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. For some
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