The Pursuit Of Pleasure, The Escape From Pain

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

He who is affected by pain is devastated by pleasure.

At least in pain, we are a little resistant. In pleasure, we are totally blind and therefore unaware. In this unawareness, we develop attachments to the experience of pleasure, and this attachment creates a longing for its repetition, which is based on its memory and not the actual experiencing of it.

In this process, we become slaves of pleasure, unable to satisfy our thirst, turning into addicts and maniacs for the rest of our lives.

One who fears pain is driven towards pleasure. To be driven by pleasure or pain means there is a personal, unconscious investment into both. To be personally invested into both means one derives a sense of self out of them, and thus is under their control. To be under their control means one is defined by the movements between pain and pleasure; dependent on objects (physical, matter) and therefore continuously living a chaotic existence.

Understanding life (and mainly people, because without people there is no one to call it life) has been the main focus of science throughout time. Although we’re all very complex in our nature, and emanate multiple possibilities altogether, the truth is that no matter how complex and ‘deep’ we seem to be — every single one of us move tirelessly towards pleasure, and away from pain.

It’s not difficult to notice that we don’t like pain. Most of us show it daily in our behaviors whether they’d be physical, mental or emotional.

Some people are so accustomed to living away from pain that the least amount of discomfort in their environments turns them into maniacs. Such people buy all kinds of things to feel secure in their environment — they swallow all kinds of pills, eat anything and everything as long as it gives them a sense of comfort. They shop all the time, they pamper themselves in all kinds of ways all the time, they get furious when reality clearly isn’t in accordance with their expectations, they stick as much as they can to all kinds of habits and routines , and so on.

**What is interesting about the ways we behave physically, in ways that others can see — is that it always exposes how we think at deeper levels. To stick to habits whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for us, to seek comforts in healthy or unhealthy ways, to invest our every efforts into escaping what is/reality, to stick to the same life forever — **

These actions altogether, reflect the movement away from pain because the slightest sense discomfort is interpreted as dreadful, terrible, painful — even if it’s still in the realm of thoughts. The example above is obviously an extreme case, we all obviously need some sense of security otherwise this experience on Earth wouldn’t be possible — but when this sense of security becomes an urgency, one in which our entire being is fully invested, we can’t see the bigger picture anymore and we trap ourselves into a prison we’ll have a hard time escaping from.

In the movement away from pain, there is tremendous momentum/energy towards pleasure. By going either towards pleasure or away from pain, all we do is reinforce these polarities. What most tend to forget is that pain and pleasure are relative; what is pleasurable to one person is painful to another, and vice versa. If these polarities — in which we put our whole faith in order to “finally be happy and fulfilled” — are not absolute but rather the results of our conditioning, how can they ever deliver their promise of salvation?

Pain and pleasure are fully derived from our conditioning. The moment the mind-made-self notices something that is close enough to either of its polarities — it doesn’t reason anymore, it turns into a purely instinctive robot.

The whole world is moving quickly everyday. People are getting up from their beds, going to jobs that suck all life out of them, creating all kinds of dysfunctional thoughts and emotions which affect their health overtime — only to live according these polarities — pain and pleasure.

The newest gadgets are constantly being bought, we have to keep up with all the news; we have to stretch ourselves, get new ideas, indulge in all kinds of addictions; we have to do so many things just to feel like we’re alive.

Isn’t it exhausting?

Why are we then surprised that we don’t have any energy left despite eating so much, taking so many pills and so on? On what are we basing our sense of aliveness? On pain and pleasure? Are they from our truest making or from some programming we’ve allowed ourselves to absorb without careful observation?

Unconsciously, all that we’re doing is simply deriving our identity out of our pleasures and pains. How many are the ones who love to speak about their pain, how many are they who would turn from angels to furious monsters in matters of seconds if one was to oppose their cherished stories? How many are the ones who love to expose their possessions, the story behind how they got it, how much it cost and how exclusive they are for getting them because there was some kind of exclusivity behind the object? (And there’s always rarity behind what we possess. If there’s not, we create some.)

