Yet again, I have been complimented for being a real hedonist. For knowing how to enjoy life. And here I am, sitting down and asking myself if that really is the case. Being a hedonist – is it really a compliment. Do hedonists worry too, do they wonder, feel the pain..or do they just sit around and indulge themselves into some so-called pleasure. Do work and success go with pleasure then?
In this moment, I remembered Johnny Cash saying that success means worrying about everything except money. At first glance, worrying about everything doesn’t sound like success or hedonism. Then, is it maybe not worrying anything? But that also sounds to me as if you are not aware of yourself, or the world. And if you are not conscious, how can you consciously enjoy. I decided to test this ability. Anyone who knows anything about this should share it with the world. In the end, don’t we all strive for some kind of pleasure?
The puzzle of hedonism
The Italians say – „dolche far niente“ – referring to the sweetness of a time we spend doing nothing in particular. Indeed, of the many life skills, we should not neglect this one. How often do you stop just to feel the moment, no matter how ordinary it was. How often do you stop with your thoughts and obligations just for the sake of the full breath of the moment you are in. Do you sweeten that moment with something seemingly small, but which would fulfil your day? We could have moments like that whenever we want. It seems to me that Italy is where I have put this skill to practice the most. Italy really may be the country that invented hedonism, but maybe that is not important after all. What is important is that we practice and always have the opportunity to do so. Anyways, let’s see what else makes the puzzle of hedonism:
Justice for hedonism
Pleasure is the greatest good when it is a consequence of a peace of mind. Therefore, it is rare. Being a hedonist means recognizing your needs, distinguishing between the mature and the immature, and bravely indulging in the mature ones. Not denying yourself the satisfaction of authentic needs.
This might be a demanding task because we often unconsciously deny ourselves many rights and needs due to false and unprocessed information that we received earlier, while we still knew nothing. Often, we cannot distinguish the authentic from the false. We manipulate ourselves and others. In these situations, we don’t have enough capacity to be honest with ourselves. And we cannot love ourselves maturely. We sabotage ourselves and run bad emotional accounting. As we say in the OLI method – we allow ourselves to do what we should not, because we do not allow ourselves to do what we should. The hedonist, therefore, recognizes his needs and does not deny himself these pleasures, he gives in. Also, he accepts what he is actually denied. He doesn’t fight life because it tells him that he cannot do something. Doesn’t argue with life because he doesn’t have something, and he believes that he should. He accepts that it is also a part of existence. The hedonist does everything that is up to him and distinguishes what is not, ready to accept it. Then he is at peace. And hedonism comes out of peace and gives peace.
Spiritual and bodily hedonism
The hedonist realizes that pleasure comes from the soul and the body, and he awards himself with these pleasures, aware of theirunity. He values his heart, body, emotions, but also his mind and reason, and he sees them as a single whole that deserves pleasure. He knows how to take off and value the flight, but he also knows how to ground himself and respect reality. And no, the thing that often catches our glance is not hedonism. Hence:
No, you are not a hedonist:
when you are a slave to instincts, instead of being their master
Take your favorite cake and you will feel pleasure, take three and you will be sick. It is the moment in which you deprive yourself of pleasure. You destroy it. Then the instinct became your master and there is no more pleasure. A true hedonist values every moment and has no impression that he has not had enough, so that he has to take more and more, just because he had already got some. He took what life gave him. A hedonist is a master, not a slave. Seemingly paradoxically, one cake is hedonism, three are masochism. Less is more.
Food, drink, sex, leisure provide great pleasure when you are in charge, not them. When the greed takes over, you become a slave. Slaves do not enjoy. Such instinctive actions have nothing to do with hedonism. If we are not slaves to instincts then we are free. Only then can we give in to all their charms. Your strength, too, is not in avoiding the satisfaction of instincts, but in real hedonistic tasting of them – balance. Nietzsche tried explaining this. He said that it is easier to give up a passion completely,than to be abstinent. Abstinence holds the key. So don’t give up, don’t go from one extreme to another. It’s just the other side of the same coin. Build your strength for the better. Let go of the crumbs of extremes and take, as true hedonists, the full satisfaction of balance. Taste life with pleasure.
