For all of us, there is a key question. Should we opt for pleasure now or delay it? I think these concepts have been under attack from the ‘now’ culture, the ‘get famous quick’ society, and recent social restrictions. The notion of delaying gratification (DG) is one that some use to set us apart. Advocates promote resisting temptation of an immediate reward in preference for having it later. They link it to positive outcomes, like academic success, physical and psychological health, and social skills. You can find tools and guides to develop your delayed gratification online. Sociologists have studied it and associated it with lower-status class position. This invites higher class members of society to attribute status to their skills in it, and judge others who don’t follow such principles. However, most things related to class are increasingly fluid and blurred they are becoming a less reliable measure.
Some say ‘why wait?’. We are informed by all sorts of adages, things like ‘you only live once’. And the trappings of modern life certainly facilitate a fast-paced lifestyle. Things like the car, the jet plane, the television, the internet and multiple and instant access TV streaming channels, and food delivery apps have all been step-changes in upping the tempo of gratification. You want something, you can have it now. We don’t have to wait for anything anymore. The technological facilitation of instant gratification has waged war on any sense of delayed gratification. It is a high-tech industrial class and lifestyle revolution.
No longer do we schedule a 7.30pm sofa slot to watch our favourite soap. A few clicks and it is playing live whenever and wherever we want. At breakfast time, on the bus, you choose. You don’t have to wait until next week to watch the next episode. Watch it now. In fact, download and gorge on the whole series if you wish. You no longer have to go to a restaurant for food, it can come to you via bike courier within 20 minutes. Our tolerance for delay, our ability to be patient, to put in effort to gain rewards are all qualities being systematically eroded. And with discouragements and requirements put in place not to socialise beyond set guidance then some of these conveniences are becoming preferences.
This all goes a long way to diminishing any sense of purposefully and diligently working hard and with purpose to an identified goal. Want to lose weight, pop a magic pill, work with a PT, drink weight-loss coffee, have a gastric band even. The trouble is all these things require significant effort.
For some time, I have really been pondering if subconsciously society had been bingeing through over our consumerism in stuff and food because it knew on one level that harder times were ahead. Or were we indulging to block out the effects and pain of austerity? Little did I realise the forces of such limits would manifest so soon and so profoundly with the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. The question is, are these the harder times that were coming, or will things get even worse?
The id, as Freud would put it, our basic selves, is driven by the ‘pleasure principle’ that seeks out pleasure so we avoid the pain. The pain people are trying to avoid, I think, is this cumulative sense of our demise, personally, as a community, a culture, a nation, a global species.
We are given constant messages about the challenges experienced in the natural world; habit destruction, species extinction, and human population explosion and migration.
We have come to understand our young people are so anxious that their mental health difficulties and anxiety levels are through the roof. Those that have gone through university have left saddled with huge and artificial debt. The concept of money damaged to such an extent it seems unreal, false and contrived. There is a disconnect between what is earned and what is needed to live or to buy somewhere to live.
So why wouldn’t everyone reach out for pleasure? Right now. Pleasure is an escape from reality, it is a diversion, and escape. It’s so dreamy. And young people are so tech savvy, and they are the key market for tech companies. So, the cycle is unbreakable, it is titanium strength. Its resultant whirlpool of activity has a grip on our future generation.
It doesn’t really help any sense of long-term planning for one’s middle or advanced age. Its quite childlike. It seems to me more and more generations are held in a pre-adult state, a permanent teenager world, where life doesn’t start until… 50?, 60? later? We are all telling ourselves we are young. When we are young, we only operate through the pleasure principle and expect immediate fulfilment. Then it’s all about basic needs, milk, food and comfort. Later it is still about basic needs, it still includes food and drink, with the addition of sex and procreation. But as time marches on, we learn that we must often wait for gratification. And that hurts. Especially if one gets to middle age and one still feels unsatisfied on whatever level, we haven’t resolved our experiences in our early years, or we have yet to embrace adulthood and our age and stage of life.
The trouble with patience at this key life moment is there is a super sense of one’s time running out. Of it being a more finite entity. And it hurts if we have yet to learn that somethings, goals or desires may never be fulfilled. This can fuel questionable behaviour and purchasing choices – the sports car and the leather jacket being classic examples. People in what can be called the ‘middle age’ start devoting more time to pondering key questions about pleasure and pain, career achievements, and the purpose and extent of life.
How long can we and must we wait, and for what? Does anyone have a quick answer please?