An ode to hedonism? What?!? That might seem like an unusual posting coming from a therapist, particularly in a field which usually pathologizes behavior we might consider to be too extreme. Too commonly, when we think of the word “hedonism,” we conjure up images more akin to a similar, yet different word, “debauchery,” symbolic of sexual, alcoholic, or drug excess. In other words, being out of control, unbalanced, and again, just too extreme. But when you look at the dictionary definition for hedonism, the first thing that comes up is simply, “the pursuit of pleasure,” and with no further commentary on how unbalanced or extreme that pleasure is experienced.
It is this more pure definition of hedonism, as simply meaning “pleasure” that I would now like to focus on, because far often than not, unhappiness, depression, anxiety, and sexual difficulties are more correlated with too little pleasure, rather than too much. For, far too often, when we are stuck on a negative cycle, we lose all perspective and only notice the negative. The things that trouble us, that worry us, that cause us pain and anxiety. And that negative cycle continues unabated in part precisely because we lose sight of the other areas of life that bring us pleasure.
Look at it this way. Imagine a magnet, it has two poles, one negative, the other positive. That negative pole symbolizes all the things that cause us pain. These are the things we seek to avoid. The positive pole on the other hand symbolizes all that which provides us pleasure, these are the things that we strive […]