Tag Archives: addiction

Blog 43: Love & Anxiety, why Pleasure and Enjoyment matter!

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Adventure – healthy Pleasure

I thought we would take a break from harder topics today and think about something we love, Pleasure and Enjoyment! These these 2 concepts, while related topics, they are not the same thing. Though many of us assume that Pleasure absolutely leads to Enjoyment, this is not always true. Today, we will talk about the difference between Pleasure and Enjoyment and what this difference means to our bodies and Nervous systems, and how this difference deeply impacts our ability to either rest in love, or to flail in the chaotic sea of anxiety.

Let’s start with Pleasure! As I have recounted in prior blogs, healthy Pleasure is the best antidote to chronic stress and high anxiety. I wish more of us lived and experienced healthy Pleasure on a regular basis, if we did, this country would be a very different place. However, my experience as a human/therapist is that most of us do not experience healthy pleasure on a regular basis. America is a country that craves Pleasure, our advertisements are full of promised Pleasures, but we seem to have a difficult relationship between our desire for pleasure and our experiencing of Pleasure. Most people I know are craving Pleasure but enjoying very little of it.
TV Advertising extolls the joys of being rich, driving great cars, eating tasty (often junk) food, drinking beer and other alcohol, and having tons of sex with hot men/women, etc. While these options may seem pleasurable, why do they often bring so little Pleasure? Why do so many people get addicted to alcohol, food, more money, and sex, just to name a few of our advertised Pleasures?  My hypothesis to these questions does not come from a place of judging Pleasure or thinking it is bad and dangerous. My Mennonite heritage used to cause me to fear Pleasure. But those days are over, I have not been a Mennonite for a very long time, and I have learned how critical it is that I have plenty of healthy Pleasure in my life. My hypothesis comes from living, experimenting, and my observations of humanity.

We experience so little Pleasure because many of the things advertised to bring us Pleasure are either not healthy in certain situations/amounts, or are not actually pleasure, but a gateway to addiction. We all know that alcoholism often begins with social drinking or partying in high school/ college. It seems fun and a harmless pastime, a Pleasure even. But anyone who has lived with a human struggling with the weight of alcoholism can tell you there is NO pleasure in any drink they take. An alcoholic now drinks because they have to and because they cannot quit. What began as a Pleasure has become their Master.

Pornography is another example. AAMFT’s website states that 12 million people struggle with sexual addiction, which usually includes the use of pornography and a majority are now addicted to the use of it. (If you think you are not addicted to it, try to stop viewing it for good and you will know the truth.) It is known that pornography has caused many problems in relationships and that it causes people to become sexually attracted too an unreal human body (airbrushed men and women). Pornography is an example of how a healthy Pleasure, sexuality and the beauty of a human body, can become tainted and unhealthy because it has become an addiction. Addictions are often healthy Pleasures miss used, or run amok. Humans can become addicted to booze, drugs, food, work, sex, exercise, etc. So my hypothesis is that healthy Pleasure is often different from TV advertised Pleasures, and a healthy Pleasure is usually not something we are addicted to.

I make this connections because a healthy Pleasure is something we are able to ENJOY! Craving Pleasure is very different from Enjoying Pleasure. Many humans are not even enjoying the Pleasure they do have, but they are craving more Pleasure, so they run from experience to experience, from sexual partner to sexual partner, from new car to another new car, from one type of pornography to another. Desperately craving Pleasure but finding little enjoyment therein.

I repeat, Pleasure is a wonderful gift, we need Pleasure as humans to balance out all the stress and work we experience in life and relationships. Since American’s over-work compared to many other developed countries, it is no wonder we are a Nation that struggles with many addictions. But the Pleasures we need are healthy Pleasures and those we can Enjoy!  Many of us are adding healthy pleasures to our lives but not enjoying them either. Pleasure and enjoyment are not the same thing!

I have learned this truism over the years. I have had lots of healthy (and some unhealthy) Pleasure in my life but I have spent years not enjoying much of it. This happened because I was not living in my body, or living in the present moment, actually experiencing that Pleasure.  Instead, I was living in my head and in my thoughts. I was adding to my to-do list, or planning for the future, or regretting the past, etc., instead of actually feeling the Pleasure I was experiencing in that moment. If you are not in the present moment and living in your body (aware of your body sensations) you will not experience much Pleasure. This is not a hypothesis but a fact borne out by the last 10 years of research and study of the human body.

In closing I have found that most people agree walking on a beach, vacations, a loving relationship, warm baths, being in nature, eating a lovely meal with friends, sharing a great bottle of wine, a good workout or adventure, sports, art, creating, writing, etc., are all healthy Pleasures.  I will not try to suggest I know what your healthy Pleasures are, but I would suggest you find out and make yourself a list.  If you are currently not allowing yourself to experience your Pleasures ask why not. People who have enough play, rest and healthy Pleasure tend to experience less stress, less struggle with addiction, and more enjoyment in life. And, finally, when indulging in your Pleasure try your best to ENJOY it. After all this is why we really crave Pleasure, we want to enjoy our lives!

