The Difference Between Pleasure and Joy

If you ask someone if they know the difference between pleasure and joy, they will most likely cite the correct definitions of both. However, while we can define it easily, are we conscious of the difference when we make choices on a daily basis?

Pleasure is fleeting. You experience pleasure when you have something – whether that be a person, a decadent dessert, the excitement of a new purchase, but when you don’t have it, you feel it’s  opposite – pain. Have you ever been in an unhealthy relationship where you feel pangs of pleasure when are together or share intimacy, but the minute he/she is not there or you no longer share those experiences you feel immense pain? Versus, have you ever truly, and sincerely loved someone and feel joy whether you are with them or not? You embrace the moments that have been shared, and that constant joy and love cannot be injured.

I’ve definitely experienced both and recently, a wise man told me the words “Move through life fearlessly. Who you are cannot be injured.” While I’ve always had a pretty positive outlook on life, these words were very inspiring. I’ve built some major defense mechanisms and walls to protect my ego and heart, to avoid pain or the chance of disappointment. But I have realized that while I may fall from time to time, I always get back up because at my very core, I have joy and love…and no person, no hardship and no external factor can take that away. Of course, I haven’t always been like that, and there are and will be many times where I’ll feed my insatiable appetite for pleasure… nothing wrong with that. But, I think it’s important we understand the pain – pleasure dichotomy as it will shape our lives.

We live in a consumer society where upgrading and the mentality of “out with the old and in with the new” prevails. There is always something bigger and better, the grass is always greener on the other side and suddenly, an IPOD that holds 10,000 songs seems primitive. Many of us lack joy, which is why we find as many ways as we can to fill the gap with rushes of pleasure. Below is a thought evoking excerpt from the world teacher, Jiddhu Krishnamurti:

“It is the struggle to repeat and perpetuate pleasure which turns it into pain. The very demand for the repetition of pleasure brings about pain, because it is not the same, as it was yesterday. You struggle to achieve the same delight…and you are hurt and disappointed if it denied to you. Have you observed what happens to you when you are denied a little pleasure? When you don’t get what you want you become anxious, envious, even hateful. Have you noticed when you have been denied the pleasure of drinking or smoking or sex or whatever it is – have you noticed what battles you go through?” (Krishnamurti, Jiddhu. Freedom From the Known. Chapter 4).

I’ll reference back to relationships, because I have a lot of female friends who are at points in their lives when they are sticking to the same patterns with men or about to make pivotal changes in the direction of their relationships. When deciding to pursue a relationship, or stay in a one, is that decision based on getting instant gratification, soothing a deeper issue of attachment or insecurity? It is a decision that will feed your appetite for pleasure and consequently its shadow, pain?

Can you experience something, whether that be the beauty of a sunset, an experience with someone you truly love, the magic sensation of a new taste or a perfect melody…and look at it without thirsting for the experience to be repeated?

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