Bliss vs. Logic: Understanding Our Emotional Nature (Digest)

Note: this is a condensed version of a longer essay.

So, the basis of all desires is to be Who-We-Are, the way we are meant to be.  Being Who-We-Are is the key to living a fulfilling life.

That seems obvious, but in reality we often do acts that not only prevent us to be Who-We-Are, but take us farther away from our true selves.  We always have good intentions, but some acts feel good and fun while doing it but leave you with a bad aftertaste, making you wish if you didn’t do them.  Other acts don’t feel good at all, even though you’re doing something you should.  You may be building a secure career and a rosy tomorrow, except that tomorrow never becomes today and you are not enjoying yourself.

We can call these two extremes “follow your bliss” crowd and “don’t follow your feelings” crowd.  Which one is better?

The truth, actually, is not that simple.  It’s because we have two levels of feelings:

  • Level 1 feeling: temporary, immediate, felt in my mind or in my head
  • Level 2 “gut” feeling: persistent, slow, felt in my stomach

Knowing this system, you can now evaluate your actions with a correct lens.  The acts that feel immediately good (“Pleasure”) don’t necessarily feel good later.  So following Pleasure — good Level 1 feeling — isn’t a good strategy.

On the other hand, some acts may not feel Pleasurable while you’re doing it but it feels very good afterward (“Satisfaction”).  That’s why some people put themselves through uncomfortable, straining activities such as marathon or weight-lifting.  The challenges may present them momentary discomfort, but it is deeply Satisfying over all.

Out of Who-We-Are, we can discern our values.  And acts that are inline with our values always feel Satisfying to us. So the key to life is to always choose Satisfying acts.  By paying attention to our Level 2 feelings, we can make correct judgments about whether certain choices get us closer or farther away from who we are meant to be.  Don’t get distracted by quicker and louder Level 1 feelings.  Dig down and feel what you’re feeling deeper.

No matter where you are in your life, by consistently choosing Satisfying acts, you can begin to live a fulfilling life.  Satisfaction and happiness is always within your reach — it is among the options you have.


  1. Ari

    You’ve articulated this in a really simple but powerful way. I try to live by knowing my values and what’s important to me, then filtering that through day to day actions which add joy to my life. But I’ve never really thought about there being pleasure “good” and satisfaction “good” and now I’ve read this it makes a lot of sense. If you do fun immediately enjoyable activities all the time you’re going to come to a place of deep dissatisfaction with your life. I guess that’s what happens to all these rich kids who indulge themselves then go off the rails because they have no prupose or values to live by.

    That said, sometimes pleasure is just what you need. Especially after you have kids! They’re very satisfying but also exhausting. Sometimes you need the immediate pleasure of time alone and a cup of tea and a good book.


    1. Hi Kelly,

      Welcome to OBV! Thanks for a thoughtful comment.

      I never meant to say that that pleasure is bad and to be disregarded. My intention with this article was to address the situations where you don’t know which feelings you should trust and make decisions based on.

      Of course, the ideal is that an action brings both pleasure and satisfaction. But I figured that that’ll be an obvious choice! 😉 I’m with you about kids being exhausting — I have two little ones. In your example, I would say such a break would definitely be both pleasurable and satisfying.

      Keep in touch! I look forward to getting to know you.


  2. Earl Nightengale used to make this distinction. Everything is either tension-relieving or goal-achieving. The tension-relieving would be your level one of course. I like this article and I do agree with you. Yet I wonder if you might consider changing the word satisfying to fulfilling. Following our values does fulfill us. Yet “satisfying” usually is used for meeting temporary desires. In fact some day that all desires are temporary until satisfied and replaced with another desire. Which is essentially the argument you’re making about following your values. Like I said I’m in agreement and this could just be semantics.

    1. Hi Tom,

      Thanks for great insights. I think we’re on the same page. I agree that following our values is fulfilling — but with this article I was coming from a feeling-oriented place. In my book I would use the word “satisfaction” to describe the long-term feeling about actions I feel proud of taking, while “fulfilling” to me is less about feeling and more about accomplishments — like delivering on a promise I made. So yes, I think we’re essentially debating semantics — you can substitute any words that work for you!

