Pleasure vs Addiction
Pleasure centers in the brain range from deep brain structures below the level of consciousness to the highest functioning thinking regions of the brain. They involve the brain’s resting state Default Mode Network, where we have a true sense of who we are. The pursuit of pleasure is a basic drive for survival. It is involved in well being and meaning and is the major motivation for social connections. Liking and wanting are psychological concepts involved in pleasurable pursuit. Pleasure and happiness are derived from finding the balance between liking and wanting. When wanting becomes the driving force pleasure is lost. What starts out as a pleasurable activity becomes an overwhelming need to attain that experience. It is a need that is so great that it is actually stressful, because nothing else matters than obtaining the object of desire. This leads to unhappiness and is the driving force of addictive disorders.
Happiness is finding a balance between soothing and stimulating. We have to prioritize our desires and understand what is most important to us. For those who have lost this balance, development of self-soothing strategies is of great importance. Although some addictions require abstinence as a strategy (substance abuse), this is not always possible (abuse of food). A strategy in all circumstances is to recognize that wanting something too much threatens pleasure. How do we create balance for the object of desire? Can balance become the object of desire? Can pleasure become the object of desire? Can well-being become the object of desire? Can free will become the object of desire? Can a quiet amygdala become the object of desire? Ultimately finding value in not being addicted is the key to restoring the balance between liking and wanting.