The Secret Power of Pain and Pleasure

What makes you happy?

You might think that’s a relatively easy question to answer.  “A long-weekend, a DVD Box set of HBO’s latest smutfest, a 4 liter tub of Rocky Mudpie Brownie Cluster Chunky Chocolate Fudge Slide, and someone to share it all with!”

Actually, that sounds like a pretty good answer…

However, while that might keep you happy for a short while, in the longer term we need something else… something a bit more general.

And that is progress.

We need to be growing in our lives in order to be happy.  It comes down to this basic, fundamental truth.  If we’re not growing, we’re dying, and that’s never fun.  So progress is vital.

Fine.  If we all know this deep within ourselves – and we all do – then what stops us from continuously growing, and from being perpetually happy?

Well, we have an amazing ability to get in our own way.  We self-sabotage by procrastinating or completely avoiding things we know we should do.


There are multiple reasons, but one of them has to do with the two most powerful forces we deal with in our life:  pain and pleasure.

We spend our whole life working to avoid pain and/or gain pleasure.  This is what drives our behavior at the most basic level.

However, the need to avoid pain is much stronger than the desire for pleasure.

We are hard-wired this way.  This is what helps keep us alive.  We are not masochists.  We are designed to avoid pain – physical or emotional.

So, if we associate more pain to an action than pleasure, we will avoid the pain by avoiding taking the action.

For example, let’s say you want to get in good physical shape.  You associate all kinds of pain and pleasure with the idea of getting fit:

Pleasure: “I’ll be healthy, look good in the mirror, feel more attractive, have more energy…”

Pain: “It’s going to take time and effort to go to the gym or go for a run, it might cost money, it’s going to be physically painful, it might be humbling and humiliating when I see how much I’m out of shape, I’ll have to stop eating Doritos sandwiches for lunch…”

If, in this example, there is MORE pain associated to the idea of getting in shape than there is pleasure, you will avoid the pain, and sit on your butt.

Now, it’s not that simple, of course.  You might muster up the courage and resolve to go for a run a couple of times, or drag yourself to the gym for a week or so…but this usually doesn’t last long.

This is not because you’re ‘lazy’.  There is nothing wrong with you.

It’s important to understand that any pattern of self-sabotage comes out of a positive intent.  It is your subconscious mind trying to protect you and keep you safe.

Your conscious intent to take an action – to go to the gym – is being overridden by your subconscious mind which associates a ton of pain to the activity and wants to help you avoid it.

Which way are you headed?

The Solution

The good news is that we can learn to control the motivating forces of pain and pleasure.

It’s a simple matter of creating NEW associations within the subconscious so that you can use the motivating forces of pain and pleasure to your advantage.

In our example of getting in shape, you would build up the PAIN of not going to the gym and getting healthy so that it far outweighs the pleasure of sitting on your butt.  This pain associated with inaction will then drive you forward.

Pain, pleasure and every other emotion you experience is stored in the subconscious mind.

Hypnosis allows you to find them, experience them and utilize them in a way that empowers your life.

Take a moment and reflect on what you’ve been putting off doing in your life and why.  How fantastic would your life be if you finally took that action?

The power of your subconscious mind is amazing! Perhaps it’s time to let it help you out, instead of holding you back.

Hypnosis, and hypnotherapy, can help you do just that.


Nichols Clinical Hypnotherapy in San Francisco & White Rock


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