Pleasure and pain (like life and death) are a fascinating duo. In this relationship, I imagine that pain is the head of the household. That’s not to say pain is ‘the constant‘; that would be going too far, of course. Nevertheless pain, like water, may come close to describing the way. That puts pain at the same primeval level as fear. They are the leaders in the evolution of life, with supporting roles in life’s drama going to pleasure and need (and in us humans, desire).
Pleasure is fleeting, and always leads back to pain (1). Buddha most succinctly described this process in his Second Noble Truth: “The desire to live for the enjoyment of self entangles us in a net of sorrows. Pleasures are the bait and the result is pain.” Genuinely acknowledging this process goes a long way to mitigating its effects on me. Forewarned is forearmed!
(1) Does it always really lead back to pain? In a matter of speaking, it does. For example, eating is pleasure, especially when you’re hunger, but eventually hunger pains return. If wealthy, you never have to let hunger reach a painful point, but then you’re probably suffering from food’s pleasures in other ways (e.g., problems related to weight, heart, gout, immunity, etc.). Of course, feeling pained, we then seek pleasure. Round and round we go. The only choice we may have in this matter is in the degree we oscillate between the two. The milder our swing between extremes, the deeper our sense of well being.