      Thanks again for your comment. I appreciate the thoughtfulness that you bring.


  3. This is interesting because I always struggle with running as a form of exercise. I train for one race a year, then I quit after the race and have trouble getting back into it. It’s because there are very few days that running feels pleasurable while doing it. BUT after every run I feel completely satisfied. To find my motivation and resolve I need to focus on the after run feeling (Level 2) of satisfaction, and not the Level 1 of the actual run.

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..Grease monkey or hair goddess?

    1. Hi Urban Panther,
      Thanks for bringing in a real life situation. I thought about this a bit.

      On one hand, I wonder, for something like a babit-building, if you want to go on looking for a form of exercise that brings both Pleasure AND Satisfaction? What initially drew you on to running? Are there other activities that you find yourself drawn to?

      That said, Pleasure is something we can teach ourselves to feel, even in acts that may initially feel unPleasurable. I’m not a runner myself so I can’t speak from experience, but I do wonder if you simply instituted a daily habit of running (start with a 30-day trial) maybe you’ll begin to enjoy it consistently.

      Pleasure is malleable. Satisfaction, which is based on your values, doesn’t change so easily — so when you find things that make you feel good about afterward, then that is something you can count on.

      My article was written more to address situations where you don’t know what the right choice is, and you’re probing your feelings for clues. I myself am a feeling-oriented person, but I found that feelings are murky grounds — different emotions come to me and tell me they are the ones I should listen to. Having articulated this observation, now I have cleared up a way for me to examine my own feelings.


      1. Food for thought, thanks. Re: addressing situations where I don’t know what the right choice is. Over the past several years this has actually never been a problem for me. I have worked to develop I highly tuned sense of intuition, and I *always* listen to that voice inside now. I found questioning, or over riding that voice, was bad bad bad. I think we all know what the right choice is. However, a lot of us are confuddled by ‘noise’ and can’t hear that voice inside or haven’t learned to trust it. Listening to that voice inside is different that going with feelings and emotions. It is necessary to experience the emotion (fear, anger, joy, excitement), but not necessarily best to make a choice based on them. I wait until the emotion has been experienced then I sit down quietly, look deep inside, and say “Okay, that was interesting, but what’s the right choice here?” The answer always comes. Whew, that was long and I hope it makes sense.

        Urban Panther’s last blog post..All things for all people

        1. Hi Urban Panther —

          Wow. If you’ve trained yourself to always listen to your intuition, then you’re definitely ahead of me in that regard. I’m still declattering my noise. It’s pretty amazing the depth of the fears I acquired over my life — I unlearn one, and I uncover more. But like you said, the more I learn to follow that voice, the better I feel over all.

          Thanks for sharing your insights!


        2. @Ari – I suspect I’m a bit older than you *smile* It took 10 years of ‘training’ to get where I am at now. It was like peeling back layers of an onion. Sounds like you are totally on the right track. BTW, I really enjoy your articles.

    1. Hi Cath,

      Yes, I’m with you. A lot of times, it’s the small things — but one act like that and it can snowball to ruin the rest of my day. I find that I need to be vigilant about following my inner guide.

      I think a lot of us form a habit. A habit of NOT feeling good. It often takes courage or will power to subject ourselves to do things that bring Satisfaction later — and sometimes we don’t have resources to successfully steer ourselves. When you are depleted, you go for the quick grab, the immediate gratification. I don’t know about you, but I always talk myself into it, knowing it’s not a good idea.

      But having articulated this observation, I am getting better at listening to myself. Even on days that are hard and difficult, I do less things I feel bad about later. It really enhances my peace of mind.


    1. Hey Robin,

      Indeed, it’s challenging. I’m a very emotional person, so as I said to Urban Panther, sometimes I have to wade through thickets of feelings to get to the one I want to listen to. I’m so used to having turmoils and conflicts inside. But consistently following my values seems to quiet the inner arguments. It seems like the chatterers and distractors inside realize that they don’t have as good of grounds as my inner champion of my values — my conscience.


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