Boozy to Butterfly

False Pleasures Are a Trap

August 03, 2021 Episode 21
Boozy to Butterfly
False Pleasures Are a Trap
Boozy to Butterfly
False Pleasures Are a Trap
Aug 03, 2021 Episode 21

As humans we're on a never-ending journey to seek pleasure and avoid pain. We believe happiness is the ultimate goal and in our effort to live a happy life we begin chasing false pleasures and running from pain or unpleasant emotions. This is a trap! This week Emily talks about what false pleasures are, why we seek them, and the ultimate, sustainable way to live a well-balanced life with less alcohol.

Looking for more support on your stop overdrinking journey? Head over to to sign up for my free 10-day training course. 

If you're ready for private coaching, email me at [email protected]

Show Notes Transcript

As humans we're on a never-ending journey to seek pleasure and avoid pain. We believe happiness is the ultimate goal and in our effort to live a happy life we begin chasing false pleasures and running from pain or unpleasant emotions. This is a trap! This week Emily talks about what false pleasures are, why we seek them, and the ultimate, sustainable way to live a well-balanced life with less alcohol.

Looking for more support on your stop overdrinking journey? Head over to to sign up for my free 10-day training course. 

If you're ready for private coaching, email me at [email protected]

Episode 21: Why False Pleasures are a Trap

Hello and welcome to episode 21! Let’s talk false pleasures this week. I love this topic because it sheds light on two things: 1) how the brain and dopamine work and 2) how you’re a commodity, how you’re for sale. I’ll obviously explain more on what I mean by those two statements but to be clear, overdrinking is a false pleasure. Excess alcohol is a false pleasure. There are so many false pleasures but you’re likely listening to this because alcohol is top of mind for you right now.

 So, let’s start with what is a false pleasure? Well, it’s anything you do to feel better in the short-term at the expense of the long-term. It’s an indulgent action that ultimately leads to negative outcomes or circumstances. So, you’re reaching for something or doing something to increase pleasure or reduce pain and make your life feel better but it is actually causing more pain or more struggle down the line. 

 This includes overdrinking, overeating, overspending, social media, TV, seeking sex to fill a void, and can even be as subtle as action-stopping emotions like confusion, worry, and doubt. What all these things have in common is they make you feel good in the moment but you’re ultimately avoiding addressing the root cause of your need for immediate satisfaction or pleasure…. Some of these things can lead to greater problems than others but they all contribute to a stifling or stuck existence. You’re in a hamster wheel just running and running but you’re going nowhere.

 Think about it for a minute. You’re overdrinking habitually so you have two desires occurring simultaneously here. One, the habit-brain is on autopilot so it’s urging you to drink on cue for all the places, times, and triggers where you’ve habitual had alcohol over time. Two, you’ve developed this overdrinking habit because you reached for alcohol to create false pleasure or false pain avoidance. So regularly repeating the latter, creates the former.

 And, I think it’s important to recognize that this can occur with nearly anything, not just alcohol. Overdrinking gets a bad rap because of its history in our culture and its historic socio-economic stereotypes but the same issues we’re seeing with overdrinking are occurring with everything now… social media, video games, shopaholics, etc. There is a “holic” for everything now so don’t feel shame in your decision to use alcohol as a false pleasure, everyone is using something as a false pleasure and if not carefully monitored and kept in check, it turns into that habitual need and craving for whatever the chosen feel-good pleasure is.

 So why do we seek false pleasures? To feel good, right? That’s pretty simple but to go a little deeper…why as humans do we want to feel good all the time and what does that really mean? Well, you always hear people say, “I just want my daughter to be happy;” or “ I just want so-and-so to be happy.” But what if happiness was more than just the one emotion? What if true joy came from always feeling okay with any emotion? What makes us feel alive is our ability to experience all emotions including sadness, anger, love, rage. But we feel entitled to happiness all the time. We think it’s the ultimate goal. So we chase pleasure in any way, shape, and form to obtain happiness.

 And in doing so, we’re running from unpleasant emotions. When we chase happy, we run from pain. We run from sorrow or anger. We seek anything to bury these emotions that don’t fit in with our ultimate goal of constant joy so we superficially create happiness. We cheat and use external distractions to create a false sense of pleasure so we can be happy all the time. 

 And if we could have all the pleasures without any consequences or pain, nobody would care. If these pleasures didn’t ultimately cost us anything then there wouldn’t be a rehab industry for every behavior on the planet now. We overindulge in everything to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And in doing so, we ultimately find more pain and we delay true joy. We delay true pleasure. We put our well-being last.

