By Sharukh Vazifdar
Right from the time we drink milk from our mother’s breast to the time we breathe our last, every action is a need for gratification. What is gratification based on and how can we achieve it on a lasting scale?
I’m not much of a sports fan, but I always watch the 100m and 200m races at the Olympics. I just love the exuberance and rush that it gives me. For those ten seconds the sprinter truly lives. All his years of training and toiling are put to the test. He runs up to the point where his muscles spasm and his heart is on the verge of bursting. Each time his heel hits the ground, more energy is released than what you or I would spend for a kilometre-long jog. This is his moment and there will not be another for the next four years or maybe his entire lifetime. When he tears the ribbon after the finishing line, he is spent, and on the verge of collapse, yet the ribbon is always torn with his chest out and hands up. This is his moment of glory, the meaning of his existence, his sole purpose of life. This self-gratification is so overwhelming that many cry, scream or just run a victory lap. This is what we try to achieve in our day-to-day activities on a much smaller scale.
Notice how pleased you feel with yourself when you get your pay cheque? Or when you squeeze in half an hour of yoga before rushing off to work? That’s gratification. It’s the dessert which allows you to enjoy the meal better. Right from the time we drink milk from our mother’s breast to the time we breathe our last, every action is a need for gratification.
The simple life
While almost all of us like to feel good about ourselves or what we do, very few of us think about it. The satisfaction obtained at the end validates the effort we put into it. Ever realised why a certain task is called a failure? If the goal is not achieved we feel lost, ashamed and depressed since there is no gratification. Behind every small action we can see gratification. Take, for instance, brushing your teeth; you like the clean feeling and fresh breath after a good brush. Even reaching your office on time is an act of gratification, since you feel you are the model employee. Gratification is the mix of fulfilment and satisfaction. While fulfilment is the need to carry out your desire, satisfaction is the feeling of contentment you get when it is fulfilled.
Ritika Verma, who works for a UN youth magazine Positive News + Youth Views, says that she finds gratification in the simplest of things. Right from helping out street children to her journey as a journalist to helping out at home and guiding her younger brother. She feels gratified while reminiscing about these instances as well! Some of the things that gratify our senses are relaxing massages, television, exercise, food, sex, and pleasant sounds and smells or even an itch. For emotional gratification we look toward achievements, love, relationships, self-worth and altruism. Psychological gratification is generally got from agreement and validation, and a sense of safety.
Out & in
“It is the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most men live only for the gratification of it.”
Dr Ambrish Bhatt, a counsellor in some of Mumbai’s engineering colleges, cites an incident of a student who came to him with a severe lack of self-esteem, citing a long list of insufficiencies. He simply asked her to visualise her perfect self sitting in the chair opposite and list the qualities she had. When she did, she realised that she had these same qualities in herself, but just did not know it. A lot of denial was occurring within her, which led to blockage of gratification.
Gratification can be obtained from within or from outside. Internal gratification is when you are plugged into your own resources to feel good. External gratification is when you look outside yourself to feel good. A very common example of the latter is when you help someone and do not get acknowledged for it. We feel hurt or used and call the person ungrateful. It happens to all of us, and I’m sure we’ve all been called ungrateful by others at some point in our lives. External gratification also involves doing things not because you want to but because you are influenced to. Like keeping up with the Joneses, buying the latest gadgets or cars just so that others will be impressed. Print and electronic media have a great role to play in external gratification through influence.
The inner route
Internal gratification is high in someone who has a good sense of self-esteem, is self-aware, is confident about his place in the world, has fulfilling relationships and an enjoyable livelihood. Such a person gets gratification from the smallest thing – even in the study of a fallen leaf or in watching a kitten at play. For instance, recently someone offered a seat to an old man in the train. It wasn’t I who offered it, but seeing the act gave me a great sense of joy and optimism.
Self-gratified people come across as very calm and centred. They do not depend on another’s reaction or opinion for their peace of mind. All prophets, gurus, masters and preachers are deeply self-gratified. A deep sense of self-acceptance is a must to shed this need for external gratification.
One way to increase one’s level of internal gratification is to do what pleases you without regard for external reward. Housewives, when was the last time you went for a relaxing walk, enjoyed your favourite drink or just slept in? Workaholics, why is it so important to be at the office from eight to eight? When was the last time you took time off to stand and stare? Many spiritual teachers maintain that the self comes first. That is true! Until you are satisfied how can you help another? First help the self, fulfil your needs and then move on to others.
An important aspect of being internally gratified is that we are not looking for instant highs. Therefore we can patiently work towards achieving those goals that give us solid gratification such as a good score in our exams, writing a book or even striving for enlightenment. Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of the bestseller, Emotional Intelligence, quotes the marshmallow experiment conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s on delayed gratification. Four-year-old children were given a marshmallow and promised another one if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Some ate it immediately and some did not. The researchers followed the progress of these children into adolescence, and found that those who did wait the 20 minutes turned out to be better balanced and more dependable, scored better in examinations, had better social behaviour and lesser cases of drug use.
