HAPPINESS VS PLEASURE–A MODEL FOR HEALING

A fascinating Buddhist distinction between happiness and pleasure is worth considering.  It may be a powerful tool for changing our behavior in a positive direction–ie healing.

The Dalai Lama in his book THE ART OF HAPPINESS distinguishes between happiness and pleasure. Happiness, in his view, is the purpose of living.  Although I might disagree with his use of the word ‘purpose’ here, it is clearly a universal goal.  The relief of suffering, a universal experience, is understandable.

Pleasure applies to the derive to do whatever ‘feels good’. This may or may not be in our own best interest or that of our fellow living beings. In order to be truly happy, we need to direct our thoughts and actions towards compassionate and loving activities. If we really consider this we will find it to be true.  To help others, to receive even the slightest acknowledgment from them, is a tremendously healing gift for us.  It explains the notion that both healer and healee are healed in any compassionate encounter.

There are those who obtain pleasure in clearly perverse and harmful ways. Child molesters, criminals, drug addicts,  may claim that they are fulfilling their bizarre and pathological ‘needs’ yet there is no way that this can lead to happiness, particularly for those they abuse.

Clearly, when an action is compulsive and uncontrollable, from violence, to smoking or overeating it is not healthy or healing. This cannot possibly be regarded as happiness either.

Many of us sincerely desire to stop one of more compulsive behaviors.  We want to quit smoking, drinking, drugging. We want to lose weight.  Yet the compulsion for the pleasure of the activity seems to defeat our best efforts to not perform them.


So….-the next time that any of us reaches for that next cigarette, the next drink of alcohol, the next shot of illicit drugs, the next cupcake……just stop and think–I am I fulfilling a desire for pleasure?  Will this support my goal for happiness?

We might just stop in our tracks–if we realize that happiness for us will be NOT to continue on this present path….we might very well find the strength to forgo the pleasure. 

This can be a very powerful tool for personal transformation and healing.

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