Rediscovering Pleasure

I can’t decide if it is the way my brain is wired or if it is just the way of the world to identify the bad in something. If something isn’t right, we pick up on what has gone wrong first and then later start to unpick the good.

I feel this way when leaving a film or a play. Upon leaving, I complain about the seat, lack of leg room or the annoying person sat behind me. It’s not until I get in the car or a bar that I think about what I liked about the show or film.

Think about the news – are good stories ever reported? We seem drawn to the pain in life. Do we really think that if we surround ourselves with negativity then that will, somehow, make us feel better? Or does it make our life’s sweeter somehow?

I am fascinated by the reality show-ness that consumes how we live our lives. We all need to overcome something – myself included. We choose to see our lives as riddled with pain and obstacles and this magnifies our achievements.

Recently, I emailed a charity in response to hearing from people living who had overcome mental health illnesses. I didn’t hear back. I can imagine the people at the other end of the screen deciding whose story sounded worse in order make them sound better. I regret emailing them, not because I wasn’t successful, but because someone was judging the health of other people for audience appeal in the name of charity and removing stigma. Others like me would feel left out, like our story didn’t matter – unheard again. Maybe a subconscious response was to start this blog. I digress.

The main point is that I feel that many of us naturally look to the pain we feel first rather than the pleasure. I am perhaps the worst culprit. When people ask at a dinner party – ha ha – whether I am glass half full or half empty type person, I, first, have to resist punching them before answering that my glass is totally empty and smashed against the wall. I get the tilted head confused looked before they move on.

Thinking about the potential ‘pain’ of a situation means that we reason logically before deciding to do something. It minimises risk. It is safe, which is perhaps why so many of us do it.

So, identifying the things that bring a lasting pleasure has been difficult to do. Much harder, and yet much simpler than I realised. Trying to cut through the streams of negative thinking that brings up what ‘pain’ or discomfort can bring is a challenge.

There is much of the Polonius in this:

To thine own self be true. Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3

or the Roman maxim

Nosce Te Ipsum – Know Thyself

Whilst writing this blog, and thinking about how we understand ourselves better to improve our mental well being,  the idea of having a detailed insight about how you, as an individual, functions is vital. To be able to strip away external factors and take the time to focus on what is important to you is a vital step in personal recovery.

If you constantly fight demons of what others say you should do or societal pressures on to how to act, personal recovery will always be out of reach. Obviously, don’t go justifying that a crime spree is part of you recovery as there are still functional rules and laws to go by but there different ways to live your life.

One big bugbear of mine at the moment is the idea of career. Because I went to a good school and university, I feel I am expected to be in an established career. And in a way I am. However I am unwell. My health prohibits me from doing this. But I still feel the expectation but I place that expectation there. I believe it. It is a mental pain that I feel.

But I am slowly trying to see the good in not being in a ‘career’ at the moment. I spend more time with my children. I can write (should I choose to). I walk the dog. I go running. I make bread.

Life is actually quite simple. We can put the barriers in place that actually prevent us from living a good life. Sometimes it’s when things don’t go as we expect them that we can start truly finding out what’s important.

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