How We Unlearn Pleasure
Observe children playing outdoors. Whether together or alone, they are totally engaged and at-one with the moment they are experiencing. They let their emotions flow through them without filter. They are never thinking “This pleasure isn't good enough” then spend the rest of playtime moping about it. They simply indulge whole-heartedly in the experience; the good, the bad and the mediocre, as if their lives depended on it.
Next time you watch children playing in this way, recall how you used to be like this too. And recall what changed.
While things like biological aging, illness and life’s ups and downs have an effect on your well being, so to do your responses to these inevitable hurdles. Watching children experience multiple emotions at play, yet still remain engaged in their pursuit of pleasure, is something most adults struggle with.
Most of our waking hours are spent thinking about everything except what we are doing. We are thinking about the future, the past, that thing that someone said, the project that needs to be completed or the list of errands that need attending before the weekend.
The truth is, we are rewarded for thinking this way, so we persist with it.
Such thinking emboldens career advancement, pay rises, social approval and acquisition of material gains. It helps households run smoothly and makes sure life is a success. But in the process of all the planning, we often neglect playtime, we neglect pleasure, we get caught up in negativity bias leading to forgetting about sex. Or if we do it (solo or partnered) we forget to pay attention to what we are doing, while we are doing it.
Research shows that we are never happier within ourselves than when we are ‘present’, no matter the activity. This is 'mindfulness'. Being present simply means we are paying attention to the activity at hand, even if it's mundane.
Now, to be clear I am not suggesting that you endure touch / sex you do not want / enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, speak up about what you want instead. But if you notice you are neglecting pleasure, or neglecting yourself during erotic exploration, presence is a very helpful practice.
Where energy and mindfulness meet, we find better sex
Sadly, a very western phenomenon is the tendency to long for what we do not have. Then when we have it, become anxious that it's finite, sub-standard or less than abundant. It's a never ending cycle of drama.
The alternative is to recognize that feelings, including the complications of sheltering in place, cohabiting with partners, sexual desire and sexual pleasure, come and go. When we are attentive to what we are doing, we are in a better position to be able to savor it and enjoy it, rather than judging it as being good, bad, right, wrong or worrying it's less than perfect.
Be Your Own Sex Therapist
It’s easy to get caught up in a spiral of descending doubt and shame focusing only on your inadequacy, your shame about your shame and your critical thoughts about your erotic feelings or lack of. It makes sense. After all, we are the filter through which we experience our lives. As a consequence, we easily get thrown off course because:
- someone doesn’t come
- someone loses their erection
- someone didn’t say what you wanted to hear
- we are not enjoying the touch we are getting
- someone didn’t initiate
- our feelings are hurt
- .... fill in the blank
Then you spend time ruminating on what isn’t happening, rather than what is happening and how great it is (or could be).
As important as sex is, and as important as we are, our lives are relatively short – and some could even say somewhat meaningless. Our capacity for physical activity diminishes rapidly and everything can seem more important than pleasure, that is, unless you stop and pay attention to it for the duration of time we have on the planet.
It helps in these situations to adopt a sense of humor and try imagining yourself as a character in a book or a movie. Can we get a little distance from the seriousness of life? Can we focus a little less on the complications, and more on the story unfolding?
- If you could rewrite your own story, what would you change?
- What would qualities would you like to amplify and which qualities would you like to experience less of?
Observe yourself with a little detachment and see how much pressure is alleviated when you give yourself permission to take pleasure less seriously.
Breathe deeply and focus on your exhale to reduce the jitters and anxiety associated with physical tension. Bring your attention to being rather than doing.
Approach sex like a meditation but instead of paying attention to your breath, pay attention to what you can feel; sensations in your body. Pay attention to what you can feel in your fingers and hands if you are touching another’s body. The more centered you are as you engage in touch, the easier it will be for you to remain present and in harmony with the experience. Toning the reflexes of the mind in this way, assists with toning your sexological knowledge, allowing you to feel more relaxed, and potentially less reactive during erotic play.
Struggling with integrating these strategies is common and seeking help is useful when you are committed to making changes in your relationships that last. Find out more about how I can help you.