A loaded topic. In today’s zeitgeist, where pornography and its influence in the mainstream include a new level of display in nudity and sexual behavior in movies, television shows and commercials, and using the word “porn” in casual connection with everyday words, pleasure could easily be whittled down to sexuality and no more. Limiting pleasure to the realm of our sexuality would be ridiculous, but probable given the way we box pleasure in. However, pleasure encompasses much more in life.
Much, much more.
There is such stigma about this topic in America (but also elsewhere in the world). Given our society’s beginnings in Puritanical and Calvinistic chastity, PLEASURE as a topic can easily be too taboo for a great many of us to broach with real ease, openness and honesty. The stigma can be ideas of what too much pleasure can bring – a downfall, most likely into a pit of despair or repudiation. These stigma stem, more often than not, from concepts of morality or religiosity. A kind of judgment that can easily discourage taking an enlightening point of view, or even transcending our own relationship to what pleasure can be. Our resistance to that judgment, or that kind of superiority, is what makes it so easy to fall into rude humor about what pleasure is rather than confront the layers of discomfort just beneath the surface.
Pleasure is not only sexual in nature. Pleasure is the very essence of feeling good in life – any event, situation, circumstance or relationship. To many that may sound obvious, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page before we delve deeper into this topic.
Feeling good is essential to our lives. It is what happiness, joy, hope, ecstasy, enthusiasm, excitement and bliss made up of. Our feelings are important, and we know this intuitively. We all measure facets of our lives by our good feelings about them, be it our health, our aliveness, our relationships, our success in our jobs or careers, our success in our communities, or our purpose for living.
Our guilt, however, has become the way by which we measure how much pleasure we allow ourselves – we call it, “our fair share.” It’s no wonder we live in a society riddled with addiction, including sex addiction, anxiety and personality disorders when we give so little credence or esteem to our own pleasure – our own happiness.
My God, a moment of bliss. Why, isn’t that enough for a whole lifetime?
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one… This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype: the overworked executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax.
— Elizabeth Gilbert
Pleasure is an integral component to desire. And desire is the very essence of life. When you feel pleasure, you are allowing yourself the gift of feeling the very pulse of life streaming through you in the way it does uniquely in you.
Do you allow yourself to feel pleasure throughout your day? Or do you stave off opting to feel worried, frustrated, or concerned instead because you might get carried away and not focus on what’s “real” or “important?”
We often look at people who are excited or enthusiastic as if they are bonkers. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is changing, to some extent. As more of us take to YouTube and go viral expressing ourselves, dancing and singing in our cars with wild abandon while stuck in traffic, or anything that expresses our enjoyment of a moment. We are allowing ourselves to do more and feel more, especially after an age of flash mobs. However, there are still so many of us that find it odd to be with someone who breaks out in laughter… just because.
We still find it difficult to be with pleasure for the sheer sake of pleasure. Even when we allow ourselves that in our bedrooms, we do so behind closed doors, because being in a private environment alleviates our anxiety about the pleasure itself. Unless we’re exhibitionists, and more and more of us are daring to be so. But even putting that label on ourselves implants an idea that expressing sheer pleasure – of any kind – in front of others is foreign, or unwanted. How much “stuff,” negative meaning, have we put – as a society and as individuals – on the words, exhibitionist and exhibitionism?
Maybe that’s even why we have problems with the word, pleasure, and acts of pleasure. We say, “I was pleasuring myself,” to stand for masturbation. How much “stuff,” negative meaning have we placed on masturbation – a natural process for our sexual health – over the years? Again, the morality and religiosity have played parts in this staving off from what we feel might overwhelm us and “carry us away” into some place where we will no longer be responsible for…
What, exactly, will we not be responsible for? And why is pleasure only connected to sex? Why cannot pleasure be an act of kindness, an act of forgiveness, an expression of ourselves that we can share with the world? It is in small moments. Why can it not be that in much grander ways because when we share joy, it is infectious?
Permission is what we get to grant ourselves when we want to experience pleasure for the sake of pleasure.
Pleasure is about your whole life. Pleasure is healthy. Pleasure maintains your well-being. Pleasure is the essence of being human.
It is our desire to know pleasure, to seek pleasure and to experience pleasure.
It is the permission you grant yourself to be you.
You can call pleasure “revelry.” You can call it “joy.” You can call it “delight.” Whatever you call it, check with yourself about how much of any of these you allow yourself on a daily basis.
It’s okay to need approval. It’s okay to be human. If you need another’s permission to grant yourself permission, then delight in finding it in a voice, in a sign, in a book, in the literal writing on a wall you just happen to notice in a rare moment. What can inspiration be after all, but enjoying someone else’s willingness to give themselves permission?
Pleasure. That’s the word for today, kiddos. That’s the word for your consideration. For your discovery. For your exploration. For your curiosity. For wonderment.
Find a new level at which you will give yourself permission to experience pleasure every day, every moment you’re alive. You’ll experience the very essence of aliveness as you do.
It will transform you.
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