We would all like to think that we make up our own minds as to what is pleasurable and what is painful. In reality we are constantly being conditioned by our environment to link certain things with pain or pleasure.
Can you think of any environmental influences that are conditioning your feelings about what is pleasurable and what is painful? Learning to recognize these influences is an important step toward seizing control of your personal pleasure and pain paradigms.
5 sources of external pain and pleasure programming
1. Advertisers. The entire advertising industry is based on the idea that they can influence our internal references to pain and pleasure. As a whole this industry spends billions of dollars each year to study human behavior. They do this because their goal is to link their products to our emotions. Their advertising campaigns are specifically designed to create subconscious emotional associations (anchors) in us without our being aware of it.
2. Friends and associates. The attitude of our close friends and associates also has a powerful influence on our personal pleasure and pain paradigms. Their opinions can actually precondition us to view things the way that they do. We may value someone else’s opinion so much that we subconsciously adopt their viewpoint without any personal experience.
3. Experts. So called experts carry incredible weight when it comes to overriding our opinions about a wide variety of things. By positioning themselves as the voice of authority, it psychologically downgrades the validity of our own thoughts and feelings. This positioning is designed so that we will adopt the attitude of “they’re the expert, so who am I to question them.” Is it any wonder that advertisers like pharmaceutical companies love this approach?
4. Groups. Trying to gain the approval of, or fit in with, a group can also shape and reshape our preferences. In such cases acceptance often hinges on our ability to conform to the group opinion. It’s the old majority rules mentality that has been ingrained in us since childhood. It is hard to avoid slipping into the thought pattern of “If all these people agree then they must be right, so I better get onboard or I’ll look like a fool.” Conformity can cause otherwise rational people to abandon their standards and go with the crowd. Pushed to the extreme it becomes mob mentality.
5. Stereotypes. Forming stereotypes is one of the tools our mind uses so we don’t need to continually reconsider the same thing over and over again. Our minds tend to group similar experiences into general categories. If we encounter a new experience that seems to fit into one of these categories it saves us the time and energy involved in evaluation. So, if something fits into a category that has always resulted in pain, we will naturally assume that this similar something will cause pain as well.
For example, if every time you try to go on vacation you wind up having car trouble, in the future you will probably expect more of the same. The very thought of vacation may conjure up an image of being stuck on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck. As a result, an activity designed to bring you pleasure now represents pain.
Take control of this process
The important point to remember here is that we need to develop the ability to decide for ourselves what we will view as pleasurable and what we will view as painful. If we don’t take control of this process, then the world around us will take over our internal programming.
If we allow that to happen, then instead of controlling our environment, we will end up being controlled by it. Because the pain and pleasure dynamic has such a powerful influence on our lives, we owe it to ourselves to take personal responsibility for how we choose to view things.
Your answers create your paradigms
Whenever something happens in your life, your brain will ask two questions. First, “Is this going to bring me pain or pleasure?” Second, “What must I do now to avoid the pain and/or gain the pleasure?”
How you choose to interpret the situation will determine your answers. But more than that, it will also form the foundation for your future expectations. If you want less pain and more pleasure in your life, this is a good place to start.
How strong are these external influences in your life?
Can you see the value of choosing you own paradigms?
The lines are open!
This is part 3 in a 3 part series of articles dealing with pain and pleasure paradigms. For the rest of the story, check out…
Part 1: The Power of Pain and Pleasure Paradigms
Part 2: More Pleasure – Less Pain
Part 3: Creating Your own Pain and Pleasure Paradigms
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