give up that which pleasures no more (the pleasure principle)
“But it’s hard for a man to give up all his pleasures, even when they don’t pleasure him no more.”
“Stop looking for happiness in the same place you lost it.”
Giving shit up is hard. Any shit. Even the bad stuff. But shit that once gave us pleasure? Whew. We really suck at that.
Why? Why do we suck at it so badly?
Well. In order to let go of something that gave pleasure in the past <which also carries with it the ‘possibility of future pleasure’ because of it’s past behavior> we have to know that the things we will sacrifice aren’t nearly as good as the things we will discover.
Let me be even clearer. For most of us ‘aren’t nearly as good’ actually has to be ‘they are miserable substitutes for what I really need/deserve.’
Yup. It has to be that extreme. And that is because we have something in our heads called “anticipated pleasure.’ Research suggests that anticipated pleasure, or conversely anticipated pain, is almost as powerful a motivator as the actual pleasure or pain feelings.
Whew. So anticipation actually can match the real thing. How disappointing.
This all means that when making a decision, even on something that no longer gives any pleasure, you will most likely use the emotions you might experience as a result of the choice as … well … the reason you make the choice. You actually do this by simulating what life would be like with one outcome or another … and measure it against the pleasure you once received <from the thing you actually no longer receive pleasure from>.
Worse? You typically don’t just pick ‘past pleasure’ as the standard … you will typically pick the ‘best of the best’ pleasure you once received <uhm … from the thing you no longer receive pleasure from> as the standard. Studies have clearly shown that anticipated pleasure is closely connected to choice <a guy named Mellers is pretty well known for this>. We assume that decision affect theory <actually called … ‘subjective expected pleasure theory’> predicts the pleasure people anticipate for future outcomes of a given option. Then they weigh those anticipated feelings by the perceived chances of their occurrence, and combine them to form an average anticipated pleasure for each option. The option with greater average pleasure is selected … assuming the average is actually better <and think ‘significantly better’> than the best of the best of past pleasure <from the thing you no longer gain any pleasure from>.
How screwed up is that? <pretty screwed up>. Pretty much we make choices based on assessing the value of every action as a function of the total pleasure and pain it will generate, weighted by its duration, certainty, and when it would happen <this was actually stated by some guy named Bentham in 1789>. All I am talking about is actually a reflection <or derivative> of what is called “The Pleasure Principle.”
In Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the pleasure principle is the driving force of the id that seeks immediate gratification of all needs, wants, and urges. In other words, the pleasure principle strives to fulfill our most basic and primitive urges, including hunger, thirst, anger, and sex. When these needs are not met, the result is a state of anxiety or tension.
PLEASURE-PRINCIPLE AND REALITY-PRINCIPLE:
Respectively, the desire for immediate gratification vs. the deferral of that gratification. Quite simply, the pleasure-principle drives one to seek pleasure and to avoid pain.
However, as one grows up, one begins to learn the need sometimes to endure pain and to defer gratification because of the exigencies and obstacles of reality: “An ego thus educated has become ‘reasonable’; it no longer lets itself be governed by the pleasure principle, but obeys the reality principle, which also at bottom seeks to obtain pleasure, but pleasure which is assured through taking account of reality, even though it is pleasure postponed and diminished.”
Here is a basic Life truth. The more powerful the need – the greater the pleasure. And while choca-holics and gamblers and drug addicts will debate with me the truth is that, as humans, our greatest needs are the needs for intimacy, connection, giving, and service to something greater than oneself.
Therefore … meeting those needs is the source of our greatest pleasure as well. Sounds good … but because pleasure and desire are a natural guidance system that directs people toward food, warmth, sex, and other things that meet their needs it isn’t as simple as understanding what is truly important to us.
Uh oh. The system goes beyond basic to guide us toward potential and possible pleasure. Sometimes this translates into a disturbing conscious, deliberate fulfillment of some extremely trivial available pleasures.
You can only hope that your muscle of discernment grows stronger and you can use it to choose greater and greater pleasures <and not choose the disappointments … or ‘lesser pleasures’> which ultimately translate into the fulfillment of what truly matters to us as humans.
But. As I stated in the beginning. We suck at this. We are really really bad at this.
Whether we like it or not — consumption always matters. We can possibly take solace in the fact that the real mental debate is between passive consumption and active consumption. The mental debate is one fraught with a desire for gratification but always tempered with moderation, balance and some self-restraint.
Most of us see through the superficial substitute pleasures we are offered. They look awesome but under deliver on actual pleasure <you may gain some physical, maybe some emotional … but it isn’t sustainable>.
We know we aren’t really sacrificing real pleasure to reject them. Hence the reason we tend to recall the ‘personal hedonistic moments’ as ‘guilty pleasures.’ We know we are accepting a ‘lesser pleasure.’ But we also accept the lesser pleasure for more instant gratification. But most of us understand balance <hence the reason most of us do not live a hedonistic life>.
“Everything comes and goes.
Pleasure moves on too early.
And trouble leaves too slow.”
All that said. We all deserve some pleasure. And we all certainly deserve the best of the best pleasure … inner fulfillment. It is quite possible it is because that is so intangible that we suck at giving up anything that may have given pleasure in the past but does not now. All I know is that we suck at giving up something that was good and is no longer good.
To be fair. It is most likely because hope springs eternal in that we hope it will give pleasure once again. And, oddly, that hope is a slightly destructive behavior,. Wow. I never thought I would type ‘hope’ an ‘destructive’ side by side.
“Remember that this is not something we do just once or twice.
Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.”
It is destructive mainly because it is mostly misguided hope. Misguided? Yup.
Pleasure is often contextual and situational. And if you agree with that … well … you can never go back.
But. Don’t fret. This is most likely a lifetime job … not something you can just fix overnight.