Exploring Points of Negative Pleasure and Intention – Part 1

A key proposition in Pathwork is that we have unconscious places in us that derive pleasure from negative and painful circumstances. This “pleasure” leads us to have deeply seated roots of negative intentionality whereby we unconsciously intend to recreate these negative situations so that we can “enjoy” more negative pleasure.  All of this process goes on in the unconscious of our psyche, unbeknownst to our conscious mind, which is busy trying to create positive pleasure. Two key Pathwork Lectures on this subject are 135 Mobility in Relaxation — Suffering through Attachment of the Life Force to Negative Situations and 140 Conflict of Positive Versus Negative Oriented Pleasure as the Origin of Pain.

After a particularly potent session with my Pathwork helper Moira, followed by a process of looking at painful situations in my childhood environment, I could see where, since my ego was not yet mature enough to make wiser choices, I defended myself by emotionally defining as pleasurable various painful situations in my young life. Pathwork points out that the immature ego cannot yet cope with pain, and so the psyche “makes pleasurable” whatever comes its way – it cannot yet distinguish positive experiences from negative experiences, and registers all experience as pleasurable.

I could then see how I continued, up until now unconsciously, to emotionally experience “pleasure,” or rather pseudo-pleasure, in similar painful situations later in life. These areas of negativity became themes in my life. My unconscious negative intention manifesting all kinds of distorted outcomes in my life just so I could experience more pleasure, all be it negative pleasure. This situation of negative creation (or more often for me blocks to positive creation), especially in my middle decades but also into my current life, greatly blocked and often continues to block my ability to seek and experience true pleasure from healthy and positive situations in my life. Part of me is still stuck in creating negative pleasure, unconsciously believing this (or, maybe better stated, unconsciously “remembering” this in my brain’s wiring from young-age life experiences) to be pleasurable in my young life and assuming the same rules apply to my current adult life. My psyche seeks pleasure however it can get it, consciously positive pleasure and unconsciously negative pleasure.

When I reflect on my life and see what I have manifested, even from my patterned, distorted, and negative behavior, I come to understand and appreciate the shear power of my soul substance, my creative capacity, whether that power is used to manifest negative, distorted creations or positive and pure creations. From an external view my life has been “very successful” and invigorating – and this was all manifested through the powerful energies of my soul substance, though often misguided by my ego in its immaturity and confusion.

Long ago I found that these external accomplishments or “successes” are not as rewarding as the culture says they should be. So what would happen if I focused the power and energies of my soul substance in a positive way, a way that was truly from my Core Essence,  instead? This same power focused on positive creations instead of negative ones would create many a wonderful manifestation. But for this to happen, there would have to be healing and purification of the distortions that have muddled and limited my full positive capacity for positive creative manifestation.

To turn this negative programming around in my mind would take a process of purification, Pathwork points out, and this purification and subsequent transformation process is much of what Pathwork is all about. Hence my spiritual and personal development path is a path of purification so that my creations can yield true and positive pleasure from my heart and Essence, not pseudo-pleasure, i.e., negative pleasure, from my distorted self, reinforced by the values of the culture around me.

Moira provided some exercises and encouraged me identify specific painful areas from my childhood that could have contributed to my subsequent patterns of “negative pleasure” behavior as an adult. As I looked back at my childhood I was shocked to discover that there were not one but many areas that were emotionally painful and led to this negative behavior in my life. For whatever reason, I had not really looked so deeply at this, and in fact often thought of my young life as being idyllic. So let me share some of what I have discovered in this process of looking at points of negative pleasure that live in me even today. I shall present only one in this blog entry and hope to share more in future entries. I found this mining and exploration truly rewarding!

1. Practicing the piano under the direction of my dad. His barking (how I heard it, not at all how he intended it – he was passionate about the piano and wanted me to share in his passion and joy) commands – “Play it again, slower, 10 times until you get it right!” Daily having to spend half an hour to an hour practicing the piano when my talent was limited, though of course there were occasionally times of joy at playing some piece well. The emotional pain was the pain of forcing myself to endure the process of learning to play the piano, something that was not truly in my blood.

