Tag Archives: pleasure

Puritans & StocksNow that I have your attention, I will admit it was a very broad and assumptive statement on my part. Many of us may not feel ashamed of pursuing and indulging in the drama, the intrigue and pleasure of sex. But I believe that it is very important for us to first understand where the taboos came from concerning those of us who do have feelings of shame concerning indulging in pleasure and those of us who don’t and what I believe to be the reasons why.

To begin with we must first ask ourselves who were the first settlers of this country? It is generally accepted that it was the Puritans. Puritanism originally took a stand for a purer interpretation of Christian scripture. That is, they opposed the reforms made by the Catholic and Anglican churches of England because they weren’t strict enough in their reforms. Underlying that was the whole of the Puritan movement seeking to replace the personal pride of birth and status with a professional's or craftsman's pride of doing one's best in one's particular calling. As a result of both motivations they emigrated to the Netherlands, Ireland Puritans Prayingand, eventually, New England. Their focus was originally against inadequate religious reforms and unequal birth status up until the 1560s. After the 1590s Puritanism was applied to anyone having overly strict religion and morals. The majority of those who immigrated to New England were the Puritans. As they settled here they set the tone for moral and religious conduct. So our country’s earliest starting point for our perspectives on life and how it was to be lived came from them. One of the reasons that we have such diversity in our beliefs on how to live now is because as a country we eventually became a melting pot allowing other nationalities and religions to integrate into the whole contributing to our current day variations in the religions, morals and life styles of our citizens thereby diluting the moral influence of the Puritans. However, having originally set our moral tone, it had already become ingrained in the foundation of our moral code and actions and is still a very strong, mostly unconscious, compulsion in favor of adapting the behavior that we’re trained into and expected to follow even today. This is probably the ancestor of what we refer to as the “Moral Majority” today. The Puritans did not exclude pleasures such as sex or alcohol from their life styles but had very strict rules about their engagement in them. This mindset has become a very pervasive and conflicting undercurrent which many of us, especially the younger Guy Fawkes Maskgenerations, have difficulty complying with. For the older generations it surfaces as a force utilizing guilt, shame and the need to disguise our natural animal urges. For the younger generations and especially those of other integrated cultures, it is a pillar of antiquated perspectives to be circumvented if not outwardly disregarded or rebelled against. So when I say some of us have been trained into feeling shame and others have not, we can understand how our diversity and melting pot experiences have created such a disparity in the way many of us perceive or even acknowledge morality involved in the way we believe we should be living. The majority of these types of perception have emanated from our own familial history and religious roots. Since US culture emanates mostly from Puritanical roots, Europe, with many more years of history and experience in these matters than us, not to mention having less of an influence from Puritanical traditions, is a lot freer and permissive, if not celebratory, in its expression and pursuit of our natural instincts toward pleasure.

The remnants of our Puritanical background are still present but appear to operate from a much more subdued level, especially in light of the years of progressing social changes we’ve been through since its inception into this country. Our prevalent religions, mostly Christian, still carry on some of the traditions openly while emphasizing humility and self-effacement in deference to others as a component of the religious code but most of them also still struggle with the underlying urges of our innate animal nature for survival and pleasure that remain suppressed through their respective mandates within our unconscious. In dealing with these innate urges it’s probably easier for those of us with no religious leanings or preferences. I feel Puritans & Indiansthis is so because it seems that religion still has the propensity toward denying the animal characteristics we all still share which only tends to compound the intensity of our struggle with them. Because the Native Americans who lived here before us personified the integration and acceptance of these urges into their culture, they were seen by our ancestors as a threat to their ability to deny their existence within us and, therefore, judged as savages and refused membership in our social structure.

So those of us who have families rooted in early American and Puritanical values still carry on, mostly within our unconscious, the struggle between our own personal and animal urges against our intended and desired image of appearing “civilized” and/or “holy” in our social interactions and demeanor. In psychology this has arisen as the separation between our Id and Superego with our Ego bearing the brunt of the culturally required mediation between the two. Hence, we now have developed all sorts of complexes and neuroses to label the different parts of the struggle that each of us may be dealing with at any given moment. We even have medications to subdue their effects so the intensity of the struggle may be minimized if not jammed back into the unconscious where it wreaks havoc from an “undisclosed” or untenable perspective generally surfacing at the most inopportune and unexpected times. In this it becomes the bubble under the wallpaper which refuses to dissipate and simply moves around the pressure in order to avoid its own extinction.

