wings and things

Pleasure versus pain

on May 27, 2012

How interesting! I just sussed out the recent statistics for this blog (something I don’t usually do – really!) and found that pain is much more popular than pleasure. I don’t have these two pps as categories in this blog, but it is obvious that more people want to read about sad stuff than happy stuff.


I do understand this because, when I was teaching Creative Writing at the local university, I used to talk to the students about this writing conundrum (this was before my husband got so sick), and this is what they came up with at the time:

  • when you read about other shit, yours doesn’t seem so bad;
  • happy stories are dead boring;
  • yes, but tragedy always has comedy too;
  • why can’t I just gutspill onto the page?
  • because Julie said you need to restrain yourself a bit more
  • what a load of crap!
  • one painful sentence is worth it
  • fuck pleasure – let”s do this!

I miss those students and their wisdoms.

And I would like to know why pain is so pleasurable – over to you…..


Photo courtesy of Shaam Burley

57 responses to “Pleasure versus pain

  1. twizzkid says:

    For me it isn’t. Period. However, I’ve noticed on my blog that “hits” go way up when something bad happens, like when an eaglet fell out of the nest to its doom. I just don’t get it, it makes my heart hurt, so no help here, but will be interested to see what others say as I wondered the same.

    • jmgoyder says:

      Thank you so much for that twizzi! It makes me curious too. Coincidentally I was about to add your wonderful blog to my blogroll and I accidentally deleted the whole thing – argh!

  2. I think there is a morbid sense of curiosity. Almost looking at others peoples pain to make us appreciate our own life more.

    I don’t mind sad short stories or short stories that end badly as long as it is done well. But I hate novels that do the same thing, they can have pain and striving but ultimately you need that sense of ‘happily ever after’ because you invest too much emotionally to the characters.

  3. Randy Roberts says:

    Scientific studies of men have shown that men respond positively to another man’s pain. In otherwords, another man’s pain is funny to us. Which leads me to a one word conclusion about men, and while I fight against letting out my inner-jerk, I am very rarely successful.

    That said, I do not find what is happening to your husband funny. One of the guys who stuck up for me when I was a kid suffered from Parkinsons and that was not funny. However, I do find the struggle your family is going through as heroic, even if you don’t see it that way.

  4. artfulanxiety says:

    I think we’re wired to be drawn to calamities, no matter how well we know the victims, but when something good happens, it comes down to whether or not you personally care.

    For example, people who don’t know me wouldn’t care that I have accomplished a lot despite my anxiety problem, but it is exciting to those who immerse themselves in my journey.

    I think it is because pain is (unfortunately) more universal. Pain is easier to identify with, no matter what is happening. I suppose, in a way, it’s something that links us all together… sadly…

  5. victoriaaphotography says:

    Love your photo Julie – typical Aussie sunset. Just beautiful.

    I don’t know why people like to read about pain and misery. Maybe it is a case of curiosity. Maybe it really IS that reading about other people’s problems makes your own seem smaller.

    When I used to do a lot of writing on the health forum I belonged to, people liked to read about my funny or uplifting articles the most (which contradicts what you are talking about in the above).

    But I still have a soft spot for people living with chronic pain or illness. I know where they’re coming from and I know where they’d like to be.

  6. niamhsorcha says:

    And we miss you and your funny stories!

  7. shoreacres says:

    Flannery O’Connor divided people into the irksome and the non-irksome. I divide blogs into the boring and the non-boring. The non-boring I read. Sometimes they involve pain, sometimes pleasure. It’s the insight, the humanity and the quality of writing I care about. What I never read is anger, profanity or the denigration of other people. I don’t have time in my life for that.

  8. ceciliag says:

    I have been told time and time again by my readers that they love how I see the positive side of a painful situation, Not that I really do actually but i will not wallow in print! So maybe it is an attitude to pain that people are attracted to. Your determination to honestly portray the endless frustration of your position, the pain of your husbands condition, the warts and all writing, is what people come to trust. Also i think that most of us have such dull little lives, after all we are not LIVING in an action packed thriller movie, that we seek out something to elevate or awaken our emotions and senses. My numbers spike the highest when there is a birth or addition to the Farmy . People are attracted to drama. Which is good. After all that is why we read a book! I think i wandered slightly off course then. However.. good morning! c

    • jmgoyder says:

      You are my new best friendm cecilia!

      • ceciliag says:

        Darling girl! Also I have been thinking about this as i worked through the morning.. maybe there are quite a few people who want to support you through this time, so if they see a heading that may hint at your pain they flock in to lift you and hold you for a moment with their virtual presence.. anyway.. back outside I go!

