Pain and pleasure principle – Freud’s Psychology

There is a very famous passage quoted by Jeremy Bentham that “Mankind has two masters – pain and pleasure” and these masters not only they are motivating in our every action but also they guide our actions.

Plain and pleasure are the basic motivation behind every action of man and it also forms the basis of the rational decision in making the policy and actions, what are the pleasure and pain points in the policy created by any organization.

The pain and pleasure principle stated by Freud says that human actions are motivated by one rule to avoid pain and gain pleasure.

People are really SIMPLE, and in today’s culture, we all have made this fact very difficult to understand. Everything is based on the concept of cause and effect. 

The real concept of understanding people is layered around many stories and confusion and the rise of pop psychology has made it even much more complicated. And all these understandings will be made clear when you will read this complete article.

What really makes it complicated to understand people is the Layers of BS or Belief System.

The first major psychological concept that comes in understanding people is 

People move toward pleasure and Away From Pain

This is literally the whole sum of the psychology of why people do things they do. 

Our mind is literally working 24/7 to weigh out the pain and pleasure by every effort you make and it is really working to get the cause benefitting analysis and making efforts to maximize the pleasure and minimize the pain.

This is the simple thing for every action of man…

The one concept that comes from the king of clinical psychology is :

If one has the ability to control the pleasure and pain of a person then one can get anything done from the person.

And Guess What…he has NEVER BE PROVEN WRONG.


Understanding Pain and Pleasure

We can understand pain and pleasure in very broad terms but we usually narrow down it to physical pain and physical pleasure. Any trouble, disturbance, irritation, and even uneasiness will be a matter of pain principle, and when you enjoy spending time with your friends or if people think well of you can all come under the pleasure principle.

There is a wide range of pain and pleasure like someone who gets an A in a subject derives pleasure from it and someone who gets C from which he was likely to get F derived the same pleasure as the previous person shows that these thresholds can vary.

There is a good exercise that you can perform: Pick a piece of paper go down in quiet place and analyze what are the things that are a pleasure for me and for are the things that are a pain for me. Maybe something that you wrote down will fall in the category of pleasure but when you start to analyze it more and think more there may come a time when you will say “Oh! Actually I don’t like this!”. You may like hanging out with some people but it last few days you might have realized that they are a pain to hang out with. And same will go with vice versa that you put something in the pain column and then you realize wait it was not that painful actually, we all go through and school and college and when we enter the line of job and employee scenario, that you miss reading some text from the book and actually they weren’t that bad when you don’t pursue any higher educations.  


Pain and pleasure principle as Perceiving

Here’s the concept that confused the king of clinical psychology, There exists a concept of PERCEIVED PAIN and PERCEIVED PLEASURE.

There is an example for you:

Sometimes, when you see people in the gym lifting those heavy dumbbells and the strain that you one their faces and the sweat just wants to escape their forehead. On observing them you will definitely say that I cannot so much pain as these guys are taking. Then how in the world they are taking it?

Good Question…

They have perceived their pain with pleasure, they have used their mental alchemy to perceive the real pain as the perceived pleasure. They will go pumping, and pumping… the weights and say I am getting buffed and ladies will love me. Now here they are perceiving their pain as a pleasure to lift the heavyweights, and this is a good use of it.

The above one is an example of turning real pain into perceived pleasure.


Example of perceived pain and perceived pleasure

The two things people fear the most in the world is –

  1. Fear of dying 
  2. Public speaking

And there are some circumstances that the fear of public speaking can take on the first position. 

Sometimes people and you can now be afraid of public speaking but some people are making a good chunk of money out of it and this is their source of income and in many cases, these individuals were afraid to speak in public.

People can have PERCEIVED PAIN such as the public are gonna judge me or I am gonna forget my lines to speak up there because of nervousness or people gonna laugh the way I speak. And because of this people are attaching massive perceived pain with it.

Now when you get a good practice of speaking in the public and your PERCEIVED PAIN vanishes, there is no nervousness in speaking your mind. Then comes the part of PERCEIVED PLEASURE, where you want to deliver VALUE to the people and you know when you go up there people want that great value this is what you see as PERCEIVED PLEASURE. You want to affect people’s lives in a positive way and this thinking is creating a PERCEIVED PLEASURE state.

Now the above example demonstrates how one can transform the perceived pain into perceived pleasure.


Child and pain and pleasure principle

Now there’s a classical example in psychology. Let’s assume that you are a baby and you are on a sofa and trying to move and you took a right turn, as a result, you receive massive pain from falling down the sofa. When you feel down you may start seeing up the couch and here you as a baby you can equal pain with couches, at this moment is where the relationship comes into existence. When your mother puts two couches you may start to cry as in your mind you have associated the couches with pain.

