Pleasure and Positive Sense of Self

May 28, 2018

Pleasure and Positive Sense of Self

When I work with individuals one of the steps we focus on is: “What truly brings you pleasure?” As the person identifies this, intentionally practices pleasure pauses, and experiments with what is their unique and particular expression of pleasure, I notice one of the side effects is they feel more like themselves. I hear comments such as, “When I rediscovered my love of dance and really let it be part of my daily routine I felt so connected to me. It helped me remember who I truly am in my heart of hearts.”

This remembering who of you truly are, and relaxing into it, is one of the hallmarks of true pleasure. And it makes me think a bit more about that negative bias I wrote about in my last blog post. Negative bias can also show up regarding our own self-identity.

Your relationship with yourself

What I’m getting at here is to reflect on your relationship with yourself.  Is your sense of self based on an attitude of acceptance and appreciation of your own goodness? Or is it critical, demanding of “better,” and perhaps harbours messages of “not good enough?” Anyone who struggles with self-esteem knows the weight this mind-set carries. The inner critic, the judge, the super imposed standards that can never be met; noticing how much psychic energy it takes up, and how it robs one of ease, joy, satisfaction, to say nothing of pleasure.

In the last blog post I wrote about our human propensity to a negative bias. How we actually have significantly more neuros in the brain that are on alert for danger and potential threat. That’s a good thing you might think–it keeps me safe–but actually if it’s just the automatic setting, it significantly increases stress and, in most cases, is not an accurate response to the environment. And recent studies show that this propensity actually decreases our ability to respond to a real threat.

So, when this negative orientation is applied towards ourselves it means we’re constantly trying to be MORE: faster, smarter, in some way better, and different from where we are right now – not motivated by a genuine desire to improve, but from a sense of threat. “If I don’t…. then something terrible will happen.” And from a sense of one’s self as “not good enough.”

A focus on pleasure can slowly, over time, change this mindset. Pleasure is not about “good enough.” The gauge of pleasure is internal – we become our own benchmark.  Is “it” good enough for me? How do I truly feel about what’s going on? What’s really important to me right now? What are my priorities? All questions that lead us towards being more of who we truly are. This focus can help grow an accepting and appreciating connection towards ourselves.


The “not good enough” is often accompanied by comparisons. We worry about how we stack up with others. What other’s think of us. These are all outside indicators of our worth, dependent on our perceived sense of what others may think, dependent on their approval to feel good about one’s self. All these machinations lead to self-alienation. When we get caught up in it, we lose connection to ourselves.

It’s easy to lose that connection and a sure-fire way out of it is to bring your attention to: What brings me pleasure? I encourage you to let it be unique, quirky, original. Give yourself permission to experiment, divesting of ought, should and shouldn’t.  As you notice the effects of pleasure in your body and your being, consider your own “good enough-ness.”

I’ve said before it’s radical to let pleasure be your default setting. I think in our culture and with the persistent mindset of, “I’ve got to be more; I’ve got to try harder” that’s driven by the negative bias of survival instincts, it’s radical to be accepting of one’s self and in fact to feel good about one’s self.

I invite you to try on pleasure as an antidote to the negative sense of self. Challenge those feelings and thoughts – and I’d love to hear what happens next!

Next entry: Am I Safe?

Previous entry: Negative Bias 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