The Power of Pleasure in Relationships, Work & Yourself

By Douglas Weiss in Happiness on April 5th, 2007 / No Comments

Pleasure is often an unseen force that makes things happen. That it’s invisible doesn’t in any way mitigate the fact that there’s real power involved. By way of analogy, let’s talk about a couple of other unseen powers that you encounter regularly in your daily life.

You can feel the wind at times, and you can hear it on some days as well. There are few things that feel better than a cool breeze on a beach or in the mountains. Yet the wind is absolutely unseen. You can, however, witness its impact and even harness its great power. I know that many of us were amazed by a pinwheel for at least a few moments during our childhood. We would watch this almost flower-shaped object that by itself wasn’t all that engaging. Then the wind would come along and catch it, and the pinwheel would spin and spin. The harder the wind blew, the faster the little pinwheel would work.

Humankind has made greater applications of the pinwheel in modern times. The unseen power of the air moves large windmills, creating enough energy to power a house or even entire neighborhoods if it’s used intelligently. Gravity is another unseen “stealth” power. You meet with this force on a daily basis. Every time you put yourself on the scale, you experience its power. As you walk, play, or throw things, gravity is in place – it’s a real power, and you never win when you come into conflict with it. Like the wind, gravity is unseen but has an important place in your life. . . .

I could go on and on about the effects of the many unseen powers that are around us every day, but I think you get the point.

Pleasure is one of these very significant powers. You can’t see it, but you can realize its impact. What pushes a person to run, swim, eat sweets, shop, or meditate? . . . It’s pleasure that motivates these behaviors. You can’t observe it with your eyes, but its power can be one of the largest influence in your life and in the lives of those you love.

The power of pleasure is at work daily – it’s consistently but invisibly in your life. It drives you at times but can’t be perceived directly. It helps you make both major and minor decisions about how you spend your time, energy, and money. Occasionally, the power of pleasure also dictates your choice of relationships.

You see, your life is like that pinwheel: There’s an invisible wind propelling you. As you continue to read on, your eyes may open to seeing the power of pleasure in your life. You’ll come to look upon it as the unseen driver of your car. You’ll also be able to harness it so that you can lead a life of ongoing enjoyment. You were created for pleasure, just as the pinwheel was created for the wind.

Once you understand and harness your pleasure zones and get them to work for you, your life can be transformed. Imagine a life that’s balanced and takes you from pleasure to pleasure.

Because we don’t understand pleasure, we can often suffer the consequences of not managing its power, which is something one of my clients experienced. Mary was a 42-year-old television producer who was divorced and trying to raise two teenagers in a major city. Her job was very challenging: She met lots of different people every week and talked on the phone for hours a day. In addition, she had to deal with her ex-husband, boyfriend, and children and still try to stay in shape.

When introduced to the pleasure-zone theory, Mary was sure she had a “doughnut and coffee” pleasure zone. Of course, she was half-kidding. Mary really had a private battle with burnout, being angry with her children, and generally feeling fatigued. These are classic symptoms of living outside of one’s pleasure zone.

In talking to Mary, I asked her when she’d felt more balanced and happy in life. Surprisingly, she said that she’d felt this way when she was married. Even though her ex-husband was intolerable and immature, he always used to rub her back for 10 to 30 minutes a night. He’d sometimes massage her deeply and other times scratch or lightly touch her. Regardless, this physical contact deeply recharged her, as her primary sensory-pleasure zone was touch.

Since she’d gotten divorced, the touching had disappeared. She didn’t let her new boyfriend give her a massage because it was too early in the relationship and she didn’t trust him entirely yet. So Mary went over her schedule to see when she had free time. She realized that since she worked late on Thursdays, she didn’t have to go in to work on Fridays until noon. She made a plan to have a deep-tissue massage every Friday morning for six weeks to see if indulging her pleasure zone of deep touch made a difference in her life. She found a very safe, skilled massage therapist, and it didn’t even take Mary the whole six weeks to find her life more in balance and to begin to feel better and more relaxed at work and home. She liked her therapist so much that she made a six-month commitment, agreeing to pay for the services even if she didn’t show up every Friday at 9 A.M.

