Pleasure Vs. Pain

Question: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Just one. But it takes an awful long time and the bulb must be willing to change.

We are all capable of change, each and everyone of us. It doesn’t matter if you are an alcoholic, womanizer, smoker or gangster. Each of us can change and become transformed from the inside-out… if we want to. The challenge however is that most times we don’t want to on an emotional level. Intellectually everyone knows that over-eating, smoking, fornication (fill in your obsession here) is wrong but still we indulge in it. So why do we do these things?

Well frankly because we have come to link pleasure to this type of behaviour. Our subconscious mind is constantly seeking ways to move away from pain and move towards pleasure. Of course what constitutes pain for one individual may be pleasure to another, it all depends on what we want. So running an 8km stretch for 2 hours each day may be pleasurable for a gymnast or Olympian but is regarded as the ultimate punishment for a 140kg lady who MUST lose weight due to medical reasons.

Therefore to change any behaviour, first it is important to understand what led to the behaviour. A smoker might do so because of the feeling of acceptance he derives when hanging out with his peers. An overweight lady may do so due to the comfort and pleasure eating high-sugar based junk food like chocolate, cakes, fudgies and ice-cream gives her. A gangster may terrorize a neighbourhood in order to feel a sense of power and control over life and death. Ultimately, what seems completely irrational to others may make perfect sense to us as we gradually become emotionally connected with such habit. We’re hardly logical in our behaviours, as most of our daily habits are derived from our emotional response of what constitutes pain or pleasure.

So to change human behaviour, we first must seek a replacement for the value being derived from the present behaviour. If eating makes you happy, what is a viable replacement that would give you the same pleasurable feeling?

Then link your current behaviour with massive pain. An overweight person might ask himself, what will I lose if I keep up this behaviour? How will this affect my love life? My self esteem? My job? My health? When you use these type of questions to elicit the loss and it can far outweigh the gains, then you’ve gained massive leverage that can then be used to successfully effect a behaviour change.

Again, it is worth mentioning that this kind of pressure cannot be done without the willingness of the subject to desire change in the first place. Given enough reasons to change and linked with sufficient pain, anyone can change.

The reason we don’t put our fingers in electrical sockets or on a hot stove is due to the pain we might have once experienced with electrical shock or a burn. So we don’t repeat the behaviour. In a similar way, we can trick our minds into linking pain to any behaviour we wish to change within ourselves by asking tougher questions and increasing our standards.

We each can condition ourselves for success. So stop waiting for change to come at a future undetermined, unspecified date like the indefinite break Tiger Woods has taken from golf, and cause change to happen today by focusing on what you want by linking pleasure to it, and attaching pain on what you MUST avoid.

‎This same principle can be applied to humans, Lagosians obey traffic laws due to the pain of LASTMA’s massive fines. We can always find ways to adopt new behaviours, when given enough reasons to do so!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic.

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