result is the same: Life kicks you around a little bit, and you feel powerless to stop it. Therefore, your Feeling Brain concludes that you must deserve it.

  • 1
    If the subject of a sentence is a clause beginning with "how", you can usually substutite "the way that" for "how". Does that help?
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 17:22

3 Answers 3


Idiom: to come to [verb] [direct object]

To come to value something by doing x. To come to understand something by doing x. To come to like someone by doing something.

  • I came to value my education later in life.
  • They came to understand the poem when the professor explained it.
  • He came to like the book after reading it twice.

The idiom means: not like or value understand something right away. come to involves the period of time it takes to eventually like, understand or value something or the mechanism that allowed it to happen. Those verbs are for illustration purposes. The verb following "come to" is usually about some emotion or state or condition.

Then, in interrogative form,this gives us:

  • How did you come to like your professor?
  • How did you come like that book?
  • How did you come to value your education?

How or when or why can be used in any of those examples.

The how can also be in the statement: How we come to value everything in life relative to ourselves is the sum of our emotions over time.

how = The means or mechanism that allows us to value everything in life in relation to ourselves = all the emotions we experience over a period of time.


From the definition you have shared, I will assume you understand the question:

"How do we come to value [xyz]?"

(Let me know if not and I will add detail)

This is just a way to answer that question, whilst including the implied initial question:

"[Abc] is how we come to value [xyz]."

The imaginary question the author is answering is:

How do we come to value everything in life relative to ourselves?

The answer?

The sum of our emotions over time

And the author is saying that this question/answer is analogous to Newton's Second Law.


So you're asking the difference between

How we value...


How we come to value...

I would say the article chose the latter form because our self-value changes through time.

When moral gaps persist for a long enough time, they normalize.

One does not gain a whole set of sense of value instantly after he's born, he's learnt how to read, or even he's become an adult.

His sense of value grows and changes throughout time before it finally stablize.

And that's why we use "come to".

Let's look at the examples in the link you provided(come to do something):

She had come to regard him as one of her few real friends.

The key is "real friend". Because you can't tell who are your real friends among all of your friends without knowing them for a long-enough period of time.

the man who had come to symbolize the Franco-American alliance

Same here. When we talk about "a man that symbolizes something", we're looking back to the past. The history is what that decides who is to symbolize a specific thing(an alliance in this case).

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