The Psychology of Pain and Pleasure

One approach to evaluating the relationship between pain and pleasure is to consider these two systems as a reward-punishment based system. When pleasure is perceived, one associates it with reward. When pain is perceived, one associates with punishment. Evolutionarily, this makes sense, because often, actions that result in pleasure or chemicals that induce pleasure work towards restoring homeostasis in the body. For example, when the body is hungry, the pleasure of rewarding food to one-self restores the body back to a balanced state of replenished energy. Like so, this can also be applied to pain, because the ability to perceive pain enhances both avoidance and defensive mechanisms that were, and still are, necessary for survival

 However, people take these to extremes. Taking into account the law of duality and the need for balance, if we only seek pleasure or support without being willing to accept challenge, we are out of balance, and the universe will find a way to bring this balance into our life. Often In peoples lives, they feel as if they have everything sorted, apart from this one thing, which never works out. This is the universe restoring balance of pain/pleasure.


A client the other day said to me “ everything else in my life is great, I have great kids, a great husband, a house etc but I always have problems with money. It just never seems to work out. I suppose it´s because I cant have it all” this is not in fact true. This statement has been driven by the conditioning of humans to seek pleasure and avoid pain. So it´s about learning to accept the good with the bad and to balance our perceptions of what pain and pleasure actually is.

 Self sabotage is the unconscious pursuit of pain and challenge, stemmed from a limiting belief we have formed about ourselves in the past “ I don’t deserve to have it all” or “im not good enough” it is the subconscious need to punish ourselves, to sabotage a desired outcome. Both pleasure and pain are derived from extreme emotional charges and both are ultimately fear based. If we gain too much pleasure or support in life, we develop fear of losing it. If we are experiencing too much challenge or suffering, this is fear based. A part of us subconsciously believes that is what we deserve.

 Aristotle describes describes pain and pleasure very much like a push-pull concept; human beings will move towards something that causes pleasure and will move away from something that causes pain. And this if taken to extremes, this is what results in hedonism and avoidance.

 The answers are inside of you.

We often hear the phrase “It will be worth it in the end”

Deep down, we know that sometimes we have to go through pain in order to ultimately experience pleasure. The motivation decision model by Howard Fields PHD is centered around the concept that decision processes are driven by motivations of highest priority.  it is suggested that human beings have developed the unconscious ability to endure pain or sometimes, even relieve pain if it can be more important for survival to gain a larger reward. It may have been more advantageous to link the pain and pleasure perceptions together to be able to reduce pain to gain a reward necessary for fitness, such as childbirth. Or a singer, whose highest value is performing, will be willing to wait tables for several years and share a room with five other people in the crappiest part of town, because they know deep down that the reward/outcome will outweigh the present struggles/suffering.

Howard fields suggests that decision processes are driven by motivations of highest priority, this means we will endure necessary pain, but ONLY if the decisions we are making are driven by our authentic, individual values.

 Instant gratification and the ego.

People who seek only instant gratification, aiming to satisfy cravings such as hunger, thirst, sex and addictions are not living from cause. Your behaviour is ruled by the ego, only obeying the pleasure principle.

Freud used the idea that the mind seeks pleasure and avoids pain. Maturity is learning to endure the pain of deferred gratification when reality requires it. Freud argued that “an ego thus educated has become ‘reasonable’; it no longer lets itself be governed by the pleasure principle, but obeys the reality principle, which also, at bottom, seeks to obtain pleasure, but pleasure which is assured through taking account of reality, even though it is pleasure postponed and diminished”

 Living from cause means being the director of your life, rather than the directed. In order to effectively live from cause and over rule the need for ego driven instant gratification, we need to determine what our cause or purpose actually is. Only when we are able to link all our our perceived “pains” to our authentic desired outcome, can we truly make decisions that are not driven by ego. Only then can we learn to appreciate and equilibrate pain and pleasure that we experience in life, and make conscious congruent choices.

 It will be worth it in the end

What have you been through hell for that in the end has given you long term satisfaction?

Think about this, and observe how you got through it. This is what you will need to apply to achieving your goals. Because of the polarity in life, it is unrealistic to think that the journey will be easy. There will be ups and downs, bumps in the road, recalculation of internal GPS systems and flat tires along the journey of life, but how will you deal with these “pains” as they inevitably arise?

 Let´s look at the facts


  1. You will greatly improve your chances of success, if your goals are congruent with your values. Inspriration and dreams come from these values, and because we are born with them, we don’t need to motivate ourselves to do it, because motivation happens naturally when you are aligned. Nobody needs to motivate a mother to go through the pain of childbirth, or a rocket scientist to go through college, because they instinctively know that it will be worth it in the end. If you find yourself struggling to motivate yourself, you need to examine if your goal is aligned and congruent with your own true values.
  2. You are nobody´s priority but your own. Your purpose will not happen to you, and success will not just magically fall into your lap. You need to take aligned action. That means discover it, feel it and live it. God blessed us with the power of free will. Use it. Your life is 100% your own responsibility.
  3. Einstein defined insanity as repeating the same behaviour over and over and expecting different results. If something is not giving you the outcome you desire, try a different approach.

 Decision making from the soul and over riding the ego

 As previously mentioned, we are only going to decide to tolerate pain and difficulty when we have the motivation to do so. Decisions are driven by motivations of highest priority. So how do we apply this motivation to every day occurrences that do not inspire us? The answer lies in our intention. Fitness and working out is not at all high on my list of values of priority, so thus I have previously sought instant gratification. A chocolate here, a burger there and guess what? I have not been able to reach my goal of weight loss and toning. Exercise and the gym do not inspire me and I had zero motivation to commit to a regime, until I discovered my own purpose, and was able to see the bigger picture of how exercise and diet would actually benefit me in the long run. With the end vision in my mind, and by linking exercising to achieving my goal, I have chosen not to eat processed foods and I have found the aligned willpower to commit to exercising daily. In acting from cause, I am now enjoying the benefits of the effect. The perceived “pain” of exercising and dieting is causing lasting pleasurable/fulfilling effects.

In which ways are you living from the soul and over riding the ego which are now giving you long term benefits?