Seduction-2So, now that we’ve looked at how our traditional social structure deals with our animal nature and urges toward pleasure, let’s take a look at pleasure from a personal point of view without the attendant socially required stamp of selfishness and the stigma of applied shame. When we’ve been with someone who really turns us on, we enjoy immensely, have just had sex, had tremendous orgasms together and we’re totally and blissfully spent, do you think we’d feel like getting up and going to work? Of course not. If we’re Smoking Marijuanainto marijuana and we’ve just smoked the cleanest and most potent joint we’ve had in a long time and we’re floating in nature and its music, do you think we’d want to clean our apartments or do our taxes? Of course not. If we’re partying with friends and having the best tasting wine, laughing, joking, playing games, talking about life and we’re loose and relaxed with not a care in the world, do think we’d want to go home, change diapers, mow Alcohol Partythe lawn or fix the faucet? No again. These “hedonistic” activities release us from self-consciousness, worry, fear, tension and anxiety. They allow our innate animal urges to come to the surface. They allow us to indulge in and feel pleasure. Pleasure is the release from pain, stress and daily tension. When we’re feeling this way, does anyone have any effective influence or control over what we do if it countermands the pleasure we’re feeling? How manipulable are we when we’re in a pleasurable state if the activity we’re being pushed into performing interferes with our pleasure? Not much. Right? They why, might we think, that religions and government administrations want to set codes for, laws against and limits on our indulgence in these activities while at the same time inferring that they are immoral, selfish, ungodly, immature, unpatriotic and evil while encouraging our parents to emphasize this in our early training? When we’re comfortable and relaxed we are virtually uncontrollable and unmotivated by others. Then we only listen to our own motivations and urges. Pleasure and creativity are our main foci. The admonition against us, usually being very subtle and often unspoken, comes out as “Shame on you for not thinking about your brothers and sisters before your own interests.”

Psychiatrist-Patient-CouchThe current in our culture has been progressing toward an almost unspoken and innate mandate for our having more and more of a responsibility for, not only the welfare of others, but how they choose to feel about how our actions affect them. This is often reflected in the growing irrational claims the someone has done or said something in their purview that has offended them. This only serves to emotionally confirm our early training that we are responsible for someone else’s feeling. In the balance between our being responsible to ourselves and accountable to the world, this has pushed the pendulum way far to the right in emphasizing the welfare and feelings of others over our own. This tilts the pursuit and indulging in our own pleasure much further into the domain of guilt, shame and embarrassment.

So now our pursuit of pleasure for someone coming from a traditional background is, on the surface, perceived and often felt as an aberration and/or an inadequacy that needs to be dealt with within ourselves when it is actually an externally generated social coercion in the form of Sinsocial blackmail. Yet, when we are alone and not in a social setting, we generally accept, enjoy and indulge in pleasure and its pursuit but always with and underlying feeling that we’re doing something that is not permissible and that classifies us as a less than an admirable or “godly” person. This is probably the original impetus for religion to call this type of activity a “sin.” I see it as an anachronistic trained mindset designed to evoke obedience. What is so sad is that with that morally social “assignment” its effect subliminally and emphatically encourages self-doubt and a diminished sense of self-confidence sabotaging our creative and joyful pursuits.

