Almost all of the choices we make in our daily life are motivated by one of two powerful forces. The most powerful of these forces is the desire to avoid pain and the second is the desire for pleasure.
Everything that we want to do is something we have emotionally linked to pleasure. Everything we try to avoid doing is something we have linked to pain. These are the two main paradigms in our life, and we have an emotional association for everything attached to one of these two categories. In essence, life is about pleasure and pain.
It’s all a matter of perspective
Sometimes our willpower and logic try to do battle with these two powerful forces, but any victory is usually short-lived. Here’s an example. Almost every cigarette smoker I’ve ever met knows that smoking is bad for him. His logical mind knows that he would be better off if he stopped smoking. So why does he keep smoking? Because emotionally, smoking represents pleasure and quitting represents pain.
The only way for a smoker to stop smoking is to anchor pain to his habit and pleasure to quitting. This requires having a long-term point of view, rather than a short-term viewpoint. The ironic thing about smoking, or any other harmful habit, is that the very thing that brings pleasure in the short term will bring pain in the long term. That means we can change how we represent that activity by switching our emotional point of reference. In short, we can change our pleasure and pain paradigms.
Consciously or subconsciously, we make a choice
I only used smoking as an example because the harmful effects are universally recognized, but we could apply the same analogy to a wide variety of choices that we make every day. We can anchor pleasure to instant gratification without regard for long term consequences, or we can do the exact opposite.
Exercise could be considered painful in the short term but the long-term benefits are very desirable. If eating represents one of your greatest pleasures, then the very thought of dieting would represent pain. So, for some people, exercising and dieting is a double dose of pain, and yet logically they realize that this is the fastest path to physical fitness. In this ongoing tug-of-war between emotions and logic the mind is usually no match for the emotional need to avoid anything perceived as pain.
Using mental leverage to change our paradigms
Understanding how pain and pleasure exert their influence in our own lives is the first step toward taking control. We all have the ability to use our mental leverage to change our pleasure and pain paradigms and reset our emotional anchors. In other words, we can choose what is painful and what is pleasurable.
Many things in our lives influence what we view as painful and what we view as pleasurable, but paradigms are about association, they’re about internal interpretations. Learning how to use our minds to harness the power of our emotions is an extremely powerful tool for anyone who wants to make positive changes in their life.
This is part 1 in a 3 part series of articles dealing with pain and pleasure paradigms. For the rest of the story, check out…
Part 2: More Pleasure – Less Pain
Part 3: Creating Your own Pain and Pleasure Paradigms
Are the paradigms in your life serving you?
Have you ever attached pleasure to something harmful?
The lines are open!