The idea of a pleasure ceiling is tied to the notion that many of us only allow ourselves to experience a certain amount of joy or pleasure. This could be an intimate pleasure, joy from success at work, or happiness in a relationship. When we reach our pleasure ceiling, we can put up walls, self-sabotage, and feel guilty.
A pleasure ceiling is a person’s natural threshold for the amount of pleasure or joy they allow themselves to experience without getting uncomfortable, doing something to sabotage their joy, or pull back from experiencing a higher level of pleasure.
Each person’s pleasure ceiling is different and unique and often forms over years from the time they are children.
There are ways to raise and break through your pleasure ceiling and experience a new level of joy in your life without feeling guilty or expecting something negative to follow.
Numerous reasons can lead a person to develop a pleasure ceiling. We’ll explore why pleasure ceilings develop, the issues that may arise, and how to work toward breaking through your pleasure ceiling.
Feelings of pleasure are tied to pain
Sometimes, a person will learn from a young age that pleasure is tied to pain. Perhaps they experienced something tragic after experiencing a big win or something highly pleasurable. Other instances can cause a person to attach pleasure to pain as well, such as a history of abuse, bullying, or anything that has caused them trauma. Even depression can become addictive; activating the brain's pleasure center when it is chronic, which can lead a person to become addicted to emotional pain. It can be hard to believe that pure joy and pleasure exist in life and that they are worthy and capable of experiencing it beyond a certain level or threshold without owing a debt of inevitable pain.
Negative self-talk or beliefs
Throughout a person's development, they may come to believe false negative beliefs about themselves that result from negative self-talk and negative experiences. These repetitive cycles may be tied in with anxiety and overthinking. They can also result from past traumas or disappointments that have caused them to believe they do not deserve the good in life.
However, if a person begins to listen to these thoughts and allows them to become beliefs, they can prevent them from taking risks and going for what they want out of fear of failure, feelings of unworthiness, or imposter syndrome. Other ways that beliefs may contribute to a pleasure ceiling include subconscious thoughts surrounding things that bring us joy as being evil or bad for us. Additionally, if other people are experiencing pain, we get the sense that we shouldn’t be experiencing joy. Overthinking all that is happening in the world can make people feel guilty when good things happen to them as well.
Signs and symptoms of a pleasure ceiling
The signs and symptoms of a pleasure ceiling can show up in a variety of ways. For example, having that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach before a big presentation or meeting for work or school that could lead to great future success is a sign of a pleasure ceiling.
Furthermore, it can also impact intimate relationships. If you tend to close yourself off when you reach a certain level of intimacy with someone special in your life, that is a sign of a pleasure ceiling. Then again, so is starting a fight with a significant other after an extended period of happiness.
This is especially common when a person grows up in a high-conflict home. It can feel uncomfortable to feel a consistent level of joy and bliss. This can lead people to self-sabotage good things in their life because they become self-conscious about reaching their pleasure ceiling, as they are afraid of getting hurt.
How to raise your pleasure ceiling
Oftentimes, our pleasure ceiling forms or is programmed into us to operate as a natural regulator for the waves or rhythms we’ve experienced in life. If we allow ourselves to get very high on life from something amazing happening to us, we may expect something bad to follow, much like a rollercoaster. While life can be this way at times, it’s also part of our body’s natural reaction to keep us safe, so when we experience extreme joy, we can sometimes come crashing down and feel low. We are then brought back up to a normal range.
To help raise your pleasure ceiling, the next time something fabulous happens to you in your life, rather than immediately celebrating, do something very normal or boring, like a household chore, to help your energy adjust to the new standard of joy, pleasure, and abundance you are making room for in your life. This will help you to grow into your new threshold for pleasure without feeling the need to ride an emotional rollercoaster out of fear, guilt, or shame. It is also a grounding tactic that can help to get you out of your head.
Other methods for raising your pleasure ceiling
In addition to the tools mentioned above, you can begin to heal the things that caused your pleasure ceiling to become programmed in the first place. Talking with a licensed mental health professional is one way to begin the healing process should you associate pleasure with pain, feel as if you are not worthy of experiencing great joy, or have negative self-talk and belief cycles that impact the way you think and feel about yourself.
Having a pleasure ceiling does not mean that you will forever prevent yourself from experiencing all the pleasure and joy you deserve. Instead, there are ways to overcome the things holding your pleasure ceiling in place and raise it until you feel completely free to experience pleasure and joy in your day consistently without riding on an emotional rollercoaster.