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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Eye Candy and Holding in Pleasure

Monday, October 27, 2008

Eye Candy and Holding in Pleasure

Even in the midst of some really bad pain, we need some good pleasure. I am thinking lately about simple pleasure. Like picking out flowers at the florist, or walking with your face tipped up toward warm sunshine. Or a really warm bath. A good cup of tea, maybe. The comfort of a good blanket. New pajamas. Old boots. A old fashioned written note to an old friend. Good tunes. A long slow walk. Hand cream.

People often tell me that they are hurting so much that they are not able to feel pleasure. They don't even want to feel pleasure. All there is, is the hurt. The emptiness inside them, and the hurt. Or the constant thinking and rethinking about the loss they have suffered, or the person who has hurt them.

Sometimes it's not a person, or a loss even. I often hear about general unhappiness, a discontent with life. With one's self. And confusion about if and how things could ever feel better.

Sometimes it's part of depression, the inability to feel pleasure. Sometimes it's the take over of the eating disorder, the anxiety, the brain on rev. All human parts get so caught up in the pain that the eyes don't see green trees, the ears don't hear music, the lungs don't recognize cool fresh air.

I don't mean to sound sappy. I work with a lot folks in all different stages and experiences of irritability, restlessness, discontent and emotional pain. And I am a big believer in feeling what you need to feel, as uncomfortable as it is. I am a believer in talking and talking and talking out pain. Talking out anger. Talking out fear. I am not one to tell someone to move away from a feeling. Unless it's time. Whenever that may be.

But I do think that we can have both feelings. Pain and pleasure. Some folks have become so good at feeling pain, that they have no idea how to feel pleasure. Sometimes the resistance to feeling pleasure is deeply rooted, not conscious even. Or Especially.

A friend of mine recently told me that she cannot eat candy without sneaking it and feeling horribly guilty. She has no food, eating or weight issues, other than this. When she was a little girl, she tells me, she recalls being out at the mall with her mother. They walked by a candy store and her mother pointed to the elaborate display, made a horrible face, and said, "Yuckkkkkkk!!!! I hate this stuff."

From then on, my friend says, she is not able to enjoy candy. She cannot hold in the good feeling she gets from eating it. Loyalty to her mother? A wish to please her by being like her? A fear of being different from her? Well, many guesses. But my friend cannot entirely shake her association of candy to yuk. To the idea that she should not get this kind of pleasure.

I think we can start small. And simple. We can know that we don't have to go for fancy ideas of rapture. We don't have to heal deep wounds. I think that pain will always out shout pleasure if we don't make a deliberate choice to allow ourselves to have both. No dishonor meant to the pain, but we can punctuate it with moments of relief. We can practice holding in pleasure the way we hold our breath. We can train ourselves to feel it. Moment by moment. Inch by inch.

I really think so.


SaddleBumRN said...

I can totally understand what you are saying about hurting so much when you are in pain and very depressed. I have been depressed for a long time. Recently my CRNP has changed my meds around. That made a world of difference. But it also made me be afraid. I also had that inability to feel pleasure and the emptiness inside me that you describe. Then I started to feel happy, it was such a weird feeling. When I started to smile, I was freaking out! lol. But with the help of my awesome therapist and the little things in life like going horseback riding, listening to music, reading books, getting together with friends. That smile is remaining of my face! I agree with you 100% also about talking through the pain. I dont know where I would be without it. Probably in a corner sucking my thumb. Great posting, as usual! Thanks

Melissa said...


yes, it's good to feel pleaure...the little things are often the kindest as glad things are brighter!