Pleasure: An Ego Prop or Support for your Real Self?

May 03, 2017

Pleasure: An Ego Prop or Support for your Real Self?

“Does your pleasure support the emergence of your real self or is it an ego prop?” This is a question that emerged at one of my recent workshops – and it’s such a good question!

Because pleasure is a charged issue for many, even just the word alone can make one anxious. The dilemma goes like this: I should be having pleasure all the time and if I’m not, there must be something wrong with me. And to boot it’s got to be the “right kind” of pleasure.

The media’s idea of pleasure

By the right kind of pleasure I mean what’s pronounced by mass media, and often commercial interests—what’s being promoted and sold or the flavour of the day. It can be pretty intense.

To have lots of pleasure is to be cool, to fit in, be a winner; and to have the “right kind” of pleasure is super cool. And don’t we all want to be super cool? Well, at least our egos do!

But what happens if that flavour of the day really doesn’t do it for you? What if pleasure to you is sorting and tidying your craft supplies or doing your taxes? For some people this really jazzes them.

Do you know what really gives you pleasure?

Many of these flavours of the day are more ego fluffs—“oh, I’m okay now because I am into this or that.” I’m cool, I fit in, and I’m “seen” as being with it; I’m a happening kind of person. The key phrase here is, “I’m seen as” —a sure sign of the ego prop.

One of my keys to true pleasure is that people take the time to discover what pleasure really is for them. And to notice how what’s pleasurable for us changes with the stages and phases of our lives. Pleasure is a moving, evolving process that mirrors our own growth and diversity.

How do we know real pleasure?

Pleasure is an in the body experience—that’s how we know it’s really pleasurable—it feels really good!

One of my teachers, Sagewalker, frequently reminds us, “It’s not the what but the how.” By this, I believe she means it doesn’t matter what we do, it’s the way we engage with it. Is it for the sake of appearances, i.e. propping up the ego? Or is it for the genuine sake of truly engaging and being present to the experience? In this case, promoting the emergence of openness, curiosity and authenticity.

Just to make what I’m talking about more concrete, take the example of paddle boarding. I’ve noticed that every few years some clever person comes up with new and ingenious ways for us to engage with water. Seems we humans love to be in and on the water; hence the popularity of all kinds of boats, windsurfing, kite gliding, surfing, etc. So, a few years ago paddle boarding became the rage.

Now we have to have the paddleboard and all the gear and go to the happening places to paddle. All this to say there’s nothing wrong with paddle boarding per se. I tried it myself last summer with the grandkids. We had such a great time, especially my grandson who was so ingenious about how he “played” with the board. As well he particularly loved the independence to sail way down the lake, away from his sister and myself!

But, for me paddle boarding didn’t really do it. While it was fun to check it out, I prefer kayaking. It is much more comfortable and sustainable sitting as I can paddle all day, versus standing.

The constant imposition of what “should” give us pleasure is often an impediment to pleasure. I invite you to listen to that feel good sensation in your body as the most authentic indicator. And give yourself lots permission to try things on. Be individuated enough to enjoy what is truly pleasure for you.

And let me know what you discover.

Next entry: Is There Pleasure in Store for you This Summer?

Previous entry: Facing a fear, self-confidence, and pleasure

“Forefront Psychotherapy ​had Madeline ​p​resent a morning workshop called ​​ Unlock ​Pleasure for our counselling centre’s open house. Her presentation was innovative and captivating. She brought forward the information in a way that appealed to new and seasoned therapists alike. Her presentation style put the audience at ease and she ​kept each one of us captivated for the duration of her talk. We would highly recommend Madeline to any group looking for a speaker.”

Forefront Psychotherapy, Ottawa, Canada - Fall 2014