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Pain and Pleasure: Life’s Incentives

NaNoWriMo – But Not Only | November 2011, Day 7

This post is inspired by Elizabeth’s Mirth and Motivation article “Musings: The Road To Forgiveness…

“What do you prefer: pain or pleasure?”

If this were a survey question, my guess is that most people would choose “pleasure” – or laugh at the silly question. Who in their right mind would want to choose pain?

But how many times a day, a week, a year, during our life, are we doing exactly that?

Sure do we have a right to feel hurt, upset, insulted, humiliated, cheated on, missing out. We need to experience illness, loss, grievance, sorrow, fear, anger, disgust. These emotions make up an important part of our growth process as they help us develop kindness, tolerance, compassion and understanding – towards and of others and ourselves.

Yet, how often do we choose to let our emotions go and move on…and test what we’ve learned, in practice? Isn’t it more like we insist on our pains, nourish them by repeating (at least in our minds) painful incidents over and over again? How often do we pass our own unhappiness on to others, think of revenge, or deal out disguised digs?

Those fleeting moments of triumph or temporary tension relief have our egoic Me-Selves believe we’re doing the right thing, but, honestly, does this strategy make us happier?

How about experiencing AND overcoming them, and – by finding our own individual solutions – contributing alternative ways of handling problems to the Pool, knitting the network of community?

Pain: The stick for our donkey

Conflict causes pain – and pain causes us to move.

If conflict didn’t cause some major or minor emotional, mental or physical pain to Me-Self, what would actually make us look for alternatives, for solutions to our problems?

As long as we hurt we find it difficult to focus on our desires, to define what it is we want, but we certainly do our best to get away from the pain, to stop it.

The Allegorical Portrait of Elizabeth I with Old Father Time at her right. Death is looking over her left shoulder while two Cherubs remove her weighty crown. so she became princess but not queen

The Allegorical Portrait of Elizabeth I with Old Father Time at her right. Death is looking over her left shoulder while two Cherubs remove her weighty crown. so she became princess but not queen (Image and caption via wikipedia)

The donkey’s carrot: Pleasure

Great pleasure can be derived from hurting others, paying back and paying forward the pain we have received. Addiction to this puny feeling of triumph (and the illusion of power and control that comes with it) is what turns little bullies into big bullies, makes them join up with their likes, and attracts others who crave a dose of this wonderdrug.

On the positive end of the pleasure spectrum there is warmth, a comfortable chair, a good meal, a chocolate bar, a new pair of shoes we don’t really need, a hot cup of tea after a brisk walk in the rain, a good conversation or a fun night out with friends, to enjoy what we are doing,…

…and we think we are happy. Well, we might be, occasionally, but pleasure is not happiness, only a temporary reward. Seeking pleasure does not solve our problems, it only indicates the choices we made.

Dukkha and Happiness

Whatever is felt is within suffering.
Gautama Buddha

The First Noble Truth often is translated as “Life is suffering.” Many people new to Buddhism tune out as soon as they hear this. But the Pali word dukkha also refers to anything that is temporary, conditional, or compounded of other things. Even something precious and enjoyable is dukkha, because it will end.
Barbara O’Brien

Happiness is “non-dukkha“: overcoming, lasting, independent, unifying – the ultimate reward for detaching from Me-Self and its notions, and returning to our true I-Self  🙂

Pain & Pleasure & Writing

I’ll skip the pains and pleasures OF writing – you sure have figured them out for yourselves. 😉

But there’s another writing aspect, one where your experience of pain and pleasure comes in handy: Moving the story forward by exposing your characters to pain and pleasure. Without problems and obstacles, fears and rewards, where would there be conflict, choice and change?

Here some ideas – and great unstuckifiers, especially in the loooong middle part – on how to make your characters suffer…and grow:

  • give your characters superficial desires to lead them astray
  • not only the villains cause problems – let your characters make the wrong decisions, and have them deal with the consequences
  • when your characters begin to struggle harder, let them dig an even deeper hole for themselves
  • to make things worse, let them – despite their best intentions – drag others with them, and feel the guilt

The problems don’t need to be giant: A long series of wrong moves has a great cringe factor 😉

You are looking for biggies, though? Use your writer’s imagination to exaggerate: A cranky kitten turns into an angry tiger – dirty socks on the floor become an ongoing struggle worthy of Sisyphus – the weeds and slugs in your garden are the jungle in which your MC gets lost – too much chocolate makes your MC dangerously complacent,…

Hey, that’s life! Detach and keep smiling the Inner Smile 😉

Maria

My word count Day 6: blog: 884 – novel: 1250 (5 pages)

Btw: You can still join the Writing Buddies 🙂 – and it’s not too late to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2011, either 😉

Easy access to all posts this month via a new menu category: Specials >> November 2011: NaNoWriMo – But Not Only.

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2 thoughts on “Pain and Pleasure: Life’s Incentives”

  1. Thanks for the shout-out Maria. This is a thought provoking post and highly informative on the subject of pleasure and pain…. 😉
    Things have been quite hectic of late so I’m slowly catching up.
    E

    1. Here, too – not really hectic but very busy and full of time-consuming surprises… This weekend I’ll be able to make some time – not enough to catch up 😕 but at least to have my MC to begin digging her hole 😉
      Take care, and take the time to catch up on yourself, too 🙂

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