We are motivated to attain pleasant experiences or states and to avoid unpleasant or painful ones. There is a basic process of evaluating what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’, and a motivation to maximize our experience of the ‘good’ and limit the ‘bad’. Even in the case of suffering for ‘the greater good’, the denial of some pleasures to attain something of greater worth further down the track, is founded on this basic need. What constitutes ‘good’, pleasurable, beautiful, etc., is very dependent upon the individual and how the experience of things is consistent with the satisfaction of their other basic needs. From the point of view of Grawe’s consistency theory, we are in a maximal state when our “current perceptions and goals are completely congruent with one another, and the transpiring mental activity is not disturbed by any competing intentions.” (2007, p. 244). Grawe further points us to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s best selling book ‘Flow’ (1991), that describes our intrinsic motivation toward aligning our perception of experience with our intentions.

Pain Minimisation & Pleasure Maximisation in 60 seconds from The Neuropsychotherapist on Vimeo.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. New York, N.Y.: HarperPerennial.

Grawe, K. (2007). Neuropsychotherapy: How the Neurosciences Inform Effective Psychotherapy (1st ed.). Routledge.