Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pleasure vs Gratification

Because the ways of enhancing them differ, I divide the positive emotions into three kinds: those directed toward the past (satisfaction, contentment, pride, serenity), the future (optimism, hope, confidence, trust, faith) or the present.

The positive emotions about the present divide into two crucially different categories that I call the pleasures and the gratifications.

The pleasures themselves comprise bodily pleasures and higher pleasures. The bodily pleasures are momentary positive emotions that come through the senses: delicious tastes and smells, sexual feelings, moving your body well, delightful sights and sounds.

The higher pleasures are also momentary, but they are set off by events more complicated
and more learned than sensory ones, and they are defined by the feelings they bring about: ecstasy, rapture, thrill, bliss, gladness, mirth, glee, fun, ebullience, comfort, amusement, relaxation and the like.

The gratifications are the other class of positive emotions about the present, but unlike the pleasures, they are not feelings, but activities we like doing – reading, rockclimbing, dancing, good conversation, volleyball, or playing bridge, for example. The gratifications absorb and engage us fully, they block self-consciousness, they block felt emotion (except in retrospect –
‘Wow, that was fun!’), they create flow, a state in which time stops and one feels completely at home.

The gratifications cannot be obtained or permanently increased without developing the strengths and virtues. Happiness is therefore not just about obtaining pleasant, momentary subjective states. Our strengths and virtues are the natural routes to gratification, and the
gratifications are the routes to what I conceive the good life to be: using your strengths and virtues to obtain abundant gratification in the main realms of life.

A meaningful life adds one more component to the good life: using your strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.

Finally, a full life consists in experiencing positive emotions about the past and future, savoring positive feelings from the pleasures, deriving abundant gratifications from your signature strengths, and using those strengths and virtues in the service of something larger to obtain meaning.

Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness


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