Mary hadn’t been aware of the need for this pleasure zone in her life. When she was able to see and manage it, life became better for her and for those depending on her.

Why Should You Understand Your Pleasure Zones?
Here’s the question I get asked the most: Why should I understand my pleasure zones, Dr. Doug? Well, I want to address this early on in the book. You’re about to take a journey over the next several pages as we discuss your very important pleasure zones – why should you embark on it? Let’s just talk about a few of the reasons.

Relationships
We’re in relationships with numerous individuals during our lives, including our spouse, parents, neighbors, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and others we see on a semi-regular basis. Now most of us don’t think about our power to make these people’s lives better or worse. Actually, if we’re honest with ourselves, rarely do we even contemplate how we affect them.

Yet we do. Take my clients, for example: They fly from all over the world to come see me and the team of therapists who work beside me. I impact their lives while they’re with me and hopefully long after our meetings. If I’m not living in my pleasure zones, several things can happen:

  • I can get resentful about being at the office.
  • I can look for ways to cut things shorter with my clients than I need to.
  • I can lack focus, which provides a poorer quality of service.
  • My creativity can suffer, limiting solutions for my clients.
  • I can act short with both my clients and my staff.

All of this could leave the emotional environment at my office tense instead of pleasant. Even if you’re smart and aware of pleasure zones, by not applying them, you can negatively affect your relationships.

Apply this notion to your home. If as a parent you’re less aware or focused on your children’s world, you may tolerate their existence instead of celebrating them – doing just another math-homework problem or science project. Also, as a spouse, if you’re outside of your pleasure zones, you’re less fun to be with or talk to.

Because you’re outside your pleasure zones, you can get extremely selfish. You’re less likely to be “part of the team” around the house when there are things that need to be done. You’re more apt to be critical of your partner and focus on what he or she isn’t doing. Most of us who’ve been married for a while know what it’s like when our spouse is outside of their pleasure zone – and it’s usually not good.

Work
Many of us are working day in and day out. When we’re not in our pleasure zone, our job is definitely impacted. Meeting deadlines can seem depressing, instead of challenging and rewarding. Our “good” boss might somehow turn out to be less likable when we’re out of our pleasure zone.

I know one man who was so far outside of it that he actually snapped at his boss and the other people on his team. This not only impacted his work relationships, it also got him fired!

Your ability to creatively communicate and solve problems can get also jammed. Your productivity decreases, which doesn’t help the way you feel about yourself. Although there are many great reasons to embrace your unique pleasure zones, being productive and enjoying your work is a good enough one. I know that when I stay in my zone, I get more book and conference ideas. As I manage the unseen power of pleasure, my productivity goes through the roof. I know when I’m “pleasure zoning” because I’m able to keep things growing positively in my office – it’s great!

Yourself
One of the best reasons to stay in your unique pleasure zone is for your own sake. You have to value and celebrate yourself regularly. You exist in a limited time and space for pleasure. When you abandon yourself and live outside your primary pleasure zones, you are impacted. You feel physically less vibrant and healthy, and you lose some of your perkiness. Emotionally, you’re prone to becoming more pessimistic.

I think to some degree we each innately see the world more positively or negatively. My wife would rate me as a 12 on an optimism scale of 1 to 10. I love life! Problems are challenges that lead to rewards; failure is temporary, if it’s real at all . . . and so on. Yet if I abandon my pleasure zones, my level of optimism drops significantly.

I begin to ask questions: Why bother? Why push so hard? Why not sell everything and live in the mountains? The crazy, pessimistic thoughts begin coming in because I’m living outside of my pleasure zone. My mental sharpness, wit, and humor also are impacted. I generally don’t feel good about myself or my life, relationships, work, family, or projects.

Acceptance
Your pleasure zones are unique to you. I hope that by now you’re at least seeing their power. You’re created for pleasure, and as you realize this, it can change you life.

This excerpt is taken from the book The Power of Pleasure, by Douglas Weiss, Ph.D.. It is published by Hay House (May 2007) and available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com

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