In the same way, we can have many perceivable pleasure and pain entities that we carry in our lives. This example is a clear understanding that people can move away from pain and toward pleasure holds true for people who can move away from perceived pain and towards perceived pleasure.


Get your Reality checks

Oftentimes we ACT on the things whether it may be perception or misperception. The things you may act on may not be true or real but on perceived reality. We can act on the correct and the incorrect information the same.

Once a famous PR said that if you repeat a lie long enough it will eventually be perceived as the truth. To this day that saying holds true. You can find the rigorous practice of the above statement in marketing. The things that are told many times will eventually become the truth if not disputed or questioned or proven wrong. In marketing, it is known that what I present to you will be seen as true not the real truth but the perceived truth.

They know that illusion is reality.


Fact-based on pain and pleasure principle

fact 1: It is said in psychology that people can do 2.5 times more to avoid the Pain than to Gain Pleasure. 

It’s just simply saying that you like to move away from pain 2.5 times more than you will move towards to gain pleasure. For example, there might be an equal worth to say 1000$ but you will do two times more effort to keep that thousand bucks in their pocket safe from being stolen than making two times less effort to gain a thousand bucks.

You can use this fact in motivating others that avoidance of pain can motivate people more than pleasure.

Fact Two: There is nothing such as the UNSELFISH act.

Pain and pleasure principle

You will not take the slightest action unless the act is maximizing the pleasure and minimizing the pain. So you may ask the question of what people like social workers.

On the basis of the pain and pleasure model, it can be said that people are perceiving the pain of the other people who are actually in real pain and relieving them of their suffering is actually bringing the pleasure for the social worker.

There is nothing sort of unselfish act people will always do things that will bring them pleasure and reduce pain, had any one of these social workers been told to fix nuts into the screw and their actions will save millions of lives than they wouldn’t have done it they will not have the motivation to go that far.

The same way people can have arguments like I may give my muffin to my friend and that’s an unselfish act and the friend may ask you did you not feel good? The answer will be that you felt good. That’s another thing demonstrating the pain and pleasure theory.

Many times parents say that I give everything to my child and they do not understand and listen to me and I do not get anything in return.

Here you may assume the parents are performing an unselfish act but actually, they are receiving a lot of pleasure by just being a giver, and there is a massive pleasure when people give things to others without expecting anything in return, and then everyone can sense the feeling of doing good things.

An honest person will derive great pleasure from being honest. They will perceive lying as a bad thing to do and this will bring them very dissatisfaction but when they speak truly they get the surge of endorphins that happy feeling that keeps the honest man happy.

The good person and the bad person are doing their acts based on the same pain and pleasure model and this all governs everyone, both of them are doing things to avoid pain and gain pleasure. Each of them is using the same system to reach the same point but with different systems.


Pain and Pleasure and Utilitarianism

Pain and pleasure principle

Also, there is the concept of positive utility and negative utility that is joined with the pleasure and pain principle that the positive utility tends to promote and influence the pleasure and the negative utility tends to produce or promote pain.

So what is utility? With the utility, we are talking about the usefulness of the object. Let’s take an example of the coffee, many of us are in habit to take many coffee cups throughout the day, so what utility is brought by drinking coffee let’s say you will feel more alert, or to avoid headaches, or you like the taste of the coffee.

Now every utility has pleasure and pain tied to it and is promoting it, like avoiding headaches is like avoiding pain and feeling alert, and doing your task well with focus is a pleasure. The type of utility is decided by the type of propensity it produces whether it is pleasure or pain.

There are times when in short terms the action may lead to negative utility but in the long term, they will produce positive utility.

Let’s take the example of going to a doctor visit, it may be painful to take injections from the doctor and sitting in line for an hour to get to the doctor, so in short term, it is creating more negative utility or producing more pain but in longer-term you will get benefitted by the medicine and will eventually get healthier and that’s a positive utility in the longer term.

Also, there may be vice versa that in shorter-term actions result in positive utility than in longer-term it may result in negative utility.  Let’s take an example of eating, you go to a cafeteria and you are really hungry and you find your favorite dish, what you do? You fill your plate and sit and eat till your stomach fills up.  The hunger satisfaction and your favorite dish may create a sense of pleasure but when your stomach gets full you may feel nauseous and sleepy also it will not feel good with walking full stomach. So in the longer-term, it is creating more negative utility then positive utility in the short term and this fact can help to take a more rational decision.

Same goes the concept with Utilitarianism which goes with the saying that even it does not make you feel good but you create pleasure for someone else that is a good thing or even if you do not feel bad afterward and there are no negative repercussions for you but you create pain for somebody else that is a bad thing.