I’ve been rolling the word around in my head recently because, for me, the meaning is quite slippery. The author and coach Robert Holden differentiates pleasure from true happiness. Happiness, he describes as being innately within us, and part of the ‘unconditioned self’. This is the version of us that existed before guilt, shame, fear and limiting beliefs got piled on top – and it’s a version we can return to in order to experience joy and bliss on a fundamental level.
On the other hand, pleasure, Robert explains, needs something external to us to create it. Which means if the source of pleasure goes away, so does the pleasure.
Those who talk about pleasure negatively also raise the problem of being constantly in pursuit of pleasure – of creating some rapacious life that hunts down fleeting, shallow, excessive or thoughtless moments of personal or hedonistic gratification.
Pleasure is essentially of the senses. It’s for the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth, the feel of things - and whether it comes from music, the taste of your favourite meal, a stunning view or the smell of your partner’s aftershave or perfume, it’s about physical experiences. It’s about being in the body. And that can be a great thing.
When pleasure is genuinely in service to ourselves and others – when it has a conscience – it can be like opening the window to let the sunshine into our lives. And from there, our experiences can become more expansive.
When you feel good, how much more becomes possible? If you’re feeling down, how helpful would it be to know how to care for yourself in a way that brings pleasure back into your life without needing anyone else to be there? And that could mean doing something a simple as having a hot shower, getting stuck into a good film or book or going for a walk.
I also believe that the more you’re topped up with the good stuff in life, the more you have to give to others. When you’ve had a great day, you glow, you laugh more easily, you forgive more quickly and problems are like water off a ducks back. Chances are, other people light up around you too. The great thing about pleasure is it can be shared, which is a fantastic way to connect with others, as well as support, encourage and inspire them.
And what creates the depth of the pleasure you feel is entirely subjective. There’s no hierarchy in the many sources of pleasure that exist in the world. The greatest pleasure you feel may come from playing with your children or reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, handing in an important piece of work an hour early or making love. Or all or none of the above.
The only thing that impacts on how much pleasure you feel is simply how deeply you can let yourself fall into the moment and be there fully. How much pleasure can you allow yourself? Do you give yourself permission to feel that good?
Take some time to make a list of all the things that give you pleasure in life – and then ask yourself when was the last time you did them or allowed them to happen.
How many of them could you include today, this week, this month? And then let them in. And see what happens.