We all need a vice, something that gives us joy and offers us a sweet escape – but sometimes this vice is a guilty pleasure, slightly shameful and a rule breaker. And this guilt actually robs us of the benefits it offers and causes further need for a ‘vice’, creating a vicious circle. So what is the answer?
Denise Grobbelaar, Cape Town clinical psychologist, says, ’Sometimes, the rules we were taught aren’t useful anymore and restrict our spontaneous and natural enjoyment of simple pleasures. Following rules blindly, be they of your own or society’s making, inhibits our creative energies.’
She adds that our secret vices often speak to the neglected parts of ourselves. ‘If you’re enjoying something but feel guilty about it, ask yourself if the pleasure really is standing in the way of your goals. Perhaps it’s actually a necessary way of breaking out of the straightjacket you find yourself in,’ explains Denise.
Our guilty pleasures, then, are a bit like safety values that allow us to blow off some steam and reconnect to more playful, irresponsible sides of ourselves. They can also provide valuable insight into the limitations we impose on our lives.
Amerber Mahony, Joburg counselling psychologist, says, ’The answer is to allow yourself the pleasure without the weight of self-destructive, sabotaging guilt. Anticipate the parameters of your “indulgence” in advance – and give yourself permission to engage appreciatively.’ When you allow yourself to savour something consciously, Amerber adds, you’re far more likely to partake in moderation. ‘It’s about reaching equilibrium between maximising pleasure and minimising harm,’ Amerber concludes.