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Is Your Pleasure Principle All Jacked Up?

shrug1The pleasure principle suggests that people seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s the theoretical motivation behind human behavior. 

It makes perfect sense. Or does it?

Why do people make choices, then, that lead to pain?

For example, a woman has been dating a guy who has shown all the red flags. He won’t admit mistakes. He shows little interest in her. He’s had that angry, dangerous look in his eye more than once.

Yet, she keeps on dating him, upping the ante until his true colors blossom in the form of hurt and rejection.

Or, a man knows that if he just does his duties around the house, his wife will stop nagging him. He knows because he’s experienced this. Yet, he drags his feet, watches TV or tinkers in the garage until she’s so frustrated that she becomes a broken record of nag.

He hates the nagging more than anything. It makes him feel controlled. Yet, he keeps doing the very things that invite more nagging into his life.

Or, you see the plate of donuts and cakes in front of you. Of course, you know that if you indulge, those pastries will leave you feeling bloated and sick. On top of that, you’ll feel like you’ve let yourself down again – like a loser.

Yet, you eat.

What’s going on?

You could say that the short-term pleasure of the company of a man, or tinkering in the garage, or eating donuts wins over longer-term goals outcomes that would be pleasurable.

So, you’re still seeking pleasure, just not long-term pleasure. You’re more interested in the immediate gratification of your desires than in healthier choices.

And you’re willing to trade in the long-term benefits of doing what you know you should do AND endure the pain that is sure to come in order to get those few moments of gratification.

It makes a little sense if that is the only explanation available. Here’s another one.

It could be that you’ve built up quite a tolerance for the old, familiar pain, frustration or disappointment that has accompanied you for many years. In fact, that pain may be so familiar that it’s more comfortable than the idea of a type of happiness that is foreign to you.

So, you keep gratifying your immediate desires, not caring about the pain, frustration and disappointment that is sure to come because you are used to it. You may not really expect anything else – bad results may feel inevitable.

When this happens with me, I believe that my pleasure principle is all jacked up! I’ve confused immediate gratification that leads to pain with the real pleasure that comes with good decisions.

In other words, I am actually seeking something painful.

This may be the most common problem in the world. We call it a negative psychological attachment. When something ultimately painful is seen in a more pleasurable light, then we need to rewire our pleasure principle.

This can be done by expanding your awareness of what is actually going on. Defining short-term pleasure as immediate gratification that leads to pain is a good place to start.

For more information on how negative psychological attachments create self-sabotaging behavior, watch this free and enlightening video.

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Is Your Pleasure Principle All Jacked Up?

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2014). Is Your Pleasure Principle All Jacked Up?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Oct 2014
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