Do You Feel Pleasure? Lacking The Ability to Feel Pleasure Leads to Suffering.

Grazing in Spain

Self-Care Tip – Enjoy what you do or else find out why you don’t.


I often ask patients when I am taking their mood history,

Are you able to feel pleasure?

I need to figure out how to ask this without you or anyone thinking that I want to know more about lube and feathers.  No, thank you very little.  But what I am trying to ask about is the ability to enjoy what you are doing.  It is not necessarily “joy” but at least it includes having a positive sense about you while you are progressing through something.  Being able to feel pleasure does not mean being happy at a fiesta or while doing kangaroo jumps with your child.  It does not mean changing your personality so that someone who prefers to work turns into someone who is playful, or a grazer* turns into a barn animal*.

Feeling pleasure does not mean that we achieve our fantasies.  It does not mean we are on vacation.

To understand what pleasure is, it helps to understand ones temperament.  It is enjoying what you do when you do your thing.  For example, if you are someone who in any given day or mood and regardless of weather or wealth would want to complete the work for the day – when you do that, are you feeling it?  Are you feeling pleasure?  Or, to contrast, if you are someone who would more often choose an unstructured and unmarked day – how is it going down for you?  Are you feeling pleasure?

Pleasure when you are doing your thing is quality of life.  If you do not feel it, life is crackers without soup.  It comes and goes dry and without anticipation.  If you do not feel pleasure, you lose your perceived connections around you and including with yourself.  Suffering is when you feel alone, even from your self.  Losing the ability to feel pleasure results in suffering.

Goodenough, PhD

Not everyone connects that emotional illness is a state of suffering – whatever one or combination of illness(es) come to us in.  Looking in at ourselves, at our Me, from the outside, we observe expressions and behaviors that we interpret from our own bank of information and intuition.  When I tell someone, what you are observing in your child, or wife or whomever is my patient at the time with mental illness – when I say,

They are really suffering,

it tugs our unconscious awareness into consciousness   We often do not actively know about this internal world where there is no pleasure.  We do not know that lacking pleasure leads to suffering.

Are you able to feel pleasure?  Do you find it harder to feel pleasure than you used to?  What things do you still enjoy? How long has it been since you last felt pleasure?

The ability to feel pleasure is a wonderful gift.

Questions:  What has helped you most in healing your suffering?  What has helped you connect again with others when illness pulls you away?  Please tell me your story.

Temperament definitions according to Dr. Q:
grazer = someone who comfortably wanders from idea to idea
barn animal = someone who is goal oriented and does not like things unfinished

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30 thoughts on “Do You Feel Pleasure? Lacking The Ability to Feel Pleasure Leads to Suffering.

  1. Hmmmmm….. Nothing says pleasure like two cows wandering down the street. Exactly the picture I was hoping for! Interestingly, this post makes a lot of sense to me. I have found that during periods of my life in which I was not grazing happily… I have often sought to improve my grazing pleasure through one obsession/addiction or another. Inevitably, these attempts artificially improve my mindframe have actually served to diminish it over longer periods. For me, anti depressants have served to make the grazing consistent. I think that part of being a grazer is the continuous search for greener pastures and the pleasure of the search.


  2. Approaching 62 I am redefining what I think is pleasurable. Certainly drugs and alcohol are no longer part of the scenario because the fun was not fun. My six months old blog and the several dozen people with whom I am in contact brings a lot of delight. School project time with my 8 year old granddaughter and exchanges with sponsees are very enriching. Older friends relate that the fact they woke up this morning is pleasurable. I’ll allow you to speculate on what they mean.


  3. I have been in that place once, and am happy to say that no matter how badly I might feel it has never been that place again. Not everyone really understands what that place is. Though things might not be perfect at times, I realize I am not in control and I am never alone. I am thankful that there is medication and people like you to help people when they are in that place.


  4. I definitely connected with this particularl post (all are good, though!). I think it is also important to point out an even fuller definition of suffering in that it encompasses the pain, but also encourages or allows it to continue. (For instance, Jesus said “Suffer the little children to come unto me. . .” – which means to allow, put up with, encourage, etc. the children to come.) Suffering can be and often is a self-perpetuating existance, and can be very difficult to break out of.

    Anti-depressants and the addition of a stimulant have been the difference between truly living and barely existing for me. I have not looked back on those periods of my life except to recognize them for what they were, and feel gratitude that they are in the past! I am so thankful for the wonderful physician I have now, as well as to some in the past, who led me in the right steps to getting help. The state of suffering is one of the most difficult to overcome or break out of.


  5. I was suffering for a very long time and, although my family and friends had difficulty understanding what I was feeling (and, for some, why), they definitely knew something was wrong. My daughter, in college then, called me after a weekend at home and said, “Mom, you’re sighing again. What’s happening now?”