So many of us have been and still are raised in this country feeling ashamed of ourselves, and I don’t mean just our body and its basic needs and urges, but even our clothing has become just one more way for us to hide our trained and enforced perception that our natural desires and urges are to be viewed as inadequacies needing to be hidden from ourselves and others. For those of us with a traditional and religious training and upbringing it brings a paranoia pervasive within and generated by religion about acknowledging, viewing, respecting and beautifying our natural selves as evidence of excessive pride and something to be avoided at all Adam & Eve Ashamedcost lest we be labeled as Hedonistic, selfish, immoral, and then “excommunicated” from the civilized group of our neighbors. Even the bible tells us that Adam and Eve were ashamed when they saw themselves. THIS is the main reason why sex and pursuing pleasure is still such a problem in today’s US culture. The advertising agencies and our government know this and use it to the hilt. With their “aid” we receive an exacerbation of feelings of guilt and in front of our children, we are encouraged to hide how we relate to sex and pleasure while we continue to train them into our neurosis about it. It's an emotionally hurtful traditional that needs to be abandoned if we are to grow in emotional maturity and integrate our natural condition with our spiritual aspirations and awareness as balanced humans.

Temptation-1We’ve all said or thought this to ourselves at some point in our lives. For some of us this is spoken every day. For some of us it’s rarely acknowledged. For those of us who feel it often, we feel and acknowledge our own frailties in handling life and being in a challenging world. For others of us who can’t acknowledge this within ourselves, our perceived control over our lives becomes the deciding factor. Inclusive of whatever approach or combination of them we choose to recognize, we all face the physical, emotional and mental realities of the tremendous chasm that exists between what we perceive as pain and what we perceive as pleasure. Regardless of the romanticism we attach to either, the difference existing between the two is not as philosophical or spiritual as we might think. Its roots are firmly planted in the perceptions we feel in our physical senses and we always tend to react in ways that show themselves through what we do to our physical bodies and the perspectives and attitudes we take in handling them.

Pain & Pleasure-1Pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin. This is well known and accepted as part of conventional wisdom in just about every culture and is used as fodder for every assumption and determination in constructing our beliefs concerning why we are here and what paths we must take in order to minimize our pain and heighten our pleasure. When we think of pleasure, we define it as something we’d like to move toward. When we think of pain, we define it as something we would prefer to escape. Both pain and pleasure are irrevocably interwoven into our presence in the physical world. They are born of the separation between what we want and what we don’t want. The necessity of our having to navigate between these two is inescapable until we leave these bodies. The best we can do, while we’re here, is to minimize the chasm between the pleasure of having what we want and the pain of not. The next question that might come to our minds would be was there ever a time when they didn’t exist? My answer would be yes. It was before we came into these physical bodies. For those of us who have, at the least, a sense that we are more than who we appear to be in this world, this will be easy to swallow and move on with. For those of us who believe that when we die there is nothing more, this will seem foolish and unfounded and remind us of the terror we’ll face in dying. I obviously ascribe to the first perspective.

in-utero-babyIt is my belief that before we came into these bodies, and even in utero before we took our first breath, that there was no pain or pleasure. There was no separation from or division of what we felt. There was no absence of food. There was no absence of warmth. There was no absence of nurturance. There was no absence of comfort. We floated in an ocean of feeling with other beings all moving together in waves of communal feelings. What one of us felt, all others felt. There was no perceived separation. If we think of this state in religious terms, we might call it Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana. There was no knowledge or perception of good and evil. There was no separation. When we are born we are, essentially, “ejected” from Paradise. There is quite a bit of debate in metaphysical circles as to whether this is our choice or whether some force or authority “makes” this happen. Regardless of which Heaven-1perspective is “right,” when it occurs a tremendous separation occurs. We now perceive a separation between our having and not having food, warmth, nurturance, comfort and all the qualities that were one before we emerged. This separation is our first encounter with pain. This is our first perception of the polarized world; the difference between the pleasure of being unified before we’re born and pain of separation after. This is our first bite from the tree of knowledge. Everything in our new existence is now perceived in terms of opposites. This pain of division and separation make an indelible impression on our psyches. It sets up a field of energetic movement that creates the beginnings of our mind. This Nirvana-1state is unfathomable by our adult minds as it is non-verbal and, as yet, is without language for us to describe. The urge to return to Paradise, Nirvana, Heaven, is now our primary urge within the new field of separation. It underlies every other urge we, as adults, might feel or describe throughout the rest of our lives. It is all powerful, all consuming and all knowing. Sound familiar? As we grow to accumulate language, our mental faculties and the loud and intense presence of the physical world through our senses, our attention to the physical world overwhelms and buries our Paradise-1primary urge deep within our subconscious. As we grow older our awareness of this urge may exists well beneath our awareness but its effect remains at the root of every urge we feel toward pleasure and away from pain. Its main connection and activating influence now registers almost solely through our physical senses. Knowing this we can now understand the urges we feel in our daily, mundane encounters with differing life circumstances and perspectives. Our primary urge, still unrecognizable, now registers easily and simply through our senses and within our mind and our need to rationalize and plan our physical and emotionally triggered actions. My explanation may have taken the long way around but I think it was necessary to have a clear foundation and understanding of what we’re dealing with. Let’s take a look at its many faces and how it presents itself as an available avenue for relief in our daily lives.

