Opinion | Pleasure misguides those seeking satisfaction
May 4, 2021
Feeling good is bad. In a society so enslaved by the pleasure principle, we have been conditioned to hedonism. We seek what is most gratifying at the moment and often throw caution to the wind. While this seems liberating on its face, true liberation arrives not from being dragged along by dopamine, but by casting off the chains of this lifestyle altogether.
As the citizens of the developed world grow increasingly alienated, a sense of ennui and dysphoria has set in.
When the world itself is topsy turvy, it becomes impossible to orient oneself. More than this, the idea of radical individualism is being carried to its logical extreme, making it impossible to gauge the position and feelings of others.
While the rights and feelings of the individual bear great importance, a society composed of seven billion rugged individuals is an immensely lonesome society indeed.
With this in mind, it is pertinent to call back to the aforementioned pleasure principle. The late philosopher Mark Fisher writes “Depression is usually characterized as a state of anhedonia, but the condition I’m referring to is constituted not by an inability to get pleasure so much as it is by an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure.”
Fisher, furthermore, asserts, “There is a sense that ‘something is missing’ – but no appreciation that this mysterious, missing enjoyment can only be accessed beyond the pleasure principle.”
While Fisher was specifically writing about teenagers in the United Kingdom, this observation is quite applicable across most of the developed world. When life begins to give way to monotony, it becomes no life at all. Existing in a limbo-like state of undeath, always chasing the next dopamine fix, it becomes easy to ask the question “is this all there is?”
This zombification is the result of many factors, but it leads to the same end: a society that shambles aimlessly hoping to find the next pleasant distraction.
This is why I pose that sometimes, it is good to feel bad. Discomfort and displeasure can be grounding experiences: To live is to experience the good and the bad together and become greater for it.
When our first instinct at any sign of pain is to flee in terror, we become numb to pleasure, and it becomes no pleasure at all. Life should not be viewed as a buffet of cheap indulgences to gorge oneself on, but a broad palette of experiences to be felt at different phases.
As pleasure ceases to be an enjoyable sensation and instead becomes an obligation, the feeling itself becomes a form of control. To be a slave to base instincts is no freedom. For this reason, feeling good can be a bad thing, as can feeling bad be good.
With this in mind, it is important to occasionally be exposed to pain, discomfort, fear and suffering. Only through this is it possible to contextualize pleasure and happiness. Certainly, a life of agony is no enticement, but a life of pure pleasure would not end up being much different. Being buried under the weight of our indulgence is a tomb all the same.
Dylan is a senior in Media.