Why Finding Pleasure in Life is a Painful Journey | Paul Bloom

Why do people train for a marathon? Listen to sad music? Eat really spicy food? All of these activities induce a painful response, yet they also bring us pleasure. We sometimes set ourselves up for negative experiences because it primes us for positive ones further down the line.

Sometimes we set up negative experiences because it primes us for positive ones. Click To Tweet

There is a balance, a sweet spot if you will, between the amount of pleasure we experience and the suffering that it takes to get us there.

World-renowned psychologist and author Paul Bloom, joins us on this episode to discuss his most recent book The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning. He challenges our definition of a fulfilling life, and why we actually NEED suffering to be part of it.

A fulfilling life involves some experience of frustration, maybe of sadness, anger, disappointment. If you don't have that you're missing out. Click To Tweet

We are so conditioned in our culture to only seek out pleasure that even the notion of reading about suffering was not particularly appealing to us, well to Tim – it turns out Kurt might be somewhat of a benign masochist! But from the get-go, Paul’s compelling narrative convinced us that suffering can be motivating. Listen in and tell us if you think there is a sweet spot, and then reach out to us on email, on Twitter or write us a quick review about the show. Thanks!


(4:40) Welcome and speed round questions.

(7:24) Why do we choose suffering?

(11:24) Do we really only seek pleasure?

(13:40) We often have mistaken ideas about what we want.

(16:16) Looking beyond happiness; what we actually pursue for a meaningful life.

(22:24) How can suffering help pleasure?

(24:59) How being in a state of flow explains the sweet spot.

(28:27) Why are people driven to climb Everest?

(32:32) What are the unpleasant sensations that people do not pursue?

(34:37) Pain then pleasure or pleasure then pain?

(36:13) The effect of the peak-end rule.

(38:40) Why do we want to listen to sad music?

(45:11) Grooving Session discussing how Paul’s work can improve our lives.

© 2022 Behavioral Grooves


Other Episodes You Will Enjoy

Episode 67, George Loewenstein: On a Functional Theory of Boredom:  https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/george-loewenstein-on-a-functional-theory-of-boredom/

Episode 207, Jonathan Mann: Is it Possible to Design an Experience? https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/jonathan-mann-is-it-possible-to-design-an-experience/

AIRDATE: January 23, 2022 EPISODE 274

This episode also available via:

Why Finding Pleasure in Life is a Painful Journey | Paul Bloom