Is Abstaining From Indulgence A Punishment Or Reward?

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise for which we are later, in the fullness of time and understanding, very grateful for!” -Oscar Wilde

Do you consider abstinence a punishment or a reward? Your answer will depend upon your own unique perceptions. How do you see your reality? Your perception of this moment is colored by the lens you are looking through. If are you looking at a situation through the lens of punishment, then it is a punishment. If you are looking through the lens of reward, then to you it is a reward.

Karyn Hall, PhD of Psychology Today suggests that “there are many ways our perceptions are actually inaccurate representations of reality.” In fact, our perceptions are highly mood dependent. Past experiences and current emotions determine the specific lens we use to distort our version of reality. Hall says reminding yourself that “your perceptions may be faulty or incomplete may help you be more flexible in your views, giving you more peace and contentment”(2012).

To illustrate this point, consider a common Chinese folk story about a farmer whose horse wanders off. You may recollect this one from childhood. His neighbors pity what they perceive as bad luck, but the farmer insists that they should not be upset as the outcome is not set in stone. “We will see,” he says. Later the horse returns with a very rare mare. This time the neighbors boast what they perceive as good luck, and again the farmer insists that they wait and see. Soon after the farmer’s son falls off the horse and breaks his leg. As the neighbors sympathize another perceived misfortune, the farmer again says, “We will see.” Years pass and the army comes to draft all the young men. The farmer’s son is spared because of his limp. So, ultimately the horse wandering off may well have save the son’s life.

Qigong specialist, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming says this fable teaches us that “often, when an event takes place that everybody thinks is good luck, the end results are disastrous. In the same way, an unlucky event can bring about happiness” (2007). By waiting to see the result and looking at the events through a neutral lens, rather than becoming consumed by stress or cursing his fate, the farmer avoided wasting a lot of unserving energy on events over which he had little control.

When we think of abstinence, being denied something looks and appears to be a form of punishment. However, it could also be a reward if we wait to see how the entire story unfolds. If you are denied entrance to a theme park that has reached its capacity, then you might be upset or feel as though you are being punished. However, if the machinery malfunctions and many people are injured, then you might begin to see your punishment as a blessing. In this scenario, you and your family remain safe because you were forced to abstain from entering the park.

Every moment we can choose to see the events that affect us as either punishments or rewards. Rather than getting angry in the first place, you might see your punishment of being turned away as an opportunity to try something new that you wouldn’t have otherwise sought out. Rather than feeling sorry for yourself through the lens of punishment, you might be surprised to find that you actually have a far better time at the botanical gardens next door. That is, if you allow yourself to visit the lens of reward. Which perspective will bring you more peace and contentment?

This reward mindset can also be applied to something like the diet that doesn’t seem to stick. Diet changes are difficult because we feel deprived. However, what if your abstinence was actually a reward? Change your perception. Redirect your lens. You aren’t being denied or punished, you are choosing a healthier consequence further down the line. Will you regret that piece of cake more than you will enjoy looking and feeling amazing?

Is Abstaining From Indulgence A Punishment Or Reward?

Or, widen your lens even further. There may be more options beyond cake or no cake. If you abstain now, will you find yourself bingeing on half of a cake later after company leaves? Losing control after dusk can happen to the best of us. Perhaps you could reward yourself with just one bite now—and experience the best of both worlds by avoiding self-punishment later. Is your perception of punishment vs. reward quantity dependent?

In Reiki we recognize that perception is everything. If you are able to perceive the healing qualities of energy as they enter your body, then you are able to receive healing (Newsweek, 2016). If you perceive something as a reward, then you will feel joy in accepting what you deserve and desire.

Schedule a telephone consultation with Rose for more personalized guidance on changing your perception to improve your life.  


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What To Remember:

Our perceptions of reality are often flawed because we look through distorted lenses.
Sometimes what we perceive as a punishment is actually a blessing in disguise.
Acceptance of “what is” and recognition of our distortions may lead to peace and contentment.
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  • Courneen, Trevor. (January, 2016). The Healing Power Of Reiki. Retrieved from Newsweek.
  • Hall, Karyn Ph.D. (August, 2012). A Few of the Many Ways We Distort Reality. Retrieved from Psychology Today.
  • Jwing-Min, Yang (December 2007). A Blessing in Disguise (Chinese Folk Story). Retrieved from YMAA.
  • Meinschein, Becky. 10 Signs You’re on the Right Path in Life. Retrieved from Everyday Power.


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