224. The Sweet Spot with Paul Bloom

It is a well known fact that pain and pleasure are among the most influential motivators of behavior. However, it is lesser known why people make choices they know will result in painful experiences. Perhaps even more curious is why people seem to experience pleasure in making those choices and having those painful experiences. Though this phenomenon is evidenced in a broad spectrum of domains ranging from mental health disorders (e.g., disordered eating) to BDSM to the enjoyment of spicy foods, it is rarely discussed and not well understood. Paul Bloom, author of The Sweet Spot, is a world-renowned researcher on the psychology of morality, identity, and pleasure. In this episode, he and Diana discuss the pleasures of suffering and the intersection of meaning and pain. Join us in this episode to learn more about why humans so frequently choose pain, how suffering and meaning are connected, and much more!

Listen and Learn:

  • Diana and Yael’s personal experiences finding pleasure in the painful by connecting with their values
  • Paul’s expertise on what it means to “choose pain” and how that relates to the title of his most recent book, The Sweet Spot
  • The ways Paul chooses pain in his personal life 
  • Why humans sometimes choose pain (and practical examples of this played out in real life)
  • The intersection of meaningful, value-informed life-choices and pain
  • Paul expertly defines happiness, hedonism, and pleasure
  • COVID’s impacts on meaning in the workplace
  • Practical advice for more meaningfully experiencing seemingly meaningless situations
  • How empathy (and empathy fatigue) relates to pleasure and pain
  • Paul’s vision for applying strategies from his book to society as a whole
  • Tips and tricks for creatively entwining meaning with work habits you already engage in


About Paul Bloom:

Paul Bloom

Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at University of Toronto, and the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University. His research explores the psychology of morality, identity, and pleasure. Bloom is the recipient of multiple awards and honors, including, most recently, the million-dollar Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize. He has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science, and for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic Monthly. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Just Babies, How Pleasure Works, Descartes’ Baby, and, most recently, Against Empathy. In his most recent book, The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning (Ecco; on-sale: 11/2/21; ISBN: 9780062910561), Bloom aims to understand how people find meaning in their lives, and, moreover, to explore what he calls, “the sweet spot”—the proper balance between pleasure and suffering.

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Episode 224