Many people have concerns about their sex lives. After all, sex is an area of human relationships that is difficult to address between lovers and is often skimmed over in couple’s counselling. But if it’s so popular, why is it so hard to talk about?
A lot of people will talk about sex, but not with any degree of insight or tenderness. Social sex chats tend to focus on skills, rather than emotions. Many people tell me about their ‘sex chats’ with friends that turn to one-upping, bragging or comparing notes on performance. For those who are genuinely struggling, these conversations usually make us feel worse.
“My friends are always going on about how much amazing sex they are having. I feel like I can’t say that. I have never even had an orgasm. I just lie so I feel like I fit in. I think sex is boring. I feel like there is something wrong with me.” – Lisa. 24
One of the reasons we can get stuck worrying about sex, rather than feeling enjoyment from it is because it’s easy to be distracted by doing it right!
We become preoccupied with having sex that looks good rather than feels good. Women often worry about their bodies and how they look and men worry about their performance. All these worries stop us from connecting to what we are doing and why we are doing it. Because the craft of sex is never taught to us aside from ‘making babies’, our motivation for sex is glossed over. We are consumed by how we look, sound, smell or how often we are doing it, rather than how we feel and why we are there.
“I really love her a lot, but I just don’t last long enough to satisfy her. She thinks I am being selfish and turns over and cries. So I’ve started avoiding sex. I don’t like making her upset, so I just make excuses not to do it. This has been going on for years. We never talk about it and it’s killing our relationship” – Steve 37.
When we spend all of our energy focusing on what we don’t want and what we don’t like, we have little to no energy for focusing on what we do want; feeling good, feeling connected and getting turned on.
Research has shown us that in many cases this can be connected to what’s happening in the brain. The parts of our brain that require firing up to feel turned on, are also the parts that tend to shut down if we are feeling anxious or unsure. It’s as if our thoughts and experiences can control how our brains respond to sex. And it makes sense. The Kinsey Institute for Sex Research have developed the Dual Control Model which suggests that fulfilling sex is not only about doing things you enjoy (putting your foot on the accelerator and focusing on getting turned on), but noticing what inhibits you (what stops you from staying present and forming the brake.)
It works like this…
Instead of becoming anxious about sex being higher, hotter, harder, faster – try noticing what stops you from connecting to sex.
‘Why don’t I want sex?’ Or ‘Will I last long enough this time?’
‘What inhibits me during sex?’
‘How do I get hooked by my thoughts or distracted from my body?’
Here are some suggestions…
- feeling ashamed
- feeling disgusted
- feeling embarrassed / awkward
- feeling resentful, angry, unworthy
- tired, overworked, unappreciated
- spiteful, resentful
- not feeling big enough (penis / breasts)
- not hard enough / not wet enough
- not lasting long enough
- generally ‘not enough’
- feeling guilty
- feeling too fat
- feeling too old
- feeling too ugly
Instead of focusing on distracting thoughts and what’s going wrong (the brake), try noticing what is happening and what feels good. In other words, try paying attention to what you are doing and feeling and less to being critical or anxious about your performance. Most people find this to be very difficult to manage alone so finding a therapist to help is a great idea. With time this process allows us to feel more connected to what we are doing and less worried about how we appear while doing it. There is a quiz here that offers you more insight into arousal and inhibition based on the Dual Control Model scale.
Being adventurous, creative and having one foot on the accelerator is really great, but it can be distressing when you also have one foot on the brake at the same time. You won’t be going anywhere. Fast.
The practice of self awareness helps change this process. This is not about the power of positive thinking. Nor is it about forcing outcomes or doing it right. Quite the opposite. It’s about the power of not getting caught up in the rattle and hum of your mind. It’s about looking at what stops you from being present. Try mindfulness meditation, learning to explore resilience, replacing feelings of worthlessness with feelings of acceptance or learning more about sex by reading books, watching videos, attending seminars or going to workshops. All of these things are ways to help you minimise the brakes to create pathways that allow new alternatives to emerge.
For individual assistance get in touch for a face-to-face session or an appointment via Skype.
The Desire Series
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