Every decision we make, or action we take, is ultimately the result of the twin forces; pleasure and pain. Now forgive me if this sounds a little simplistic, but give me an opportunity and I will explain how this is so.
Let’s take a Paruresis related example. “John” enters a public toilet. He looks at the set of urinals and wishes he could simply stroll up to them and do his business. However, he also notices that there are several other guys in the toilet, there are no dividers between the urinals, and there’s a strong possibility that he won’t be able to go. He then looks over to the stalls; they have locks on the doors, they give him complete privacy, and he’s confident he’ll be able to use them. “John” decides the stalls are the better option for him.
Now, when “John” was assessing the urinals the following things went through his head:
- “Other guys may notice I’m was unable to go, therefore causing me embarrassment.”
- “The toilet is fairly busy so I know I’d struggle to go, therefore evoking anxiety.”
- “There are no urinal dividers, therefore there’s no privacy.”
- “I really need the toilet and if I froze up, the next opportunity to pee wouldn’t be for some time, therefore causing uncertainty and discomfort.”
Would it not be fair to say that the feelings of embarrassment, anxiousness, lack of privacy, uncertainty and discomfort all cause emotional pain? If you’re embarrassed, that isn’t a pleasurable feeling; it’s a painful one. In essence, pain is the umbrella term for all our negative emotions.
Now, when “John” was assessing whether he should use the stalls, the following things went through his head:
- “The door will be locked, therefore I can completely relax and do my business.”
- “I don’t have to worry about anyone seeing if I struggle to go, giving me peace of mind.”
- “I’m in the privacy of my own stall.”
- “I’m completely confident I’ll be able to go, therefore freeing me up as soon as I leave. No worrying about finding another toilet, or making up excuses to the people I’m with.”
Obviously, the feelings of relaxation, peace of mind, total privacy and confidence are pleasurable ones. Therefore, the umbrella term for all our positive emotions is pleasure.
So why did “John” choose the stalls over the urinals? Simple! It is inherent in our human nature to pursue pleasure and avoid pain; it’s our survival mechanism.
Now the example I’ve described doesn’t tell the full picture, it’s a snapshot of “John’s” emotional state at one moment in time. In truth, “John” has suffered from Paruresis for years and years. He desperately wants to overcome it, it’s ruining his life. He’s even read my article on ‘Systematic Desensitization‘ and is listening to my Hypnotherapy course day-in, day-out. (If you’re unsure of what Systematic Desensitization is, it’s a method of gradually exposing oneself to your phobia, so it becomes less scary).
So, if “John’s” ultimate pleasure would be to cure his Paruresis, and his ultimate pain is to continue letting it cripple his life, why when we walked into the toilet, did he opt for the stalls?… (Even with the method mentioned above and the hypnotherapy?)
Answer: Because whatever is most real to you in that snapshot in time will determine your actions. “John” wasn’t focusing on the pain of continuing to live with Paruresis, he was focusing on the pain of the potential embarrassment, anxiousness and discomfort of the moment.
If he focused on the pain that his Paruresis causes him every single day, or the pleasure he’d get from being able to use a urinal in any scenario, “John” would have walked straight up to that urinal and put what he’d learnt into action. Why? Because the notion of not attempting to overcome his condition is just too damn painful. He’d feel like a coward for not trying, he’d feel guilty, he’d feel like a failure; which ultimately means pain.
If you’re serious about overcoming Paruresis, you need analyse your associations…
- Do you link pleasure or pain to the thought of actively getting out there are practising in public?
- Do you link pleasure or pain to the notion of telling a family member about your condition and asking them for help?
- Do you link pleasure or pain to committing to listen to hypnotherapy sessions everyday?
- Do you link pleasure or pain to the idea of joining a Paruresis support group?
- Do you link pleasure or pain to applying the method of Systematic Desensitization?
If your answers to the above are ‘pain’ (which for the majority, this is quite likely), let me ask you two questions…
What will be the pain if you don’t apply these solutions?
- A lifetime of hidden embarrassment maybe…
- The shame of your son asking you why you don’t pee at the urinal like other men…
- A chain of humiliating scenarios where you’re so desperate to go, but you just can’t…
And what will be the pleasure if you do apply these solutions?
- The empowered feeling of taking action to cure yourself once and far all…
- The satisfaction that practice is the mother of skill and you will get there…
- The feeling that a burden has been lifted from your shoulders and you no longer have to live in secrecy…
The key is to change your associations. Remember: What’s most real to you in the moment, determines your actions. If your associations facilitate your desire to overcome Paruresis, not hinder it, your actions will follow suit.
Use pleasure and pain, instead of pleasure and pain using you.