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Pleasure Minus Pressure


Once more a similar issue keeps cropping up in sessions, which got me thinking about a sticking point in growing and healing. This time it was how little pleasure many dysregulated eaters have in their lives, while exhibiting a seemingly infinite capacity for pressuring themselves. Here’s what I mean.

We all have activities or chores we’d like to get done today, tomorrow or this week. We have formal and informal deadlines and requests and demands that others rightfully make of us. Mostly, if we want to get paid, work is required. If we have children, they come with the need to be taken care of. It’s natural to feel mild pressure about getting things done. Pressure gets us up and moving.

However, if we never stop feeling pressure—because there will always be more to do—it will drive us mad. Those relentless “gotta do, gotta do” thoughts can ruin our lives if we’re not careful because they cut into the need for pleasure, which includes peace of mind. When we have peace of mind, all is, at least temporarily, well with us and the world. There’s nowhere we’d rather be than where we are and no one we’d rather be than who we are. 

Pleasure isn’t necessarily the absence of pressure, but the suspension of belief that it exists for now. When we’re focused on and absorbed in pleasure, the world and our cares and woes melt away. When we’re absorbed in joy, whatever we’re doing—sewing, cooking, reading, watching TV, playing online chess, painting, practicing our jump shot, bike riding, or playing the flute—is all that matters. We are one with it. 

This kind of pleasure is crucial for dysregulated eaters who seek an off-line state of mind in food. The problem is that engaging in pleasure plagues them with guilt and the pressure to do something other than whatever is delighting them in the moment too often wins. Guilt is often rooted in our childhoods when our time wasn’t our own and now we’re habituated to feeling discomfort when we try to play or have fun. Pressure coming at us from one angle and guilt from another are both pleasure destroyers. 

The only way to have the pleasure you want and deserve is to ignore feelings of guilt and pressure and continue having whatever grand old time you’re having whether it’s reading in the garden, listening to Mozart or Beyonce, bike riding, mountain climbing, dancing or writing a romance novel. When you feel sated with pleasure, you’ll be surprised how energized you’ll be and how ready to take on the world. You may even look forward to tackling your to-do list.