      • jmgoyder says:

        I hadn’t thought of that – silly me! Thanks cc!

  9. ceciliag says:

    Oh and i should add, i think people are attracted to the personal, and if noting else pain is desperately personal! c

  10. niasunset says:

    Dear Julie, to be honest I am not looking like that, I mean I don’t seperate them, pain or happy… Why I love to read you, because you express so beautifully, your writing style, your talking way is amazing… I can read everything from your pen… BUT you are right people most of all love to read even to watch pain, sad news, films, etc.Because life for all us, gives us some hard moments in different ways, life is actually based on sadness… I think like that… Happiness is like a wind comes and goes… This subject about readers should have also much more psychological reasons… Happiness can’t hit as much as sadness in our heart, I mean someone’s happiness can make us to dream this… you can’t feel his/her happiness but a sadness can find an address in your heart or in your life… and you can really cry with him or with her… Sorry for my language, but I hope I can explain what I am thinking… The empathy should be great because of this. Thank you, love, nia

    • jmgoyder says:

      You, nia, are a wonderful philosopher and have given me much to think about – what a fantastic comment. I will print it out so I can remember – so many thanks, nia! jxxxxxxx

      • niasunset says:

        You are so nice dear Julie, but I am not a philosopher. Just talking through my own experiences and observations… You are welcome and thanks again, love you, nia

  11. Maybe happiness is more personal and pain more universal? Or that pain focuses the mind and we learn from it. So in an attempt to lessen our own pain we try to learn from other’s pain?

  12. I think it might be closely related to hope. We all want to have hope. One of my fave quotes is: “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” -Helen Keller. When we see that people can overcome or that love can win, we are encouraged that our own problems can be surmounted. Less about pain and more about the triumph of the human spirit. 🙂

  13. Rhonda says:

    This may sound cynical…am I’m not a cynic by any stretch…but one thought occurs.

    When viewing and responding to another’s happiness or successes, they may be a moment, however fleeting, when we feel a touch of envy or self pity if that happiness or success is something we have not achieved.

    With pain…we have a chance to feel a truer sense of empathy and sympathy and perhaps a little better about ourselves because our reactions are more honest.

    Does that make any sense?

  14. Angela Sommers says:

    Dear Julie,
    I love to read positive things! There is too much pain in the world going on already and I don’t want to hear any more than I absolutely have to. I thoroughly enjoy your positive outlook on life, and I love how you always try to make the best of every situation and you share the good and the bad. You have a great and balanced outlook on life, and I look forward to your posts. Please don’t change your writings… yourself!

    Hugs from California…..

  15. angelasommers says:

    Dear Julie,

    I love your blog and look forward to your postings. You have such a great outlook on life, and you share the good and the bad in your life. You appear so well balanced and you always make the best of every situation.
    I really like how you are a very positive person, even though you are going through so much. By the way, I absolutely like your love story – wonderful! We need more positive blogs like yours!!!

    Cheers all the way from the other part of the world (California)

  16. magicallymad says:

    Good question. As a “survivor” I tend to feel obligated to honor the pain of others by not avoiding it. I don’t ‘eat it up’, it can be exhausting emotionally, but I feel like I need to acknowledge & respect others by reading about & ‘experiencing’ their pain.

    Although I LOVE to mix it up with with beauty & abject silliness. I am trying to format my own blog so that it isn’t strictly miser-ay. Just not sure how to do it & I can’t get the images to work on the template I bought (grrrr) & can’t get in touch with the flipping developer!


    • jmgoyder says:

      Yes, I have learned that it is difficult, in a blog, and in real life, to get the balance right. It’s like, when someone says, ‘how are you?’ they really just want you to say, ‘I’m fine’ – hehe! My son is hilarious because when he gets asked this question he goes into enormous detail about how he really is. Sometimes I hear him on the phone and pity the recipient who made the mistake of asking the question!
      Don’t ask me about images as I wouldn’t have a clue how it all works – I just do ‘upload’ and WAIT! Onya mm!

  17. Tilly Bud says:

    Not me. I don’t like reading sad stories; I don’t enjoy misery. I can empathise, but I’d rather not have to. I will ALWAYS choose a comedy film over a drama, a funny programme over a documentary. I know bad things happen; I don’t need to read about/watch them.

    It’s slightly different in the blogosphere: I feel like the bloggers I visit regularly are my friends and I would never trivialise or ignore their sad situations, and will always empathise. But those bloggers who write about unending misery with no light relief, ever, are bad for my soul, and I will eventually stop visiting.

