CHANGING THE NOT-SO-PLEASURABLE PLEASURE CYCLE
Science has proven that the frontal lobe of the brain, responsible for reasoning and impulse control,
does not fully develop until age 25. I have known this for many years and can look back on my teens and
early twenties and see that the ages of 22-25, when my frontal lobe was finally finishing developing,
marked a definitive point in my life when I stopped doing extremely dangerous things on a regular basis.
I haven’t gone cliff jumping since my late teens. I haven’t driven my sports car at 130 MPH on the
highway at 2 am since I was about 20. In fact, I stopped racing everywhere at about 93 MPH and sold my
sports car at 24. By 25, I can say that I had a very good understanding of the self-destructive behaviors
to which I would no longer routinely subject myself. From 25 to 30, I joked that while my brain now
knew that these kinds of risky behaviors were exactly that, risky, my habits were still playing catch up.
And they would try to catch up all through my late twenties. I can proudly say that I stopped most of the
things that can kill a person instantly, like trying to see how fast I could go before the governor kicked in
on my car by about 25. (Although, I am not sure to this day it even had a governor, I stopped trying to
figure it out before I killed myself.)
There are still, however, a whole slew of other behaviors, habits even, that I was so used to performing
that breaking those cycles has been an even tougher battle than “growing up”. In my search for growth
and dynamic change, I watched the video above by Paul Chek called “Harnessing Your Pleasure Cycle.”
In this video, Paul describes what he calls the pleasure cycle.
He theorizes that this cycle begins with all of our wants and needs. These wants and
needs lead to a desire which stems from a perception that something is lacking. This desire then turns
into anticipation of what we expect will come from satisfying this want or need. When we have acquired
whatever it is we desire, then a sensation is produced. This sensation should then result in satiation of
that desire. This is, however, not always the case. Coinciding with the satiation, or a lack thereof, is also
an awareness. For example, if the sensation leads to an awareness that our need has been met, then the
cycle stops. But, if this awareness leads to the realization that we are still not satisfied then the cycle
begins again. When a need like water is driving this cycle the result is not usually a dangerous one. If the
desire though is for something like a temporary break from stress and pressure, depending on the tool
that we use to get there, the result can be wonderful, or it can be extremely detrimental, even deadly. In
his video, Paul explains that, if at the end of the cycle satiation is not reached, perhaps we are using the
wrong tool to get there.
While much of what is explained in this video did not come as a surprise to me, the awareness that is
consciously, or usually subconsciously, reached and the tools that can lead us to satiation were
revolutionary ideas for me. I have pondered many times why I continue to participate in self-destructive
behaviors even when my frontal lobe has finished developing, yet the answer has always eluded me.
The other key point to Paul’s lesson is that somewhere inside of us all is a dream. When we look at our
actions we must ask ourselves if our behaviors contribute to or detract from our dream. I feel that so
often we hop onto the pleasure cycle and we never bother to consciously consider whether our actions
each day contribute to our dream or not. Then there was the amazing idea of the desire and the tools
that are available to satisfy that desire. For example, if your goal is relief from stress and pressure there
are a variety of tools to get you there. Many people choose a glass of wine or two each night.
this satiates the desire. For others, though, it leads to a dangerous pleasure cycle where one or two
glasses of wine stops producing satisfaction and more is eventually needed to achieve the same effect.
All the while, you are further stressing your body out through dehydration, nutrition depletion, and
ultimately you are moving further and further from your dream. When considering the tools available to
us to reach the goal of stress relief, it is difficult to argue that wine should be booted from the list. It is
important to realize though that it is not the only thing on the list and undoubtedly should not always be
at the top of the list. There are many healthy ways to find the relief that many of us search for such as
exercise, diaphragmatic breathing, taking a hot bath, or cuddling up with a good book and a hot cup of
In my own personal life, I must admit that I don’t always stop to identify my desires and the best tools
available to reach satisfaction. Furthermore, I don’t always ask myself if those tools build up or tear
down my dream. For years, I have been stuck on a few of my favorite self-destructive behaviors and
never understood why breaking those habits was so difficult. In all of my moments of contemplation, I
was so focused on the behavior itself that I was not aware of all of the other key components of the
pleasure cycle. Moving forward, it is a relief to know that with every desire I can ask myself, what is the
desire? What tools are available to satiate this desire? And, which tools best support my dream? I agree
with Paul Check that the tools available to us are crucial to our success and in the spirit of that, Paul’s
video is an amazing explanation for better understanding the pleasure cycle, the desires that drive us,
and the tools available to satiate us.
By- Jen Walker