I’ve been sharing with friends and family my news about a work venture I’m pursuing. I want to deeply explore the concept of pleasure and the notion that it’s an under-rated resource for healing and wellbeing.
Of course, when I say pleasure, people usually think I’m talking about sexual pleasure. And while it’s not that I’m disinterested in that particular aspect of pleasure – god no! – I’m even more interested in naming the many other ways pleasure can exist in our lives. I want to both broaden the definition of pleasure and promote it as a legitimate need. When we have a sufficient amount of pleasure in our lives, we’re much better for it.
Exploring the word itself is a useful way to clarify what I’m getting at. As I found various descriptions of pleasure, I was a bit surprised because I’m talking about something very different than the usual definitions.
For instance, Wikipedia states (rather dryly, I might add) “Pleasure describes the broad class of mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment and euphoria.” The Oxford Dictionary offers “Pleasure means the state of being pleased, delighted or gratified.” Additionally I found pleasure means “to enjoy one’s self; a term for good feelings; and an event or activity from which one derives enjoyment.”
Are we talking about the same thing? I’m thinking that pleasure comes from something that deeply touches me, something I’m really drawn to – an experience that activates my sensate awareness – or something that soothes and relaxes. I often connect the experience of pleasure to a state of creativity that supports an openness within and towards myself and life around me.
When I get going about pleasure, I might interchange the word with happiness, joy, excitement or just good old fun. But I’m very clear that pleasure is the word I want to use.
The word pleasure brings things up for people. Often they have an ambivalent attitude towards it. Perhaps that’s behind the sexual / non-sexual confusion about the word. But I also suspect that many carry an attitude about pleasure that it is not a legitimate need. For too many people, it’s something that gets relegated to leisure time, what we do when everything else is finished. When people talk about pleasure, they sometimes stumble over doubts and misconceptions, which are important for them to explore to become freer and more engaged in their lives and their pleasures.
In modern western culture, many of us are still divesting ourselves of the Protestant work ethic or Catholic guilt, both of which delivered a real hit on pleasure. A moral question hangs over too many of us: is it okay to take pleasure? We don’t quite trust ourselves, fearing that if we give into our need for pleasure our lives will go down hill, or more precisely, go to hell.
I want all these issues about the concept of pleasure to be brought to light. Pleasure is in fact a beautiful word that conjures delights. We need a whole lot more of that in this world.
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