How Pleasure Leads to Unhappiness

A word that is often used in personal development is happiness. Countless books have been written on how to be happy, how to be happier and on how to be the happiest that you have ever been.

People often get happiness confused with another feeling called “pleasure”. The media and advertising industry have done a great job in making people believe that happiness equals pleasure. From my experience this is a lie that set people up to experience tremendous long-term pain and unhappiness in their lives.

Many advertisements for products that are not that good for you and bring you long-term pain and “unhappiness” show people that are “happy” customers. Look at Coke: want to be happy? Drink some sugar water and you will smile and experience happiness with your friends and loved ones. Be happy at Mc Donald’s with a Happy Meal. Wanna taste the rainbow? Have some Skittles.

Another industry that thrives on this lie is the porn industry. Every day millions of men are using their hands whilst watching their porn fantasies. They create this fantasy in their mind of happiness and joy, but nearly always find out that this short period of time wasn’t happiness, but a quick release of pleasure.

The biggest industries that profit from this quick pleasure are the sugar, alcohol and drugs industry. Every day millions of people use sugar, drugs and alcohol to be happy, not always consciously knowing that it doesn’t make them happy; it just makes them experience a short burst of pleasure that cost them their long-term happiness.

This short-term satisfaction that you experience is not happiness, it is called pleasure and there is a price to pay for it. I’m sure you know what the price is, so this article is not about that. This article is about truly understanding the difference between happiness and pleasure, so you can start to make better decisions and choices in your life.

Pleasure comes from the word “please”. You’re being pleased. It is very a short-term feeling of satisfaction.

Happiness is more of a long-term feeling of satisfaction. It is a feeling some sort of fulfilment.

Here is a list of things I have done throughout my life to be happy, but were actually short-term bursts of pleasure:

  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • One-night stands
  • Shopping
  • (Over)eating
  • Porn
  • Gossip & Drama
  • Watching Netflix

“Immediate gratification for pleasure often costs you your long-term happiness”

It is not necessarily wrong to experience pleasure. I enjoy candy every now and then, or a glass of wine. I like watching Netflix in my free time. But I know the difference between pleasure and happiness. When I spot myself looking for pleasure I take a step back and ask myself: will this really make me happy? Or is it some sort of immediate gratification? I can then make a conscious choice to enjoy it in the moment or to do something else.

Where does the need for pleasure come from?

I always say that pain and pleasure go together. The more pain that someone experiences, the more they look for pleasure to compensate. When I was using drugs, I had an immense pain in my life. I felt a lot of rejection from people. I felt lonely. I didn’t love myself. I tried to compensate with drugs to be “happy”. But as you can probably guess, that never made me happy.

Here in London I see many professionals who use alcohol and drugs. When I interviewed them I learned that they are often not happy with their lives. They get paid well, but they feel that they don’t make a difference. They are under a lot of stress, deadlines and a harsh corporate environment where they need to be politically correct and cannot say what they really want to say. They try to compensate this pain with pleasure. And the greater the pain, the greater that search and use of one-night stands, sugar, drugs and alcohol.

I have to confess, I was one of those people for many years: Until I learned the difference between happiness and pleasure.

How do you turn your pleasure into happiness?

I would start with being brutally honest with yourself and deal with your pain. What is some of the pain that you experienced or are experiencing in your life: consciously or unconsciously that you need to process? Where does this pain come from? Is it a pain from your job? Is it a pain from a past relationship? Is it a pain of an unmet expectation? Is it stress? Or perhaps the pain is a fantasy that you compare your life to? Get some help with this.

If you don’t know where to start, connect with me and perhaps I can help you!

The more that you deal with and process your pain, the more that the opposite, the need for pleasure, becomes less needed. And the funny thing is: you will be happier, because happiness comes from within. You start to feel better about your life, about your job and about who you are. Finally you will be truly happy instead of suffering the negative consequences of your pleasure over and over again.

Moreover, there are some things that you can replace pleasure with. For example, instead of eating candy, eat some fruit or nuts. Instead of looking for meaningless sex on Tinder/Grindr, go on a real date. Be vulnerable and be realistic in your expectations. Stop comparing your dates to a fake porn movie. Stop comparing yourself to others. Start to live an authentic life and be who you want to be!

And finally, define happiness for yourself. What makes you happy? What makes you fulfilled? Who are you and what do you really want to do with your life? Follow your dreams and your passions and don’t be afraid. Go for it.

Love yourself and be yourself.

Bart Milatz

What does happiness mean to you?



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store