Pleasure and Pain – taking control of your life

Thrive Market

“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.” Tony Robbins

What is the pleasure and pain principle?

The origins of this principle lay in Freudian psychology who used the idea that the mind “seeks pleasure and avoids pain” in his Project for a Scientific Psychology of 1895.

What this essentially means is that humans are inclined to shy away from pain and strive for pleasure in all aspects of our life. This central idea has been installed in our core biology and you could probably classify it as being a key part of human nature.

Personal Development coach, Tony Robbins, says one of the major keys to tapping into your personal power is to understand the concept of pain and pleasure.

Every choice you’ve made – and will make – is based on avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.

How does it work?

We develop what is painful and what is pleasurable to us from very early on in our lives through experiences with the external world. Pleasure and pain are unique to each of us. In other words, we don’t all like and dislike the same things.

An important point to note is that the brain will do more to avoid pain than it will to gain pleasure.

Having said that pain or pleasure in the present tense, in the now, is more real to us than any future potential pain or pleasure. For example, a smoker is only focused on the pleasure smoking a cigarette is giving them at the moment they smoke it so that is what is more real to their brains. They don’t even think about the future pain it will inevitably cause because that pain isn’t happening right now demanding their focus.

How do we manipulate the process and get pain and pleasure to work for us? Let’s go back to our example of a smoker. They want to quit smoking but it is too pleasurable for them right now and the pain they will suffer from it in the long run is not real to them in the present moment making it useless as motivator to quit. What should they do? They need to change their thoughts and focus on the pain it is causing them in the now. Once the balance of pain and pleasure shifts and they focus more on the pain of smoking a cigarette in the present moment, their brain will begin to do more to avoid the pain than it will to gain the pleasure.

Simply put, “make yourself feel the pain now” Of course over ruling all of this is that you must have the desire to change.

3 steps to making pleasure and pain work for you

Now that you are conscious of the psychology and the pleasure and pain principle you can make it work for you.

        1. Think of a goal or a decision you need to make. For example let’s say losing weight.
        2. Get a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side write ‘pain’ and on the other ‘pleasure.’
        3. List down all the reasons why it would be painful not to achieve your goal. Next, write down the pleasure of achieving your goal. Visualize achieving your goal and feel the pain now of not achieving your goal. Remember to tip the scale in your favor you must make feeling the pain strong now.
Goal: to lose 1 stone by 30th June (my 40th Birthday!)
Pain – (of not losing 1 stone) Pleasure – (of losing 1 stone)
Damage to my health – my blood pressure is high. Reduce my blood pressure medication
I have heart disease (really feel the pain) I have perfect health (visualize perfect health)
I will always be fat! Life begins at 40. I am wearing the same size clothes I did at 18!
I will pass on my poor health to my kids I am a good health model to my children. They are vibrant and healthy
I dread going shopping for a new party dress. I look forward to getting a new ‘party dress’

In summary

We must consciously take control of our mind and emotions.

For us to be able to take control, we must understand the psychological process of what is taking place. Without that knowledge, we are at the whim of pain and pleasure, even when it is illogical.

Take a look at your life and what you would like to change about it. Pain and pleasure will be at the root of it. Now you know how the process works you can make pain and pleasure work for you rather than against you.

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