  18. no idea – except the old chestnut – misery loves company
    -myself – give me pleasure any day – I could use light and airy as opposed to dark, dank and opague

  19. Robyn Lee says:

    Oh I am thinking about this all day Julie. I am not sure I can say that I think others want to know of my own pain very much! At least in my personal real-life life, family and friends would rather not know ~ and prefer I “get over it” already. Sad to say – but this has been my own experience. During my bout with Cancer, it was very different…everyone wanted to know and everyone cared. I think when pain is chronic, invisible and mysterious… folks have a different reaction. It’s really hard for me, as hiding my suffering has become much more difficult. We held a party for my daughter yesterday (Graduation/Going Away etc). Was extremely hard for me to interact with loved ones, friends and family, and I didn’t want to cast a cloud on the celebration… but was nearly in a state of ’emergency’ while I tried to behave normally while suffocating physically.

    Here in the blog-shpere, I do find that there is more interest and acceptance for some reason. Maybe the nature of the type of person who does artistic blogging? Not sure -would be an interesting experiment. This interest though is more empathic, I believe.

    As for why some would be more inclined to read a ‘bad-news’ article/story or a ‘good-news’ article/story… I think it may have to do with projected anxiety… and or the need for some major endorphin rush (in any form)!!

    Still got me thinking though. Great post to keep us all awake Julie. Thank you!

    • jmgoyder says:

      That is so interesting, Robyn – despite the obvious heart-ache of your situation. Perhaps (and your words, ‘suffocating physically’ and, dare I say, ‘invisibly,’ are powerful). I wrestle with this pain versus pleasure a lot because, in terms of novels, I am weirdly drawn to genres that are disturbing – that make me realize how idyllic my own situation is by comparison – dunno! And yet, I love humour – LOVE IT! Jxx

      • Robyn Lee says:

        Yes so interesting Julie…I like you am drawn to reading material that feature others dealing with hardship and challenge. I think partly I’m trying to make sense of it, and partly looking for validation that I’m not alone facing these battles. Perhaps you too… I do like good-natured humor a ton though as you do… but no cynical or mean humor – and have little patience for pop-culture and superficial trivia that many others here would think amusing. I know this is to a great extent because of what I’ve lived/am living. Again though – very thought provoking post ~ glad you opened this up for dialogue! Sending Love!!

      • jmgoyder says:

        Thank you so much, Robyn, for your wise input into questions I rather clumsily raised in this post – I really appreciate it and hope others will also respond because I do get a bit confused about this dilemma! Juliexxxxx

  20. I am drawn to your writing and photographs. Your tags are not important to me. I am just always in suspense to find out what happens next!

  21. I want to think human nature is kind and we are drawn to sad events because we are fixers. We want to offer support and help in any way we can. As for misery being more popular than happiness in stories, of course! What a boring story it would be if there wasn’t a struggle and a win. And happy love stories make for some really boring songs too…

  22. bluebee says:

    You write about pain with humour without trivializing things and that is a real art. And perhap it’s also instructive and helpful for people going through their own struggles, whatever they may be.

  23. dcwisdom says:

    In journalism, they say, if it bleeds, it leads.

  24. cuhome says:

    Since I passed the age of 60, I’ve let go of the fantasy that “age brings wisdom” . . . it might, but it often just opens up more questions, the kind of questions that have no black or white answers. If I want wisdom, I go to my teenage granddaughter or someone else under the age of about 15. There, I will find honesty. And, often I find perspectives that I never would have thought of!! Interesting post, Jules.

  25. Judith Post says:

    I’m not sure pain is more pleasurable, but you learn a lot from it, and if you learn through someone else’s experience, sometimes it’s cathartic. And you feel smarter when you turn the last page. But I like humor too. Everything needs conflict and tension, though, and sometimes that’s easier to accomplish with suffering.

  26. Fergiemoto says:

    In my case, simply reading about pain is not pleasurable. Writing about pain or doing artwork about what you are feeling is healing and therapeutic for me. It’s a way to help manage emotional pain so they don’t get stuck in the body and come out in other harmful ways, or cause more physical pain. Getting myself immersed in things I enjoy can take my mind off physical pain temporarily and provide a needed break. I’ve had many pain psychology sessions over the last couple of years, and the tools I’ve learned have been very helpful. That’s one of the reasons I started my other blog about my experiences. Reading about other’s pain experiences might lead to helpful information for one’s own pain, and in turn, one may have experiences that could help others with their pain. One may also find a community of bloggers with similar experiences that can support each other through the pain.

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