Although I’m sure most of us would immediately say yes to the question whether we value pleasure in our lives, our day-to day living may not fully reflect this idea in practice.
With so many commitments and so much pressure and stress, we may not find the time or energy for pleasure. Worse still, if we do finally get round to having pleasure, we may feel guilty because in the back of our minds there’s still that report we haven’t finished or the feeling that maybe we should have spent time with the children instead of on ourselves. Then there’s that payment we yet need to make or the doctor’s appointment that’s been long due. Our to do-lists seem to be never-ending and we rarely fully deserving of pleasure.
In addition, we may also experience guilt because we’re spending money enjoying ourselves while we’re not sure about our financial position or we may have that nagging feeling that maybe we should be spending it on someone else or on something more sustainable. All of that doesn’t serve us and doesn’t serve the people around us either.
Perhaps you feel like you’re not one of those worrywarts or self-flagellating guilt-trippers and that you fully allow yourself to have fun and play and enjoy. If so, then have a look whether you are truly experiencing pleasure or whether you find yourself caught up in the work hard/play hard strategy. I’ve worked 70 hours this week, so I’m entitled to a night out until 3pm having as much beer as I like. Or I’ve made my deadline, so tonight I’ll be sitting on the couch zoning out with a film gulping down coke and gobbling up a bag of crisps. If these are the forms of pleasure you use in your life to compensate for work done and stress had, you may have had the repeated experience of more than just a physical hangover.
Why is it so hard for us to seek truly nurturing pleasure and surrender to it fully? Well, firstly, we may not have been raised to know how to do this. After all, our parents may have told us inadvertently that we were selfish when we were eating all the cookies in the jar without sharing, and we then generalised this to ‘doing what I like is selfish’. Or we may have been witness to our parents living on a tight budget to make ends meet, never letting their hair down.
Secondly, we so often fall for short-term rather than long-term gratification. We reward ourselves with an ice-cream for having worked overtime, only to feel guilty immediately after for having broken our diet. This doesn’t mean that we should always strictly control ourselves and be eating spinach leaves in front of the telly and be in bed by 10 after a night out drinking only still water.
We can, however, find out what pleasure truly means for us as individuals. What is truly pleasurable for you that is in line with your desired levels of self-care and your other long-term commitments? And what would become possible if you committed to doing two pleasurable things a day for yourself every day? It may only take you 5 minutes and not cost you a penny.
What could pleasure bring you in your life? Consider this in the light of your energy, your creativity, your relationships with yourself and others, health and stress management. And what example do you wish to set for the next generation?
Especially knowing that it’s good for us to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zones and to continuously grow, we may now feel that we should always push through and force ourselves, be strong in the face of resistance, work hard towards the next milestone and the next and the next, and never take a moment to rest unless we’ve finally deserved it.
What would open up if you gave yourself the gift of enjoyment as a matter of course, really taking the time to fully savour this moment in your life in all of its abundance?
By Mieke Beurskens