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English: A slice of Strawberry Cheesecake from...

English: A slice of Strawberry Cheesecake from the Carnegie Deli. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve read a couple of blogs lately where people have either written on the topic of how denying yourself a pleasure is pleasurable or have quoted someone who once said that.  Over the past few days that concept has stuck with me and bothered me until I had to get up out of bed in the middle of the night to write about it.

I suppose that when someone speaks of how pleasurable denying yourself a pleasure can be, they are really speaking first of how great the anticipation of when the denied pleasure becomes real and how great the realized pleasure is because of the build up of anticipation.  I have to suppose this because at the moment, I can’t see it any other way.

Yet, seeing it in this way still bothers me.  It pokes at me from several different directions.

The first poking point is my wonderment as to what happens when you’ve denied yourself a pleasure for so long and anticipated it for so long, building it up and up until it is enormous in your mind that when the actual “pleasure” occurs, it isn’t near as grand as what you’ve built it up in your mind to be?  Doesn’t it change from something that was meant to be pleasurable into something that is sadly disappointing?

The second poking point is how simultaneously ascetic and hedonistic it sounds to deny yourself pleasure and think that the denial is pleasurable.  When I think of it this way, I think of someone coldly calculating a moment of intense sensation.  And, it bothers me.  Perhaps it is because of the need to calculate an intense situation through denial that makes it sound so horrible.  It is as if everyday sensation is not enough or that the person cannot feel or appreciate it.  They have to go so far as to make it “intense” which seems to me to indicate that whatever is being denied now for the sake of intense pleasure later has to be done because that person had an overabundance of that pleasurable thing and now they’ve become immune to the greatness of it without having to deny one’s self of it for a period of time.  It frankly reminds me of the drug addict who has to increase their dosage each time to get the high.  It’s obviously not the way it was intended to be and it happens because of some sort of abuse of the thing (overuse).

It isn’t true that something that is pleasurable becomes unpleasurable because you have the pleasurable thing whenever you want it.  It only becomes unpleasurable when a person stops thinking of it as such or becomes desensitized to it because they indulge too often in too short of a period of time.  My example of this would be if I were a lover of cheesecake and I ate a piece of cheesecake every hour for 7 days.  I’m sure that by the seventh day, I’d be sick of eating cheesecake for an awful long time.  The pleasure of having it at all would be lost.  However, if I ate a piece of cheesecake twice a week for a month, there’s a good chance that I will still find it pleasurable each time I eat it.

My point is:  I have the pleasure all of the time without the need to deny myself since I have not done it excessively.  I can still appreciate it for what it is without having to build up an anticipation for it.  Personally, I think it’s better to have that continuous ability to appreciate something each and every time without having to “tinker with the system” to squeeze out every last drop of its ability to give pleasure.  But, maybe that is just me.