I get really hammered when I speak at events about how we disqualify ourselves from a thriving relationship due to us valuing chasing pleasure above all us.
“What’s wrong with being happy!?” people will say to me and I have the same answer every time.
“Too often what makes us happy destroys us.”
What is Pleasure?
There is this confusion that pleasure and happiness are the same when they’re not. Let’s really understand what I mean by pleasure.
Unpleasure is the over or under stimulation of one or many of our senses and impulses.
Pleasure is a satisfaction due to us taking action to bring ourselves to a more relaxed or stimulated state.
For example, being bored is unpleasurable and you gain pleasure by doing something and if you’re too overwhelmed by work you gain pleasure by relaxing. It’s the same with sex. You rise in tension and release tension which creates satisfaction and pleasure.
This isn’t how we make every conscious or unconscious decision, but a biological and psycho-physical tendency within us. We also have a tendency toward the reality principle.
The reality principle inhibits us from just going after pleasure and really serves the purpose of self-preservation. If you just did what felt good and made you happy you would be murdered or jailed. In the case of relationships, if we just indulge in the pleasure principle and just chase pleasure, we inevitably fall into ruin.
This is because the reality principle lets us sacrifice today’s pleasures for tomorrow’s meaningful value.
Let us not get this twisted though. The reality principle is also seeking pleasure, but it seeks pleasure through the postponement of current pleasure so you can have pleasure without ruin in the future.
How many times have you impulsively ran after pleasures and then regretted it later? I’ve had clients tell me how they regretted the “walk of shame” during college and wished they had not just married the first person who ever smiled at them.
The most successful people are those who can adhere to the reality principle, without letting it take over.
Entrepreneurs and business owners intimately understand this.
Chasing Pleasure When Seeking a Partner
A lot of men and women I work with tell me that they want to be in a committed long-term relationship that is healthy and where infidelity won’t be a problem. Then they let me know that they only look for someone at clubs or dating apps and sleep with the other person on the first few dates.
It’s a free country, so do what you want, but understand that we always pay a price for freedom and acting on the pleasure principle. I’ll get to the point because I’m not one to preach no sex before marriage.
I worked with a couple who were having major problems in their short marriage and the man said,
“I don’t get why you’re always clubbing and I have to see pictures of you dancing with other men.”
They came in because the wife had been caught cheating. The wife then said,
“You found me at the club and I cheated on my then-boyfriend with you, why would I change, honey?”
It’s a great point that she made. Why would she change? There really isn’t a reason.
This couple, for the better of both of them, didn’t last and I continued to work with both of them individually. What was discovered with the gentlemen was that he loved sex and wanted to have as much sex as possible, but it was in the way of him also getting what he wanted which was to have a healthy, happy relationship that he can raise kids in.
“It’s what I heard you talk about at that conference. I don’t know how to wait and build a good relationship and I attract other people that don’t know how to wait. So, this is what I get. The same heartbreak over and over again and it’s really my fault. If I find a way to wait before I jump in bed with someone and they value the same thing, it gives me a better chance of being with someone who also wants to have a healthy, happy relationship where we can raise our kids in.”
This gentleman, I’ll call him Mark, then went too far with the reality principle. For a while, he would only look to date very conservative women from his church. He totally ran from any pleasure and fell deep into the reality principle. Eventually, he found a way of balancing this out as he learned how to seek a relationship out of the desire to build and create something new instead of looking for a relationship out of the desire to not be hurt again.
He is now married to a woman who shares the same values as he does, and as they are both humans, they have their issues, but since their values are so strongly connected they are able to work through those problems successfully and quickly when they do arise.
He gained more pleasure by postponing the pleasure he was gaining before.
This way of living isn’t for everyone. If you just want to have sex and that’s all you value, then you follow the impulsive pleasure principle and make your life out of those pieces. But, if you’re looking for more than just sex at some point, you’re going to have to delay gratification, get a hold of your nature, understand your nature and do something new with your nature to obtain the pleasures that take more than just a few days to make.
If the life you are living today isn’t the life you want, it means it is time to examine your life and values, maybe even for the first time. You will discover that you will have to get rid of things you very much love so that you can become who you need to be rather than stay stagnant in who you are.
Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the Pleasure Principle. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVIII (1920-1922): Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other Works, 1-64