Pleasure Principle

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Because I am thinking about the issue of “retirement” (oh that word!!!!), I have been thinking about risk. I think about leaving a societally sanctioned, predicable and low-risk environment to enter into a space that is yet defined and actually controversial.  I also think about economics and what is going on the world now and perhaps in the immediate future. I must admit that what I began as a creative project and way to express myself has now grown into a plausible way to make a living but not always in a predictable way. I have shared my challenges with not losing myself, being ethical about all of it and remaining true to my purpose. Moving to a position of doing this full-time means I must determine a manageable equation between risk and reward.

When I think of this project most of the time it brings me pleasure. There is a deeply satisfying feeling I get when I am creating and communicating, whether that is when I am writing, envisioning content or meeting others who know more about this space than I do or who share a commitment to always learning like I do. This state of satisfaction, like other stimulants of pleasure, makes me want to do it more and all the time. The architect of the pleasure experience is the reward system that is laid down in our brain. So the question becomes what kind of reward is most valuable?

The word pleasure at first glance seems simple enough but when one starts looking in a dictionary there are multiple layers of meaning and subtle variances in emotional state. So pleasure is thought of as an affect and not an emotion. When I feel pleasure it can also mean that I am feeling gratified, content, amused, delighted, rewarded or even according to some, euphoric. Linked to the reward system of the brain, it is comprised of liking, wanting and learning each with its own neural pathway. Our capacity for pleasure is what makes us human and is important for healthy psychological functioning. The absence of an ability to experience or feel it  is actually a clinical condition called anhedonia. This state can be caused by overwork (ahhh), financial problems, boring activities, recent tragedies and even the weather. 

I experienced pleasure this week as a result of being interviewed by someone who read all my posts, had thoughtful and prepared questions based on them, and crafted the questions in a way that supported self-reflection. It was a pleasure to have a stimulating, intellectual conversation with someone who has the capability to see the world as both/and and not either/or. There were not silly questions such as, “How does it feel to be a 65 year old blogger?” But rather thoughtful ones about how I saw the relationship between social welfare, sociology and fashion, what fashion may actually be defined as and the complexity of thinking through current events such as the “Me Too” movement. I had a similarly pleasurable conversation with one of my interns and to a lesser extent in one of my classes. 

These experiences raise for me bigger picture questions about social media and social welfare and the increasingly important role fashion and beauty, in some instances, is taking in the project of social change. It makes me think about the potential it has to do that. It raises the question of allowing a new paradigm into the world: that supporting and caring for others and making the world a better place does not mean that you can’t make a good living. As I think about moving from one career to another I think about how the career I am leaving has not wanted to pay a decent wage to the women who started it many years ago, who’s caring work has been marginalized, dismissed and undervalued even when the quality of that caring has been supported by science, expertise and years of study. I wonder if my worry about risk comes from these messages. If so it is time for a change.

Two questions this week:

What are you doing when you feel pleasure?

When you have been faced with taking a risk how have you managed it?




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