Pleasure is something that many people live short of. Like pain it is subjective and complex because it is so connected to our whole selves. From our cortex, where we experience pleasure through things that are important and valuable to us, to our limbic level where attachment to others, intimacy, trust and shared experiences are formed. To lower in our brains where pleasure is connected to control, addictive behaviours and a relief of distress. Have you noticed that on different days, the same thing gives a completely different experience? That’s because our responses come from the brain state we are functioning in.
Let’s say family is vitally important to you, family meals bring you pleasure (most of the time) but have you had moments when instead of pleasure they have brought pain? Let’s say your boss had told you you had done a bad job, the work needed for the dinner seems overwhelming and then Uncle Tom (who doesn’t value family, messages simply to say he can’t make it but you know deep down he just can’t be bothered). That family dinner will go from a pleasure to pain. And even though you will do your best to control it and yourself everyone will know something is up. And if you didn’t loose it in that evening then your pleasure will come from surviving (not from anything else that evening had to offer, like celebrating other’s, feeling their pain etc)
At the heart of who we are, pleasure is designed to be experienced in what is important to us and while our brain state is in a higher level it works well but what about at lower levels? Many people live from a relief of distress, control and engaging in some mindless addictive behaviour (screen time, food etc). Recognising we are in these lower levels and instead of engaging in these behaviours work to change state so we can have a new experience changes everything.
If we go back to our story of the value of family.. Let’s say we are honest, we tell our family, I had a hard day at work, the house is a mess and I am not feeling like cooking. I wondered what creative solution we could all come up with. Just by sharing our truth, we have moved from low in the brain (where we just want to control and get through) to the limbic level (relationally sharing I am down and I need some help) to the cortex (where we are collaborating and creating together). Maybe we settle for pizza at the park. Maybe it’s salads from the supermarket.
Because the true pleasure isn’t about the chicken or roast veges, the real pleasure is one another and the joy and safety in being with one another is what is pleasurable.
May you live in 2019 we the most pleasure you have ever known! Knowing you are worthy and enough. May you intentionally reach out to others and live a life of pleasure in connection. May we not put relationship as a task but our greatest treasure.