 So when do we learn this lesson? When do we learn that the cupcake, the glass of wine, that person’s attention, or that expensive car or handbag is not going to really create lasting joy? You drink and regret it…that’s not happiness. You overeat and regret it. You overspend and regret it. You have sex with that person and you regret it. That new car keeps you happy for a few weeks and then you’re just as miserable as you were before you bought it. There’s always an equal and opposite consequence that keeps it from being worth it even though you tell yourself it is worth it. History has proved that it’s not. 

 So your journey to happiness through external pleasures has lead you astray and off track and in some instances to further setbacks. If you’re trying to lose weight, your false pleasure leads to weight gain. If you’ve cutback or quit drinking and you’re past the withdrawal, now you have to get back in that mental space and work through those first days again. You have to overcome the mental chatter telling you that you failed again and you can’t do this. If you’re trying to save or stay on budget, now your budgets blown. You have a net negative effect from your short-term decision to feel joy or pleasure or immediate gratification. 

 When you make that decision to feel good right now with a false pleasure, you’re not considering how the Emily is going to feel three hours from now. You’re in a child-like state of mind that is faced with I want it now syndrome and not capable of considering or evaluating the long-term ramification of this choice. The difference is a child doesn’t have the cognitive ability to do this yet because their brain is not fully developed. As an adult, you have the cognitive ability to do this but you’re not using this tool. You’re not using your brain. Well, you’re not using your cognitive brain. You’re letting your cave woman brain run the show.

 Which leads me to the first point I made at the beginning of this podcast, how your brain and dopamine work. All of these false pleasures zap your brain with dopamine. Alcohol, sugar, cell phone notifications, buying “things”, sex, are all dopamine-inducing activities. Well so what, right? Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical in our brains so what’s the big deal, right? 

 Yes, dopamine is an essential chemical for survival. We would not have done very well as a species without dopamine. It is a chemical messenger involved in reward-seeking, movement, and motivation.  It drives us to procreate, eat high calorie, energy storing foods, acquire things to improve survival, it helps us feel good about belonging to a community, all things critical for our species to survive. But what’s changed is the concentration of dopamine we’re ingesting. All of the false pleasures I’ve referenced are highly concentrated sources of dopamine rewards.

 So if you think about the dopamine triggered by a handful of raspberries versus a glass of alcohol or a bowl of ice cream, it is completely different. And the level of dopamine determines our motivation. If it takes a lot of work to find a raspberry bush to pick some raspberries and then feel the reward via dopamine from eating them, we may not be motivated to do it compared to the dopamine we get from pouring a glass of wine or eating a cookie. 

 The key is awareness and using your brain to think. Using your cognitive brain to know what you’re doing is a temporary fix with a net negative consequence. Knowing that the false pleasure is a trap, learning that this feel-good thing does not ultimately feel good. And when you learn to give up false pleasures, you’ve peeled away the artificial distractions in life which opens you up to real joy and pleasures and that includes feeling comfortable with all of your emotions. 

 Feeling at peace and content in the presence of sorrow. True freedom from pain comes in the form of feeling comfortable as a human experiencing the full array of emotions, not running from the ones you believe are bad. Living through some of life’s most painful moments can lead to your most joyous existence. It can ultimately lead you to the realization that just living is the greatest joy. It’s very simple, it doesn’t cost a thing, and it’s your existence that is a precious gift. But you can’t get there if you’re filling the void with concentrated dopamine inducing false pleasures.

 Now to my second point I raised at the top of this podcast, You as a commodity. Look, there’s a lot of money to be made on these false pleasures. And there’s a lot of money to be made on the backside of these false pleasures assisting you with eliminating them from your life. You pay for it going in and you pay for it coming out. You pay for the alcohol and you pay for the rehab. You pay for the sweets and you pay for the weight watchers’ program.

 Many companies take advantage of that by not just playing to your drive to seek pleasure, but by doubling down and selling you things that are concentrated pleasure, or pleasure in heavy doses. We decide these things are almost as important as survival because the dopamine we get from pleasure becomes the most important thing.

 And the more you purchase, the more you purchase; the more you eat, the more you eat; the more you drink, the more you drink; the more you watch porn, the more you watch porn. It becomes a perpetual issue in your life because experiencing pleasure just makes you want to experience more pleasure. Your brain actually down regulates the dopamine because it knows it’s too much, so in order to feel the same thrill you used to get, you have to ingest more. It’s a trap. 

 And by buying these things, you are showing that your happiness is for sale. Your emotions are up for bid. You become the commodity. You’re what’s for sale. And you’re interchangeable to every other human. There is no regard for your health or well-being ultimately. 

