December 27, 2022
Thanks for reading The Pleasure Principle! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Perhaps today we are holiday-sated. One more chocolate truffle is a bore; one more Amazon package is a nuisance; one more Christmas carol an affront.
It’s the perfect time to consider hedonic adaptation, the bane of pleasure-seekers everywhere.
Let me give you an example. When I was in junior high school, we never had strawberries at home—maybe they were too expensive. But whenever I visited Claudia’s house (not often, because we lived in different boroughs), I looked forward to the moment when her mother would knock on Claudia’s bedroom door to say our snack was ready. And it was always strawberries and cream! I was overcome with gratitude. They tasted exquisite.
Today, strawberries are always in my refrigerator, far right on the bottom shelf, and I enjoy them fine. They taste good and provide fiber and vitamin C. But the magic is gone: they are always available; I probably have them five times a week.
Hedonic adaptation is the human tendency to get used to particular pleasures, thereby enjoying them less.
Right now, I am typing on a large keyboard monitor I haven’t used in months, and it is a joy: I feel like a pilot as once again I face the big screen, flying my thoughts. Alas, by next week, my computer setup will be routine, and I won’t feel singular pleasure I feel now, watching my words splash large in front of me.
We get used to that great car, that great house, even that great person. Hedonic adaptation is what fuels the search for novelty and why people in good marriages to people they love might still have affairs. Those affairs can remain hot for years simply because the lovers never spend much time together. Hedonic adaptation doesn’t have a chance to set in.
So what is one to do? Recognizing hedonic adaptation as a human universal is a first step. If you don’t enjoy the beautiful weather in L.A. the way you did when you first moved there, don’t beat yourself up! You just got used to it. It’s natural that you take it for granted, the way I take those strawberries for granted.
Who’s still astonished that Google provides answers to most questions? We shrug; it’s what we expect.
Last month I had cataract surgery, after which the color yellow seemed extraordinarily bright. I marveled at yellow maples outside my window, and gazed at the yellow moon with new joy. I declared that yellow was my favorite color. But now, only a few weeks later, yellow no longer seems magnificent. Alas, I simply got used to it.
You think you’re up to date about Covid? How about this: according to AARP Bulletin, light exercise immediately after your booster boosts immune response! So after your next shot at CVS or Walgreen’s, consider walking or, better, jogging home!
Do you have a health tip you don’t think most people know about? Please use the comments section to share it!
Until next time, enjoy your age!
Thanks for reading The Pleasure Principle! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.
According to this helpful 2-minute video, we get used to both pleasure and pain. Take a look!
I completely agree with you, but it also makes me wonder about the following: do we only get used and take for granted what is pleasurable, or can we do the very same thing with pain and ugliness? I do not think so, at least for myself, and I think I develop a defense mechanism that keeps reminding me what was the cause of that pain so that I will stay away from it next time, if at all possible, while I will seek again the cause of pleasure any time I can. On that level, pleasure and pain are two very different animals, and I definitely prefer pleasure - and I will leave the "pleasure" of pain and ugliness for masochists.