    When I was “in that place” medications and a lot of talk therapy kept me alive but far from able to feel pleasure…at least not for a long time. I try now to remember what “that place” was like, and I can’t. I also can’t remember what actually helped me to turn the corner. However, the fact that doing anything artistic or writing – and, spending as much time as I can with my 9 year old granddaughter!! – are what help me re-connect on bad days now, makes me feel that they were the catalyst that brought me back to feeling anything to begin with after my breakdown. I was still on a lot of medication and I was still doing a good deal of talk therapy, but to draw or paint or write or play with my grandaughter were the things that made me want to keep going…complete the task…feel good about me and life in general. Having my family draw me back to church and volunteering, then, was the next step, and the one that, along with this blog, have brought me to where I am now in my STILL healing journey.


  6. well you have me kinda stuck here with the question do i feel pleasure in a short anser no.but then in the long anser yes can i have both? i am one of them people that would say no i dont not at the momment im not a paticluer big fan of life then again it has been pretty rotten to me and i was writing on this on another blog you see we get threw are crisis or deppresion and it comes back sometimes better sometimes worse and why do we fight it when we know it will come back being me cause i am sick of not fighting it then i would awnser yes i do but at times they are very few and far between but you know one day that might change i hope it does funny enuff i was really knocked form last week when i had them 3 really bad days its taking me a while to catch up with myslef but in talking to my firend tonight she failed one of her exams and i felt a bit happyness not in an evill way but that it wasnt just me that fials at things yer i picked her back up and siad its a warning that you are not studying properly and that a failure is only a failure when you do not learn from it the thing that has helped me the most is my network around me these people who are the same as me in a way we feel the same pain inside its weird its a bit like who hurts the most this week and who has managed to stay out of hospital what i learned the other day is that i am stronger than they are and i am doing better becuase i have built up such a strong network of people im still at the moment a bit out of sync with my brain and body but i am getting there get the routine and i think that routine helps as well my major test is coming soon and i dont think i can do it i have to leave this country and goto another one this itself is going to be one of my scaryest moments and i learned that the other day when she siad i can just put you back on the plane home if i get sick of you i want to go but my head dosnt firmly know i know my phycyatirst over here siad she didnt think it would work that was last year mind she siad i had not been stable so far but i would say this last 8 mouth i have done well do i really want to test this out i can be positive if it turns out well good happyness sorted in a way but now i have to look at the negatives on going on my past if things go really bad for me we have a problem a major one will i have the strenth to come back to the uk and start over again she has put me into crisis for the first time it wasnt just her this is first but she makes me happy and that is what i want i cant have my cake and eat it i know this.For once i have the power and the chance to wave the magic wand and mabee just maybee i get to be happy and time is ticking away a bit like the matirx do you want the blue pill or the white one its a choice and its a risk at the same time but then if i dont make it will i ever make that choice in finishing sometimes i feel pleasure sometimes i dont and the thing that really helps me is the support network i i have and allso that one day i might not have to suffer and if i do i will be able to deal with it


  7. I guess I’m a barn animal. I almost always must finish things. It even drives me crazy when I can’t finish a video game, even when I know it doesn’t really matter. What brings me pleasure is creativity. I hope to someday be good enough at drawing or writing or making comics so that others will actually want to look at what I’ve done. I like to show things to others. It is often more satisfying to share a picture or poem than just make it, then hide it away in a drawer.


  8. I think I pretend to have pleasure in my life because I’m suppose to. I smile as I watch my kids do their things and laugh when they do silly things. But I’m also the first one to literally pull my hair out the very next second. However, I sometimes wonder if I enjoy ..truely enjoy anything or if I act like I do since I should. Or maybe I act like it’s all good just so everyone else is satisfied. Maybe reading through some of this Self Care stuff will help start to figure things out.


  9. I have schizophrenia and biploar disorder, depressive type (heavy on the sz and light on the bipolar). A symptom of both depression and sz is the lack of ability to feel pleasure…and this is true in my life. And like Carrie (above) I’ve done a lot of pretending in my life…mostly because I don’t want to hurt people by not enjoying them.

    I particularly like that you define pleasure as the ability to enjoy what you are doing when you are caught up in your work or the activity you are in…because while I still don’t feel happiness or “pleasure” (as I normally would have defined it) I DO feel (now after 30 years of illness), some enjoyment in a task well done. Or even a job completed that was difficult for me to stick with.

    thanks for your blog–and thanks for visiting mine today.


    • hello lunamosity. happy to connect w u here too, after seeing what an inspiration u r in your own space. thank u for reading and commenting. great to hear about the turn for the better you see your health taking. keep us posted as things progress


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