 You are bought with marketing dollars and concentrated dopamine. The advertising you see is selling you an experience, it’s not selling you a bottle of liquid. It’s selling you fun, community, joy, happiness, it’s not showing people drunk. It’s showing sober people smiling, laughing, gathering and having a great time. Or in the case of bourbon commercials, it’s selling sophistication, sexiness, class, eliteness. It’s showing someone confident and in control. They’re selling you emotions. They’re selling you alternatives to the state of mind you’re in. Don’t be for sale. 

 I was listening to a meditation app the other day and it talked about the dog mind and the lion mind metaphor. Think of yourself in front of a dog and a lion waving a bone. You wave the bone to the left and the right and the dog is intently staring at the bone not letting it leave its gaze. The lion shows little interest, it looks at the bone, it looks at you, it looks at the surroundings, it looks at the trees.

 You take the bone and throw it toward the trees. The dog takes off after the bone and loses sight of you and everything else in its surroundings to chase after the bone. 

 The lion doesn’t budge. It glances in the direction of the bone and then looks back at you. It watches you for a little longer and then looks at the trees and the sky and might even lay down all the while knowing you’re still sitting there.

 The lion sees the bone as a distraction and lets it pass. It knows the bone does not deserve its time or attention and is able to keep focused on what’s more important. The dog has tunnel vision and can’t see beyond the bone. So, if I control the bone, I control the dog. The lion has autonomy. The lion sees the bone as a small piece of the big picture and not worthy of its time or energy. 

 When you’re chasing happiness with false pleasures, you’re selling yourself short and allowing yourself to be controlled by the external world and circumstances. You’ve lost your autonomy. When you’re able to see the drink as an enticing trap or the cupcake as the false pleasure that it is, and learn to see the distraction but focus back on the big picture, you’re enacting your lion mind. 

 There is so much value to less drinking, less sweets, less stuff, but when you talk to people about less, all they want is more. When you peel away the empty fulfillment of external options, you’re left with you. And that can be scary. You don’t want to be with yourself and your feelings and your thoughts. But you’re not going anywhere. You’re always going to be there. 

 Eventually you can learn that eliminating the distractions is good for you, it is the better choice and it’s true pleasure. You learn foregoing that drink will give you peace of mind later on in the evening and definitely the next day. You’ll be able to skip the negative feedback down the pipeline.

 So what does real joy look like then? Giving up false pleasures makes you more available to experience the real pleasures in life. Removing alcohol or overdrinking makes you more aware, awake, present and available. When you stop overspending you have more money for the things that are really important. It gives you freedom. It declutters your mind, your space, your home, and your wallet.

 The question becomes what is left? What remains when you stop stuffing the void with external fillers? What does your life look like without false pleasures? What would your world be like if you didn’t ever overeat, overdrink, overspend, overwork, overpeople-please, over-Facebook? What does it look like if you just went for a true, honest, authentic life? Are you willing to live without any dopamine substance manipulation, without any false pleasures, without any pretend emotions? Can you live naked?

 You think you can purchase happiness. You think you can stimulate happiness with external activities. Most companies, including Anheuser-Busch and Facebook, will tell you that you can. But do you really feel happier or has your brain been tricked into thinking that you’re happier? Did you really experience something wonderful and magical or does your brain just think that you’ve experienced something wonderful? Do you want to accumulate numerous false pleasures and call that happiness?

 Or, do you want to remove all of those things and find a way to be peaceful without them? What is on the other side of this net negative cycle? It’s well-being. Well-being allows you to come out so much better on the other side. In fact, when you allow yourself to really feel your emotions, you get to know yourself in a much deeper way. When you get to know yourself in a much deeper way, you start finding the root causes of your unsettled emotions and then you can start to address them. 

 This is sustainable, unlike the false pleasures you’ve been using before. Natural pleasures are the kind we’re meant to experience in our lives. When you trade the false pleasures in your life for well-being, you gain confidence, and that confidence begets more confidence, which begets more confidence, which begets more confidence. The more confidence you have, the more empowered you feel, the more well-being you have, and the more you have to give and offer the world. That’s the point because we’re at our ultimate happiness when we’re able to be the best versions of ourselves and contribute to the world.

 When you’re in pleasure-seeking mode you cannot give. You’re in a take mindset. You’re in a scarcity mindset. But when you live from abundance and you learn to give up false pleasure, you’re not for sale. No one can shake your confidence because it’s not a commodity to be bought and sold. You feel full and available to be of service and use to this world and to help others overcome obstacles of circumstances where they don’t have a choice of escaping.