You are not a hedonist if the only one enjoying is you
Vanity is the one that blocks hedonism. The „Me, myself and I“approach is a way to distance oneself from hedonism. If we build a tortured and small Ego at the expense of others, it becomes even smaller. Egocentrism might seem like thehedonism, but it actually has nothing to do with it. Try achievingyour own hedonism, but know that it should never be at the expense of others. Enjoy and give enjoyment to the other and together you will enjoy more.
You are not a hedonist if you spend money on a symbol – but on quality. You are not a hedonist if you post expensive wine on Instagram, but drink it. If you love something because of the quality it carries and you have the opportunity to afford it — great, enjoy. We just have to learn not to confuse the essential pleasure of some quality and pumping the Ego because of some symbol of power. Power and pleasure do not go together. Hedonism presents the ability to enjoy what we have, not to chase after what we do not have. No, a true hedonist doesn’t need money as a luxury.
You are not a hedonist if people say so, but if you feel that way
I remembered Nusic’s Lady Minister and the importance of „what will people say“. If you don’t know who you are, the people will tell you. And then you will constantly look at those people to confirm if you are worth it. So tell yourself, feel for yourself, what pleasure is for you. And the people…well, you don’t even need them then, because you have a mirror in you, not in them. In yourself and those like you. That is the real pleasure. The real hedonism.
You are not a hedonist if you never abnegate
Every true hedonist knows very well that genuine enjoyment carries a higher price and is ready to pay for it. He does not accept something bad, just because he wants it immediately. He is ready to wait for greater pleasures and give up smaller ones for their sake.
There is no „instant“ hedonist – artificial paradise is hell
Artificial pleasures are far from hedonism. That way, it all comes to coercion and having no other options. Remember, hedonism is freedom and countless possibilities. Compulsive gambling, drugs, alcohol, games, compulsive shopping, overeating, etc. they are all torments for the soul, not pleasure. These torments survive because they manage to convince a person that they are worth more than they are. Scam. The colorful lie of the moment, the promises of heaven that throw you into hell. Afterwards, you are forced to return to these. It is a coercion, not a choice. The movie Devil’s Advocate comes to mind, because it shows us just that. At that point, the soul does not rejoice, it suffers. If you want to experience hedonism for real, do not accept only the crumbs of pleasure. Let’s not forget that hedonism does not leave terrible consequences. Hedonism expands us, it does not narrow down. Addiction is a soul reduced to one need while hedonism is expansion with a wide horizon. Hedonism feeds the soul, addiction eats away.
You are not a hedonist if you deny the pain, but if you embrace it
Make up feelings are not pleasure in the full. „It’s nothing“, „I’m fine“ because I want to be fine even though I’m not, are a lie. Reality denied comes back to haunt. A hedonist knows how to provide a pleasure for himself, but not at the cost of his own harm. Moreover, he does not stop his own growth.
Hedonist diagnostic criteria
We psychologists and psychotherapists often use diagnostic criteria (DSM) when presenting certain disorders. In these same criteria, we look for how much the client (in this case the patient) meets the criteria for diagnosing a particular disorder. On the basis of what has been written so far about hedonism, perhaps we could draw criteria for determining primordial hedonism (hereinafter only hedonism because we have gone through what it is not, or at least part of it) and periodically check how alive (and healthy) a hedonist in us really is.
Criteria for diagnosing a true hedonist:
– A hedonist rules himself and indulges in life,
– the hedonist is dominated by inner peace, regardless of the restlessness of life,
– the hedonist enjoys the sweetness of sensual pleasures, but also the fullness of the pleasure of cognition, thinking and insight, he is not a slave to instincts, he is their master,
– he is free from „must“ and „should“, from demands and expectations, and at the same time responsible for the real demands of life,
– accepts life, takes what he has created and what has been given to him,
– boldly accepts limitations,
– is responsible, free, brave and creative,
– the hedonist gives the maximum but also takes from life, spends it and returns it,
– the freedom of the hedonist is in acceptance and indulgence,
– the hedonist values and feels the moment, lives here and now, enjoys his senses,
enjoys people, love,
– tastes feelings and moments,
– he doesn’t care that he doesn’t have all the characteristics of a hedonist. He accepts that as the part of life. He values what he has and slowly builds what he lacks. Aware that this is also a process.
Take what life gives you. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Seize thelife.
Integrative psychodynamic psychological counselor,
psychotherapist and educator- OLI Center