The Nature of Pleasure

The Nature of Pleasure

I recently read an article that suggested stoke survivors have a decreased ability to experience pleasure. As do those with depression, traumatic injuries, and chronic stress. So it made me wonder about the nature of pleasure.

Nature of Pleasure
Coogee Beach c. 1908 via State Library Victoria

The Cambridge Dictionary, is next to no help on pleasure; it’s

1. enjoyment, happiness, or satisfaction, or something that gives this [feeling].
2. a feeling of enjoyment or satisfaction, or something that produces this feeling

Curiously, when looking for pictures of “pleasure,” most of them related somehow to food, alchohol or sex. With the occasional car or beach holiday thrown in.

And I’m just going to come right out and say you’d be amazed at how many different ways people represented the external parts of the female anatomy!

So I asked myself, do I feel as though my ability to experience pleasure has decreased since the stroke?

And given the stroke was at the height of the Melbourne lockdown, and I was panicking about not being able to speak or read, let alone write, then definitely yes.

Though I could still enjoy:

  • a good cup of tea
  • the smell of sunshine on the bedlinen when I made the bed with sheets fresh off the line
  • the sound of the wind in the trees

And I could still experience the satisfaction of:

  • experiencing hope
  • completing tasks
  • making a difference

And I was happy because:

  • someone was taking care of me
  • I have access to excellent health care
  • the stroke wasn’t worse

So I suppose from that point of view, I could definitely experience pleasure, though not necessarily the BIG kinds of pleasure. Like those beach holidays (Covid outbreak notwithstanding).

But the nature of pleasure noted above, doesn’t seem to distinguish between big and small pleasures. There are no gradations of enjoyment, happiness of satisfaction. You either do, or do not experience them.

Though books, holidays and experiences can (and often are) given star ratings online when we’re trying to quantify them for the benefit of others. But for yourself? How about that cup of tea?

  • enjoyment ★★★☆☆
  • satisfaction ★★★★☆
  • happiness ★★★★★

I don’t think it really works.

But what about BIG pleasures? Eight months on, and I think it’s too early to quantify that. Not to mention that I’d have to work out where on the spectrum BIG pleasure lies, and how would I know it was just enough futher to quality as BIG anyway?

Though as it happens, days are made from hours, and hours are made of minutes, seconds, milliseconds and so on.

And maybe the morning would be excellent, though I know that often by lunchtime I’ve used up my brain capacity for that day. If I wasn’t on my way home for some peace and quiet, and a good cup of tea, then I’d be getting frustrated and annoyed.

So maybe pleasure is a right thing, at the right time, kind of experience.

But thanks to my otherwise lamented English heritage, I know that in goodtimes, and in bad, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, I will always be able to rely on the enjoyment, satisfaction and happiness a good cup of tea can bring.

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