Pleasure Deprivation

I’ve written a few posts recently that relate back to narcissistic behaviours, such as this one on Gaslighting.  There’ll be another one coming soon, too.  One of the possible causes of narcissism, or a mooted possible cause seeing as no-one really knows, is emotional deprivation in childhood.

The theory is that the narcissist has struggled with an emotional connection of worth at an early stage (usually with parents), meaning that they set up barriers and create a persona of superiority, strength and excellence to make people love them and fill in that void of worth that they experienced in their formative years.  However, because the narcissist doesn’t want to feel the pain of rejection again, they’ll put very little of themselves in to the relationship.

Before I get dragged off too far sideways in to a subject that I find really interesting, I should probably touch on the deprivation aspect.

There are generally two schools of thought around deprivation.  The first is that depriving ourselves or being deprived of anything can cause us to do some pretty strange stuff (as is the case with narcissists).

My father ridicules my uncle  by saying that he all too often uses the mantra “don’t do today what you can always do tomorrow”.  If someone feels like they are suffering from time deprivation, they’ll put off doing things there and then thinking that they’re saving valuable time, without realising that they’ll have to go back and do it at some point anyway and it will then probably take longer.  I’m terrible for thinking that I’m saving time by not opening my mail as it arrives or not putting my latest used plate in the dishwasher as soon as I’ve finised with it, and then having to do it all a few days later anyway changing a 10 second task into a 5 minute one.

Because we see scarcity, we can also act impulsively.  A few years ago I bought a lovely pair of Adidas Stan Smith Primeknit when they were limited edition.  I wanted them from the moment I saw them and I wanted them more because they were limited edition.  I think I spent £120 on them and I’ve worn them once (I don’t want to ruin them!).  At the weekend I saw them in a shop, no longer limited edition, and retailing at £80 so that desire to get something rare essentially cost me a 50% mark-up, for one wear (to a cinema).

Scarcity can lead to obsession and issues with motivation because, as my footwear shows, we become vulnerable to temptation.

There is, however, another side to deprivation which is the other extreme.  That is to say that when something becomes so regular, so normal and so easy to find, it becomes normal and one struggles to get pleasure out of it.

In Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone, study authors Erin Hatton and Mary Trautner note that the hypersexualistion of men and women in images generally make men sexier and women more sex-object-ier (my word, not theirs).  They note that this has negative consequences on women, exposing them to sexual harrassment, negative attitudes of men and boys and body dissatisfaction.

Another side effect and negative consequence on all parties, though, is dissatisfaction in physical relationships.  A study in 2006 showed a link between a person’s regular exposure to pornography and a decrease in satisfaction with their intimate partner in areas such as affection, physical appearance and sexual performance.  Indeed, it’s also been noted that people who use pornography regularly require a more and more extreme stimulus to get the same effect.

(Incidentally, porn can also make men more violent and more religious.  Thoughts?!)

Deprivation appears to have two sides then, and the important bit appears to be about striking the right balance between too little and too much.  It should be about being happy with yourself and not obsessing about what others have by way of comparison.  It’s also important not to be greedy and realising that the spreading of resources and helping someone else can actually lead to you getting something in return.

If we strike that balance, we end up not depriving ourselves of anything.

See the stone set in your eyes,
See the thorn twist in your side.
I’ll wait for you.

Sleight of hand and twist of fate,
On a bed of nails she makes me wait.
And I wait without you.

With or without you.
With or without you.

Through the storm, we reach the shore.
You gave it all but I want more.
And I’m waiting for you.

With or without you.
With or without you.
I can’t live with or without you.

And you give yourself away.
And you give yourself away.
And you give, and you give,
And you give yourself away.

My hands are tied, my body bruised.
She got me with nothing to win
And nothing left to lose.

And you give yourself away.
And you give yourself away.
And you give, and you give,
And you give yourself away.

With or without you.
With or without you.
I can’t live
With or without you.

With Or Without You by U2


Fitting in a little with the theme of deprivation, you might also be interested in a couple of my other posts.  In The Science Of The Travel Companion from last week I wrote about how my waiting for something to be shared with someone might make it even better.  It’s along similar lines, because I’m happy to deprive myself now in the hope that something will be better later, and if it’s not better, at least it will be the best up to that point, as discussed in Wisdom.

Comments 2

  1. Liberty Henwick

    I’ve never heard of a connection between pornography and religious response. Perhaps it’s consequential guilt?

    • Not-so-interesting fact about me – I was asked to do a Masters in Attitudes to Pornography (specifically in feminism, but I venture that being non-feminist and anti-feminist is actually a part of feminism). But anyway, I can get side tracked in to talking about both reaction to porn and feminism, so before I do…!

      I haven’t read the article fully seeing as I only stumbled across it myself yesterday, but you’re right that the main hypothesis is guilt, but also that people become more comfortable with a perceived vice when they have something perceived as good to balance it against. The two aspects that I’d like to know more about with regard to this particular article is why pornography use is seen as wrong generally and religiously (again, something I could talk about forever and a day!), and whether there were any backward links from someone becoming more religious and therefore using pornography more.

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