cornucopia-1Food: In all these faces there are many ways, including our primary urge that they may present. Food is no exception. Purely from a physical point of view we can be hungry. That hunger can simply be an urge to literally refill an empty stomach and/or to supply missing nutrients. In addition to simply feeling hungry our body, very specifically, can create urges for specific foods that it knows will supply missing nutrients. For example, if our body is low on iron we may feel an urge for either spinach, raisins or perhaps eggplant, all of which contain helpful amounts of iron. Additionally, if we have become sugar or flour junkies, our body will have produced an inordinate amount of yeast through which the body will also sense and put out an urge to consume cakes, bread and sweets to replenish the sugar and feed the yeast. Further submerged and mixed in with these urges there may also come an additional urge for “comfort food.” We can translate that into eating in order to feel “full,” loved and secure. I believe that this is only one of the causes underlying our current epidemic of obesity in addition to many others including the availability of fat producing and nutritionally inferior fast and processed foods. I also feel that eating to feel loved is also one of the detrimental consequences of our contemporarily dissolving family structure leaving more of us feeling disconnected and separated from our loved ones than we have ever been or felt before. Filling ourselves with comfort food has become a method serving to mitigate or minimize our feelings of loneliness or disconnect from those whom we want to feel close to. This aspect of pain through lack resonates all the way down to our primal desire to return to the time when we had feelings of warmth and nurturance before we were born.

sex-1Sex: The urge toward having sex is a much less disguised urge than food. For most of us it is a tension or separation eliminator described as a pleasure experience. Of course we have many mental and emotional rationalizations for experiencing and following the urge. In attaching ceremony, romanticism and an unbelievably large list of contingencies to the act as we do, we do our best to color and euphemize, if not obscure, our raw and base animal physical urges. Essentially, we each often allow ourselves to follow through on the urge but only within and through our personally generated list of required contingencies. These are different for everyone, however, the nature of the primary urge remains the same: to return to a feeling where there was no separation, no pain and no feeling of lack, aka, total union with our partner (mother, universe, etc.). We feel this the most poignantly at the point of orgasm. The degree of the orgasm we experience is relative to the degree with which we have been able to totally disengage from everything else in our physical and emotional world except for the present moment with our partner. Our partner, or whatever fantasy we fixate on, is the avenue or doorway to that reunion. Orgasm is the closest we can come to the death experience while remaining within our physical bodies with the exception of a sneeze which is a much shorter and less intense experience. It is almost the total but temporary dropping of resistance we can do while inhabiting a body. The only thing closer to death is an NDE or near death experience during which, while remaining aware, we reside outside the body for a short period of time.

Sleep-1Sleep: When we sleep naturally and deeply we are able to return to that place where there is no separation. The reunion gives us a recharge in energy. We can know that we have temporarily and totally dropped the resistance and feelings of separation accumulated in the body when we wake up refreshed and energized. In normal sleep we are able to bridge the gap and reconnect our “separated parts” and revisit “heaven” if you will. When we haven’t, we may reawaken tired and only partially renewed or, if we’ve had a rough night, even more tired and worn than when we laid down. Normally, at the end of sleep and when we begin to re-inhabit our body, we pass through an in-between state where we will find ourselves dreaming. Here we begin to recollect some of the resistances and separations we use to identify ourselves in our physical waking world. I find it interesting that as infants we spend an inordinate amount of time sleeping as if to gradually immerse ourselves into the harsh world of the physical and when we are close to death we also begin to spend more time in sleep as if to prepare for our transition back to our pre-birth union. Essentially, natural sleep is a reunion with our “larger” selves. We can compare it to a weekly staff meeting where we assess the week’s events and plan the week to come.