This unconscious drive towards attaching as many pleasurable experiences/objects to our identities as well as turning all uncomfortable experiences/people we came across into some ‘final boss’ of our story clearly shows how the mind-made-self moves between these polarities.

It starts with one experience or object, then a little high is experienced either from pain or pleasure, which reinforces the pattern before turning it into a complete addiction, a compulsive behavior we need to constantly feed with newer pursuits.

We’re never tired of finding something to run after, the journey might be exhausting but the rewards, the future seems always so promising. Nothing is enough. Our demands increase. We need something else, the next thing to feel alive — and this creates the excesses we witness today in the world, the dysfunction, the madness most people express in their complex quests to finding an ever lasting sense of fulfillment.

No matter what a person is doing, unless she became conscious of her own ways, she is doing pretty much the same thing everyone else is doing — pursuing pleasure to feel alive while running away from pain as much as she can, and that pain is often the pain of realizing the truth which the mind does its best never to do.

The question therefore is, in what is pleasure better than pain? Aren’t them one and the same thing? How many times have we been driven by an unconscious desire, putting every single one of our efforts into obtaining it, only to be deceived by it?

How many times have we given ourselves salvation through the next relationship, the next gadget, the next house, the next car, the next child, the next celebration, the next drink?

The content of our quest towards pleasure might change in its form but it is still the same dynamic that animates us.

Is the amount of inner turmoil one goes through each time there is an unconscious pull towards pleasure worth it? Is the excessive mental occupation worth the pleasure? Is the physical investment whether through efforts or finances worth the pleasure?

Obviously, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with pleasure. It is an essential aspect of this temporary experience on Earth — but pleasure becomes ‘wrong’ when we derive a sense of identity through it. What is wrong is being unconscious about the intense attraction we have for pleasure, and even more, the irrational/absurd boundaries we’re willing to cross for it. What is wrong is how our unawareness about our unconscious processes create the conflicts we see in the world today.

Families are ruined because of the quest for pleasures, countries are in wars, man is in a miserable state most of his life and the example are endless — simply because we never take the time to look truthfully at ourselves, to understand the polarities of our mind made self, and to ask “How do I free myself from these unconscious chains?”

Yes. This is called the normal life, it is normal to be obsessed with matter, it is normal to be at the mercy of unobserved thoughts that keep on keeping us enslaved because we fear them, because we fear what we would discover if we looked at what truly drove us our entire lives.

This simply shows how much of a stranger we are to our own selves. We don’t know what our buttons are and because of this, it is easy for anyone to present anything and we’re troubled either positively or negatively. In not knowing ourselves, we project this onto the world, which makes us trust and put our entire faith into others we barely take the time to understand.

How can we filter information that comes from the outside if we never filter what comes from within? We don’t want to think for ourselves, we accept all kinds of information as long as it fits into our paradigm, and it makes us so quick to produce beliefs within ourselves that become the new cage we live in, and as long as someone plays the role of an authority in our lives, who cares?

We simply swallow whatever comes out of them. Most don’t have the courage to read in between the lines, to question, to doubt and look truthfully at what is said by whoever is talking. We forget that people speak from their conditioning and repeat whatever has been said by others’ conditioning — no, we’re too tired, we’re too lazy, and when our world crumbles — we don’t know what to do, we look for hope, for someone to save us once again, for something to attach ourselves to. The same mechanism, different appearances.

Nothing is real unless it has been experienced.

Whoever wants peace needs to know him or herself, and by this it is not meant to know whether we’re an INFJ, a Capricorn Moon or a Life Path 11 — those simply show the content of the mind made self, the polarities as well as the developed skills and tendencies/patterns of the littleness — by this, it is rather meant to pay attention to ourselves at all time, to come into contact with ourselves. To stop being a stranger to ourselves, to stop fearing ourselves and start relying more on what we realize from being aware.

Ultimately, pleasure and pain are parts of this big game of life. If appreciated for what they are, they turn into beautiful experiences that invite growth. If used as means for fulfillment, they turn us into slaves.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Rabih

Rabih

spiritual thinking for daily living