When our channels for internal gratification are blocked then we look outside for the feel-good factor. We pursue activities such as eating, watching TV, going out for parties with friends or having an endless round of fun. The less our capacity to self-gratify, the more compulsively we get our gratification from the outside. The late Michael Jackson is an extreme case of someone addicted to external gratification, if we take into consideration his many cosmetic surgeries, and the acquisition of his own private amusement park. Despite his fame and fortune, Michael seemed to want something which money couldn’t buy.
Emotionally too, we look outside for approval. A friend of mine wants others to validate whatever he does, before he does it. He just cannot self-gratify. He will ask a number of people if what he is doing is right, and wants others to agree in order for him to feel all right.
Why would one look externally for gratification? All too often it is because our relationship with ourselves is faulty. We lack self-trust or self-worth or have not clarified our goals. Our self-image isn’t strong enough to carry our beliefs so we require someone else to prop it up for us. This type of gratification leads to dependency. It arises out of our fear of failure or fear of being wrong or alone.
The only way out of these is to cultivate our relationship with ourselves. At some point you will find yourself asking so what? It is okay to fail, be wrong, be alone. There is not a single one of us who hasn’t. Even the best of us has had our weak moments, and only from it can strength be derived.
If gratification is the goal in all we do, is there such a thing as a truly selfless deed? No, there is not. The Dalai Lama uses the term enlightened self-interest in describing acts that help others and bring us happiness. Sangeeta Krishnan, a practising Wiccan and writer, finds that if she knows there will be a strong gratification at the end, subconsciously the job gets done in a better and more thorough way than if gratification isn’t guaranteed.
The move inward
In Dr Bhatt’s opinion people sooner or later move toward inner gratification and appreciation where you don’t require anybody’s approval or praise. At the same time external gratification should not be looked upon as an obstacle but as a tool. Neale Donald Walsch shares, “In absence of that which is not, that which is, is not.” Simplifying that, he is just stating that duality is required to experience the good, and the divine. External gratification is a stepping stone to get to internal gratification. Be grateful for it, for it is the tool to your happiness.
We live in a world of the external, where the internal is ignored or considered subordinate. We pump up our muscles but don’t care about our organs; we would rather do cosmetic surgery than aura cleansing. But times are changing. There is a growing interest in the wholesome and holistic way of life.
Says Dr Ambrish Bhatt, “Consistent gratification comes from within; it happens in the integration of oneself; where one’s goals and values are coherent with one’s thoughts, words and deeds.” He himself is a wonderful example of one who gets his gratification from within. He confesses that a recent workshop on assertion that he conducted for Life Positive, gave him a sense of immense gratification. His career as counsellor and trainer which enables him to make a difference to people’s lives, is a constant source of gratification, he admits. Another source of deep fulfilment comes from giving rein to his creative side, through an innovative hands-on craft. Although money is important, he says, “Financial gratification is not final gratification.”
Another self-gratifier is Dammy Santa Maria, a 59-year-old marathon runner and medal winner who has represented India in many 30 km walks. He says that the gratification he gets from running and walking is what he lives for. He runs and walks for 20 km daily. This has boosted his immune system, and allows him to sleep and think well. Despite doctors warning him 25 years ago that running could kill him, he did not let that stop him. “If I died running, that would be the ultimate gratification,” he says with quiet conviction. “The smell of grass and dew early in the morning churned up after running on it with studs is exhilarating; it takes me to a different level,” says Dammy. He loves it when a branch or creeper brushes against him, comparing it to a hug from the tree. Even lying down under a branch provides immense fulfilment.
Dammy also experienced satisfaction when he took care of his mother before she passed away. He understood that to take care of her, he first had to ensure that he was in good shape. He enjoys reaching out and serving people. He is currently helping children with special needs train for the Special Olympics. He gets his satisfaction out of doing his job well, not from the monetary rewards that follow.
One aspect of inner gratification is the recognition that it often doesn’t lie at the end of the path, but on it. In life, we work toward a goal or a state, which we call our aim in life, but we find that it’s not the final result which gives satisfaction, but all the stuff along the way. There is more pleasure in the doing than the having. Ever seen a cat play with a mouse? It doesn’t kill the mouse immediately, but plays a game of capture and release with it. There is much more satisfaction in running behind it than instantly eating it.
While studying for my board exams I had a high score as my target, but I had the most fun and satisfaction studying for it. When the results came out, the score didn’t matter as much as I thought it would. This happened again, when I was doing a project for my engineering degree. I had the end result in mind and worked towards that, but it was what I learnt along the way and the fun I had that gratified me. Though I did not achieve all that I had planned to, it did not matter since somewhere along the way it all changed.
A good understanding of oneself is part and parcel of self-gratification. You can’t be content if you don’t know what it is you want. I learnt a lot about myself while trying to achieve satisfaction. Dammy says it is because he understands himself completely that he can do all that he does, and not look around to copy others.
When practised with awareness, gratification can set us free of the need to look around and teach us to look within for happiness. It is our everlasting companion in the journey of life and a great guide for those on the spiritual path. Let me add that writing this article has been a great source of gratification. Aaah! I feel so good!
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