Tough question.

My first thought? Sexual pleasure. The touch of another person, the subtle rising of heat, the delicious release of an orgasm. But wait – this cannot be all. If I go further, pleasure is so much more. 

A hot bath, good music, delicious food, a stimulating conversation, an ecstatic dance, a warm hug, the sun on my face, a winning game, the rush of a new adventure, the comfort of my bed, buying new clothes, dressing up, reading a good book, watching a flower bloom, … I could think of million things more. 

But when I go deeper, I start to see that all those things are just temporary. A short feel-good moment. And I realise that I am chasing these sensations every single day. I am chasing a momentous satisfaction. This cannot be it – there has to be a deeper and longer-lasting state of being. I started to investigate. 

I asked some people close to me what is pleasure for them. Here are some of the answers:

  • “Pleasure is a temporary joy, an explosion of emotions. It’s a process open to further investigation.”
  • “For me, pleasure is a high on emotions which makes you addictive.”
  • “Pleasure is giving me exactly what I need in the moment, and being with people that inspire me.”
  • “Pleasure is doing something that makes ME feel good, not others.”

Which answer resonates most with you?

The word “pleasure” comes from the Old French “plaisir” which means “to please”. What pleases me? How do I act in a way that satisfies me? Interesting – but that sounds a bit selfish to me. Only acting in a way that makes me feel good is not a very holistic approach. Yes, you should come first – but we are social beings that are made to live in community and reciprocity. Give and take – yin and yang. We cannot just consider ourselves, we need to open our field of vision to the people around us and the earth we are walking on. We are living organisms that coexist in our relationships. we nourish each other, not just ourselves. 

Now the other question is: Who do I want to please? Do I buy these new clothes to impress someone else? Do I put on make-up so others think I am beautiful? Do I put on a mask in front of others in order to be liked? Do I hide behind an image or movement in order to belong? When we go to the other extreme of only looking outside, we are also very much lost. We forget ourselves. We live to please – the perfect recipe for unhappiness. 

Pleasure is a great act of balance. 

And way too often, we lose the equilibrium of giving and receiving. 

Marketing with Pleasure

If you didn’t realise this one, then it’s time you do. The whole advertising, movie and consumer industry is built on pleasure. Their ultimate goal is to sell you something, right? And what is the best way to do that? To create a need. A need you didn’t know you had until they present it to you. They brainwash you into thinking that you NEED this product or service to be beautiful, happy, healthy and so on. They make you believe you are MISSING something – and they can fill that hole.

This created need is fuelled and nourished by pleasure. 

When we see something we want, the chase for pleasure is on. We see it, we want it, we get it. And once we have it, we feel a rush of pleasure. But let’s be honest, that shiny new thing only gives us satisfaction for a little while, after a certain time, it becomes part of our inventory – and it becomes normal having it. Then we need another dose of pleasure, and we go and swipe through a new catalogue or page. And this goes on and on and on, all our life. 

We always need something, don’t we?

No, we don’t. That’s what they are making us believe. We have enough. But in the end, we are working to gain money in order to spend it all over again on unnecessary things. Not always, of course. Sometimes we do need to buy certain necessities and it’s absolutely okay to buy some treats once in a while – no one says this is a bad thing. It becomes critical once we use buying as a short-term form of pleasure, covering some kind of emotional pain or boredom. 

And you know which kind of pleasure is used most in the marketing industry? You guessed it, sexual pleasure. Every day we are bombarded with sexual nudity and lust – I call it subliminal porn. Those people know exactly why they are using this kind of pleasure – because it’s the most basic instinct of humankind. We were born to reproduce. Live only exists because of that. In the end, we all came from an act of sexual pleasure. 

That is why it’s such a powerful tool to manipulate us.

It’s All About the Intention

How can we make pleasure last forever? 

To be honest, I am still figuring that one out. I guess all the gurus and coaches would say “be in the moment”. Sounds cheesy, but maybe there is some truth in that. Going back to the simple, the basic. Like breathing. If you focus solely on your breathing, you can emerge yourself in the most simple pleasure in existence – being. You are alive, you know? Isn’t that amazing? 

Sometimes we forget how magical and wondrous the simple fact of breathing really is. I do. All the time. I feel like I am constantly searching for someone or something that can give me pleasure outside. It’s exhausting because the search never stops. You will never be really satisfied. 

There even exist “holistic pleasure coaches”, can you believe it? They say women need to reclaim their worth, rediscover their feminine power and relearn how to give pleasure to themselves. But is pleasure really something we need to learn? Shouldn’t we instinctively give good things to ourselves? 

I don’t think we need someone else to teach us how to experience pleasure, it’s something that’s deep inside of our DNA. We all know how, we just forgot it. And most of the time, we just need to bring the fact into awareness. 

Are you giving pleasure to yourself? Or are you searching for pleasure outside? What or who is it that really brings you pleasure? Maybe you take pleasure in helping others or challenging yourself. But maybe you are using pleasurable activities to run away from your responsibilities or to forget your problems for a little while.

So, is pleasure good or bad?

That depends if you ask me. On what? On the intention. If it’s sheer desire, craving or lust – it might not be good for you. If pleasure is born out of love for yourself, it can be a tool for transformation.

Stoics like Seneca had a pretty interesting view on this topic. They say that “pleasure without virtue is just a hollow trap which enslaves you and makes you dependent.” We need honesty and dignity in order to choose the pleasures we want to enjoy – if not, they can easily do us harm. The stoics thought that whatever action we take, must be fuelled by the intention of improving oneself. 

I strive towards finding pleasure in everything.

And with pleasure, I mean to accept and appreciate everything that comes along your way. To go beyond the short-lived sensation and fleeting moment. Staying in the role of the observer. Achieving equilibrium within. Moving, walking, eating, learning, breathing, crying, creating, failing, loving with pleasure.

And like this, making pleasure last forever.

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