Is the amount of pleasure in our lives an indication of our worth? Is the amount of pleasure in our lives proof of our character and goodness?
Can pleasure be addictive?
The Problem Of Pleasure As A Measurement Tool
Obviously there is nothing wrong with pleasure. Who doesn’t want pleasure in their lives? We all want to enjoy life and there is nothing wrong with that. A problem occurs, however, when we start to interpret pleasure as not just a part of life but the purpose of life and even proof of our goodness.
If we personalize pleasure and pain we magnify them. Since life is continually changing we can be continually contorting ourselves to maintain the levels of pleasure that we are accustomed to in our lives. We can feel desperate and self-hating when we are not successful.
What we have done is turn the reality of life – constant change – into an indictment of ourselves. No wonder so many people are so unkind to themselves. They are treating their lives as a continual report card!
How We Can Hurt Each Other Through Pleasure Addiction
Unfortunately, when we judge we are often jumping to conclusions which means we have created a story around what has happened. When these conclusions or stories enter and find a place in group consciousness, a lot of harm can be done. Stories can have a life of their own. They become real to people and solidified in their minds. Even if we are wrong, our pleasure at having an answer, seduces us into stories and perceptions which may be erroneous. Often it is the feeling of pleasure from feeling that we know that becomes addictive to us, so much so that we will sacrifice due diligence in investigating a matter or situation. Feeling right can feel so good.
Once we think we understand the “story” we then apply it to all the situations around us, often without question. It may feel good to us but not necessarily the people who are on the other side of our preconceived notions and mistaken assumptions.
Stories have serious group and cultural weight.
How We Buy Cultural Stories
From our earliest years we are encouraged and rewarded for being “right”. We are rewarded for having the answers to whatever question comes up in school and receive grades based on our success at developing the right answers. Tests are great for measuring our successful adoption of the right answers. Of course, we often have no way of knowing what is right and what is not, so we follow the lead of the adults in our lives. If our real self is unhappy or confused it is often overridden by the practical consideration of getting along with the adults in our lives or assuming that the adults must know what is best and that we must be wrong.
Stories about reality and what is right are passed down from one generation to another. They are a part of our heritage. When we adopt the stories, we become a part of them. Being a part of the story brings us pleasure – we know we belong. We know we are important. Our stories also inform our identities to us and the people around us so they can become the anchor in our lives.
Using Stories To Handle Our Vulnerability And Mistakes
Stories are also a way of handling the unknown.
We are naturally curious as well as vulnerable which causes us to seek answers to life questions of all types. Our drive to understand and make sense of our world is a natural extension of our curiosity. However, we are rewarded so much from our early years for being “right” we are often reluctant to reconsider a story that is not working because of social and other consequences. We sometimes tell ourselves stories to explain a mistake, setback or other failure. Our inner critic is a champion at helping us cope with mistakes and failures – ours and others. Families and other groups also have stories that explain failures and mistakes. If you are the family scapegoat, you learn early in life how stories are not necessarily on the up-and-up.
Stories And Relationships
When our stories mesh with someone else’s story then we feel we are compatible. Sometimes it becomes the basis of a love relationship. So what happens when the story changes? What happens when one person grows and the other does not causing a relationship with two or three stories not just one.
When we perceive a story as a fiction and someone else treats a story as reality then we have a hard time relating to that person. We cannot synch with them and so the relationship cannot get off the ground. Sometimes we are expected to live someone else’s story and then our relationship becomes one-sided creating resentment. Stories have such weight that the person who controls the social story controls a group, family and agenda.
It is important to recognize that stories are not necessarily innocent and do a lot of harm. One way to think of Nazi Germany is to consider the story about themselves that the Germans accepted from Hitler that helped pave the way for the Holocaust. Hitler gave the Germans a reason to feel good again after a humiliating defeat in World War I.
Handling Our Desire For Pleasure
There are so many ways that our society creates pleasure and displeasure to ensure that we participate in a certain way. In order to really get control over our lives, we have to recognize our legitimate desire for pleasure and see if it is working against us. We have to own our stories, the family and cultural stories that form our human world and evaluate them. Only then can we live authentically and in harmony with our true self.