To learn more about pleasure and health, click this link.  Steps to perfect health, practice pleasure.

Going deeper:

1: What were your formative messages around Pleasure in general? Was healthy Pleasure modeled for you by your parents/caregivers.

2: Do you Enjoy your Pleasure? Can you resonate with the concept of having Pleasure but not Enjoying it? What attitudes or actions can you take to slow down and become aware of your life and your body so that you can actually experience your Pleasures on a regular basis?

 

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Blog 27: Let the fear fall away- Intolerable sensations and addiction.

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Thanks to my tech savvy sister, I  have recently joined twitter! As all new experiences do, it has really stimulated creativity. (Unfortunately, I also felt the rush of anxiety that accompanies the experience of doing something new for the first time.) But I have learned from experience, if you stay focused on the creativity and keep at it, the anxiety will drop away. This was not always the case though, and this rush of anxiety is one reason many people shy away from new experiences, people, situations, and opportunities. If feels so uncomfortable they give in to it and do not move forward.

This was the topic of my tweet today, intolerable sensations and feelings! In previous blogs I have shared how the body communicates in sensation and feelings, not in words. And, how sensations are the precursor to emotions. That tightness in your chest and belly, the cramping of your gut, the buzzing, zinging energy shooting up your core, these are your body’s words and messages. It is your body, trying to tell you how it feels about what you are doing, and what it needs from you to be at peace.

To understand addiction and to break the addictive cycle, you must understand AND listen when your body communicates.  Intolerable sensations drive the cycle of addiction. Addictions do not start out as a full-blown addiction but as an experience you have tried or used that made you feel good. Then you do more of it to feel better, and eventually you must have it, use it, do it, in order to just maintain equilibrium. Now you are addicted! And, you no longer feel the pleasure, you just do it to not feel miserable. That is what sucks about addiction, the pleasure is gone and its all about staying out of pain. So what differentiates people who drink socially for enjoyment but stop at 1 or 2 drinks and someone struggling with alcoholism who needs to start the day with a drink?  There are quite a few reasons, but the one I will focus upon today is the way people interpret big sensations/feelings as an intolerable feeling.

I have worked with trauma and addiction for 15 years now and every person that I have seen who has the courage to fight the addictive cycle is full of intolerable sensations. Their bodies are miserable and those sensations and emotions are so uncomfortable and feel so strong, that the person grabs the food, bottle, porn site, etc., just to get a sense of relief, or to numb out in order to not feel those miserable feelings. And, if you keep doing that, the cycle cannot be broken.

What needs to happen is you must MAKE A NEW ASSOCIATION WITH THAT OLD UPSETTING SENSATION! When you feel that internal misery and everything in you screams for your addiction, you stop and do something else. You try to be with that sensation that feels so awful and listen to it. This is easier to do with support, such as with a body-focused therapist, or in a 12 step program, but it has to be done. Here is a very simple example, when working with clients who struggle with binge eating. When on the verge of a binge, I have them stop and notice the craving sensation, to identify where in the body they most notice it, and to touch that place kindly and ask their body, “What am I really hungry for?”

Making a new association may sound too simple, but I have used this principle countless times to help clients heal from trauma and break their addictive cycles. See www.traumahealing.org or more information or go to my website www.sdtraumatherapy.com and read about Somatic Experiencing.This powerful, research-based modality, heals trauma and breaks addictive cycles. Simply talking about the struggle or addiction does not solve it. You must work with the person’s body and Autonomic Nervous system.

So this week, if you are noticing some unpleasant or seemingly intolerable body sensations, stop and listen to your body as you would to a new lover, spouse, or a beloved child. Try to discern your body’s messages and work on making a new association with the old sensation, i.e. learning. If you struggle with an addiction, you must learn to listen and settle your body instead of reacting and racing back to your old frenemy, the cycle of addiction. Please write and let me know how this works for you!

(If you want shorter blocks of information from me more regularly, please follow my twitter feed, wandabrosSE.)

Going deeper:

1.) Which sensations do you most often experience? Unpleasant, pleasant or neutral sensations? Which sensations and emotions do you find most intolerable, i.e., tension, anxious, shakiness, empty numbness, rage, fear, shame, disgust, etc?

2.) What do you typically do when you feel intolerable sensations? If you have an addiction or are working on developing one, what is your “substance or habit” of choice? Keeping in mind overworking or being on your phone/device constantly is an addiction as well, just not a ingestible one.

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