Creative Abandon-1Creative Abandon: When was the last time you got so involved with a project or endeavor that time and the world around you seemed to totally stand still or even disappear and nothing existed but you and what you were focusing on? This is a partial reunion with that non-separate or larger self. When we create in this way there is no separation between what we see, feel, know and our vision of our completed project or endeavor. We feel totally aligned with our unified endeavor but are still able to “impartially” utilize the worldly polarities in its construction. In this way any artistic endeavor can become a natural vehicle for identifying and aligning with that unified part of ourselves. It could be music, painting, sculpting, writing, theorizing or any other activity that lends itself to creative activities. It’s interesting that the etiology of the word recreation is actually re + creation: that is, enabling the return of our unfettered and stressless pre-birth state.

Cocain-1Drugs: Any artificial substance that can reduce or alter our physical or mental sense acuities and their ability to register our feelings of pain, pleasure and separation can be considered a drug. In this classification of artificial substances, we can also include alcohol, nicotine, hallucinogens and even our relationship with food, especially, since many of our foods are becoming more and more artificial. Many of these substances are used simply to alter our perspective and awareness of our world, first for comfort and enjoyment, but then, as the substance becomes interlaced with our metabolism, it becomes a deadly coercion and necessity simply to exist and function. As a side note: there has been tremendous dispute over the definition of what we consider to be an addiction. My perception is that compulsions and addictions are both in a continuum relating to urges and needs but where the addiction interferes with our normal functioning and survival and where a compulsion is simply a diversion that encompasses a large amount of our time and effort without interfering with our daily function. My definitions may be simplistic but are designed to bring the clarity of understanding and comprehension.

Bible-1Religion: Within our worldly cultures many systems of thought have arisen attempting to explain our place in the world with a measure of its perceived structure focused on our effectiveness and responsibilities for the life situations we find ourselves in. The people who construct these systems, through prior internal work and questioning, have come to a comprehension of the pre-birth state that we have emerged from and have attempted to describe it in terms of being originally directed or created by an external being or deity who has a specific intention or plan that is unknown to us. This has the effect of relieving us of our responsibility for dealing with our worldly situations and leaves our circumstance, essentially, in the hands of this deity partially disconnecting and relieving us of our worldly tensions and giving us the perception of moving closer to our pre-birth state through prayer and worship of the attending deity. Like any other substance or circumstance, it is effective is assisting us in dropping some of the stresses and tensions of residing in our polarized physical existence. Additionally, like the prior methods described, it too can become a compulsion or addiction connected to the relief of the pain of division and separation from our primary pre-birth state overshadowing the control and effectiveness we have through choosing and being accountable for our life circumstances.

Life after death tunnel-1Death: When we disconnect from our bodies we return to the pre-birth state effectively eliminating the tensions and polarities inherent in living in the physical polarized world. Like those of religion who might have sensed or recognized the pre-birth state we have emerged from, and with the pain of division and separation having arisen to an intolerable intensity, suicide becomes an option for relief. I find it interesting and sad that it is considered illegal and immoral by many cultures to assist anyone who is attempting to relieve themselves of their overwhelming pain and separation in the lives they have found themselves in through suicide. Perhaps we have allowed the laws of our man-made religions superseding our instincts and urges to have too much say in our personal choices and needs.

My theory of where we have emerged from to inhabit these bodies is based on my own experience and contemplation resulting in my chosen belief system. I, alone, am responsible for my own choices. Inevitably, we must all choose for ourselves what to believe and how to conduct our lives. It’s important to know that we have the final say in our decisions and chosen actions. Yet, wherever we go or return to after we leave these bodies, who can say? But I do know that our beliefs are our own choice based on each of our own personal experiences. The truth is, I can help myself. So can you. Like an all-night bender, we can drown out our perception of this reality…but only for a while.