"Pleasure is a discipline."
-Mama Gena, founder of The School of Womanly Arts and author of Pussy: A Reclamation
Can you have discipline without feeling deprived?
In short, YES!
In fact, when done right, discipline should ENHANCE the pleasure you experience, because the whole reason you are exercising discipline is to have something BETTER -- something that will bring you MORE pleasure and fulfillment -- than the smaller, more fleeting pleasures you are sacrificing along the way.
But often, when we exercise discipline -- in health, our careers, our love lives, our personal finances -- we experience a sense of deprivation.
Most people would agree that discipline is healthy, and necessary in order to have the finer things in life, like a strong and fulfilling partnership, good health, and financial security.
So how can you maintain a sense of energized discipline without slipping into pleasure-draining deprivation?
Well, it helps to know what makes them different.
The motivations of discipline vs. deprivation
Discipline is motivated by a desire to GAIN something -- to create better, more expansive, more sustainable, more fulfilling, more meaningful pleasures. It often requires pleasure postponement, but never pleasure deprivation. It's saying YES to saving for a house we will enjoy for YEARS, by saying no to all the shopping sprees that would have felt good for about two days.
Deprivation, on the other hand, is motivated by a desire to AVOID PAIN -- the pain of judgment. Deprivation tells us, "You can't have that chocolate, sex, attention, or expensive dress because people will think you're gluttonous, slutty, needy, or irresponsible."
If you find yourself experiencing fears of judgment or punishment, you're in deprivation mode. Try visualizing or journaling about the thing you REALLY want, to remind yourself what all the smaller sacrifices are for, and how excited you are to have it!
The energies of discipline vs. deprivation
You can tell you're in deprivation mode when saying no to things feels like a "should," instead of a "want". Deprivation has the energy of contraction, oppression, pressure, and punishment. It is self-protective, reacting from fear.
Disciplined action, on the other hand, has the energy of honor, expansion, and liberation! When you say no to a lesser pleasure, you bring the greater pleasure in mind, keeping you energized and inspired.
The patterns of discipline vs. deprivation
Deprivation, by its nature, creates a void, and eventually our willpower breaks and we are compelled to fill the void. If we restrict our eating in unsustainable ways, we end up binge eating. If people try to practice abstinence without the right motive feel forced to repress their sexuality, they end up engaging in risky or even criminal sexual behavior.
And neither end of the swinging pendulum can is enjoyed or satisfying.
Disciplined action, however, is sustainable, because there's no pleasure void. The pleasure is baked into the discipline -- sometimes naturally (as with a runner's high), and sometimes intentionally, as with adding a moment of celebratory "shine" to the completion of any desired behavior. (For more on the concept of "shine" to reinforce desired behavior, read BJ Fogg's book Tiny Habits.)
The main difference is that disciplined behaviors are at least emotionally, spiritually, or energetically pleasurable (if not also physically pleasurable), which keeps the "void" at bay.
If you want to expand your capacity for genuinely nourishing and life-expanding pleasure...
Check out my body love and sexuality coaching program for women, Tantric Body Love!