People will of course choose pleasure over pain. Evolution and human nature dictate it. In fact, the advances of civilizations and the human race itself throughout history have revolved around this search for pleasure and avoidance of pain.
However, life is not complete without pain. As the saying goes, you cannot appreciate the sweet without the sour, the sunshine without the rain. After all, a life without any discomfort can be dull. It is actually the struggles and challenges of life that add spice to our every day. Even people would often endure a little discomfort to experience pleasure later, something that is clinically called delayed gratification. That is why the adages, “No pain, no gain” and “You reap what you sow” are common mottoes for a lot of people.
The Benefits of Delaying Gratification
Delaying gratification means you are working hard or enduring hardship for the sake of some form of pleasure or reward later on. This has plenty of benefits:
- People who sacrifice now are able to cash in later on more rewards than if they didn’t wait
- Those who are able to sacrifice now for the sake of their goals have something to look forward to and are therefore more motivated
- They are able to better appreciate what pleasure or rewards they gain after their hardship and sacrifice
- Those who do not delay gratification will be at risk of causing harm to others. For example: a driver who doesn’t wait to get home to drink and then becomes intoxicated on the road and posing risks to other drivers and civilians, or a student who would rather play video games than study for the exams the next day
- Those who are unable to delay their gratification have a lesser chance of accomplishing anything that requires their time and patience
- Those who are good at delaying gratification are less inclined to impulsive behavior that are usually the cause of many problems in life
What if You Can’t Wait?
Although people would say “Live for the moment and don’t worry about tomorrow” there is still something to be gained by preparing for whatever comes. A good example is setting aside some savings for rainy days and even for retirement.
So for people who cannot wait, act impulsively, or doesn’t want to suffer a little to reap better benefits later, here are the dangers:
- acting impulsively will more often than not end up badly
- no sense of control over their lives and decision-making
- life revolves around chasing momentary and small pockets of pleasures
- may sooner or later have physical or mental health problems
- may pose as a danger or trouble for other people
- may cause misery to family, friends, loved ones, and other people around them
- no plans for the future causing them to fail or end up miserable
Delayed Gratification and the Addict
When you wait for the rewards of what you do, you are exercising delayed gratification. Many experts in the field of psychology would say that those who are unable to delay their gratification have problems with impulse control. This means they would rather experience pleasure now and pay for whatever consequences later, and these are often negative.
The dynamics between delayed gratification and impulse control explains why people risk pain or long-term damage for the sake of a momentary rush of pleasure. This is one of the characteristics of addictive behavior.
Aside from low levels of delayed gratification and weak impulse control, other factors for addictive behavior include:
- the feeling of being an outcast from society or seeking to be one
- antisocial tendencies
- being depressed
- having anxiety issues
- feeling like they’re being oppressed or repressed
- feeling highly stressed
- low self-esteem and confidence
- inclination to deviant behavior
- admiration and desire for non-conformity
- seeking attention
- people-pleasing behavior
Why Learning Delayed Gratification is Important in Recovery
It is typical for people who have fallen into the traps of substance abuse and addiction to have a problem delaying their gratification. When they enter rehabilitation facilities like ours at Bridges of Hope, our therapeutic community approach enables them to learn to positively approach life, set goals, and work for longer-term and more worthwhile rewards rather than just momentary highs.
Learning delayed gratification in recovery will help them to:
- avoid slipping back again into addiction
- avoid substituting their substance abuse with other addictions
- avoid using the slightest difficulty as an excuse to relapse
- cultivate and maintain emotional sobriety
- more constructively cope overcome the inevitable problems of life
- see these problems as challenges
At Bridges of Hope, we equip people with recovery and life skills that will allow them to turn away from their addictive behavior. We work hard to deal with the root of the addiction, which is the behavior and attitude of the person.
So if you have someone in your life who is struggling with addiction, steer them in the right direction.