So as a defense I attached pleasure to working hard at things that were not truly me. Working under the direction of others (here Dad). Experiencing pleasure from hard working per se (practicing the piano). Even longing to be recognized for my commitment and hard work more than being recognized for the efficacy and outcome of that work – even dismissing the value and outcome of the work! I refused to see the value, even denying the value when the value was affirmed by others! My pleasure came from, “Look how hard he works!” Pleasure from working hard, though “knowing” there would be no pleasure in the task per se (not enjoying the practicing) and even assuming there would be no value in the outcome (no matter how hard I practiced, I was not going to be a good pianist, but that did not matter).

Pleasure was there from “doing my best” even though my “doing” (practicing) was not pleasurable and my “best” would not be worth much (being a good pianist didn’t mean much to me because it wasn’t truly me). I derived “pleasure,” negative pleasure, from doing things that were not me rather than risking doing things that were really me. This is how my brain got wired. The true me flew under the radar. So true and full pleasure from manifesting all that was uniquely alive in me, in my true Essence, was squashed as I pursued negative pleasure – hard work under the direction of the authority of the culture in which I lived (work, church, family).

I realize there is a lot of redundancy in the preceding paragraphs, but there are so many facets to this backdrop of my life, and the effects of all these images and patterns have been so profound and so multi-dimensioned.

So how has and how does negative pleasure manifest in my life from this pattern of negativity? While consciously I want activities that are satisfying and fulfilling, unconsciously negative pleasure comes to the fore and “mysteriously” (to my conscious mind) I sense a kind of pleasure, it not making a difference that it is negative pleasure, from activities that are not actually satisfying and fulfilling. Things like diet, exercise, working on spreadsheets and financial matters for Sevenoaks, etc. Now these practices are not “bad” for me, but there is a felt, although often unconscious, pleasure in the “doing-but-not-enjoying.” As bizarre as that is to my ego and conscious mind to accept, nevertheless there it is. And I shall give priority to these activities I do not enjoy over activities that are joyful in their own right – like photography, working with the Pathwork Lectures, play, reading and the like.

And there is a second piece that is even more pernicious. I shall derive pleasure from working very hard AND not succeeding or accomplishing a meaningful goal. For example, I can work hard for Sevenoaks – spending many hours a month in service to this organization – and yet unconsciously derive more (all be it negative) pleasure from all of this effort going for naught and the organization failing, despite all my and other’s hard and well-intended work than if the organization were successful.

When the negative pleasure, driving negative intention – the intention for things to fall apart – is unconscious it will trump all my conscious positive intention to have Sevenoaks succeed in spreading Pathwork throughout the world. Yes, amazingly I can feel my pleasure when a workshop gets cancelled, or it looks like we are in trouble financially. I quickly try to deny these negative feelings because they are so irrational, but when I slow down I see they are there – I need to slow down and feel this and really take it in. Perplexing to say the least, but real. This negative energy in me, when it is unconscious, becomes a saboteur against all for which I am working so hard.

So uncovering this bit of negative pleasure in me brings clarity to some of my life experiences – like not completing my PhD after working feverously in graduate school, not continuing in the leadership role I was in as CEO in the company I worked for, staying in a demanding conservative church that did not fit my true inner essence, not manifesting a massage business after completing massage school, not manifesting a life coaching business after completing coaching school, not becoming a full Pathwork helper after completing 8 years of intense work and training in Pathwork. More on these items in subsequent blog entries on this general topic later. But just seeing these things in me fills me with excitement. In no way do I feel shame or guilt for all this. Sad, yes, but I am not moralizing this situation. The Truth of me truly sets me free. I am beginning to experience the truth of this.

To be continued.

Shared in love, Gary