Taking Pleasure 

In our treatment of adults, we frequently find that we meet people who have great difficulty taking pleasure. We also have to help people who are driven by a need to have everything be pleasurable, which is really often an unconsciously learned defense against the difficulty that they have in actually fully enjoying much of their life.

As you know, no life is all pleasure, but too many settle for living without a comfortable sense of well-being; actually their early life has given them the mistaken idea that too high a level of discomfort is normal. These people are having their lives eroded, worn away, without ever fully being able to give themselves enough of a sense of joy. Without enough joy in our life, we condemn ourselves to physical and mental stress that lessens our desire to live and diminishes the possibilities of our having the quiet, necessary pleasure of "just feeling good."

We may let our feelings of unconscious sadness and depression govern our lives without realizing that things can be better. We may accept the idea that no relationship can really be enjoyed more frequently than not. We may actually get ourselves into relationships that keep us in the "sad little box" that our growing-up has made us think is inevitable. Parents who are themselves quietly or overtly unhappy, may have, without wanting to, taught by example that you supposedly cannot expect much from life. We absorb the attitudes of our parents and the other adults around us as we develop, but that does not mean that these negative attitudes have to always remain part of us, or to a degree that we have no hope of improving our feelings to change our outlook so that we can figure out how, and let ourselves take the free pleasure of good feeling, feeling good, that is available to us if we can let it in.

Insight-oriented psychoanalytic psychotherapy helps us investigate and try to master unconscious patterns of living that make us believe that life has few, or no, good aspects, or worse, that it does have good aspects or that it can, but not for us.

A feeling that we are unworthy or "not good enough" may have developed from being raised in a pattern of dissatisfaction that we, as children, were unable to recognize, or even if we could recognize it we could not know enough or see ourselves well enough to be able to overcome those feelings that we picked up from the attitudes of others. Attitudes that got into us in a way that makes them seem unchangeable or unmanageable actually may be capable of change, but we need to prevent ourselves, unconsciously, from doing such. Sometimes we were made to feel guilty about things that no child could really be responsible for, such as our parents' sense of happiness or joy. Sometimes we were made to feel less worthy than one of our siblings and never allowed the feelings of being loved, and therefore loveable, in a way that would give us the ability to learn how to seek and secure satisfaction.

Too often people settle for a lack of satisfaction that is only a few attitudes, or feelings, away from being possible. Some live a life that could be enjoyed but they cannot. Anxiety, phobias, depression of various levels, even some physical illness or ill feeling result from our not being able to get ourselves those feelings that would give us pleasures enough to find life satisfying and to bear what is not such.

One does not know one's self well enough if one cannot comfortably help themselves get what they need.

Insight-oriented psychoanalytic psychotherapy lets people have a chance to change enough so as to be more comfortable with themselves and therefore more able to function on their own behalf, which often benefits those around them also.

by Dr. Lehrer