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pleasure heals – part 1

I caught myself the other day in a pleasure denial loop.  Again!  Whether I was doing the dishes, doing some writing or doing my partner, I kept finding ways to deny myself pleasure in the process.

It’s so aggravating – here I am, a freakin’ Sex and Intimacy Coach, and won’t let the pleasure in.  Rrrrrrrrr.

In those times it feels like everything else is more important – marketing, paying the bills, prepping for workshops, processing my relationship, personal healing… not only do these things seem more important, it seems important somehow that they be work, and that I refuse to enjoy them.

Sound familiar?

Most of us have been taught that pleasure is selfish, dangerous, or just plain wrong.  Work has to feel like work; we have to be tired and drained, work long hours and feel constantly stressed to know we’re doing a good job.  We have to sacrifice ourselves for our partners and children so they know that we love them.  Sex has to achieve results (usually orgasm) so we know we’ve performed well.  What a joyless fucking life!  And we all fall into it, whether for a few days or a few years.  Including me.

Our bodies and minds have been so thoroughly trained in pleasure denial that when we first realize this, our first move is to punish ourselves.  I can’t believe I’m doing this!!  Why can’t I enjoy my life?  What’s wrong with me?  You kind of have to admire the genius of this, because we get to continue doing the very thing we’re upset about (denying ourselves pleasure) via the punishment itself!

Brilliant.  And thank the gods, there’s another way.

Fallen into the pleasure denial trap?  I invite you to give yourself permission to experience pleasure.  If you need permission from someone else, you have it from me:

Experiencing pleasure is OK.  In fact, it could save your life.

CC Image Courtesy of ankakay on Flickr

You heard me.  Not only do you have permission from me, you even have permission from science: pleasure can literally save your life.

Let me speak to your poor little cognitive brain for a moment, which so badly wants to do the right thing and has been filled with such utter nonsense – nonsense that makes sense on the surface, but falls apart with any examination.

Our bodies (and yes, that includes our brains!) are designed for pleasure.  They are designed for the pleasures of the senses, the pleasures of connection, the pleasures of being all of who we are and offering ourselves in service to others.

For decades we studied the effects of stress, depression, anxiety, social isolation and other ills, wanting to know how they affected our bodies.  The answer, unsurprisingly: not well.  Our risk of heart attacks goes up, as does our blood pressure.  Our immune systems are weakened.  We don’t think well, sleep well, or perform well (at work or in life).  We live shorter lives and have more regrets at the end of them.  Things like money, power or social status don’t help, even though we’re told over and over again to pursue them.

Increasingly, over the past few decades, we have started to get curious: what does help?  If stress raises our blood pressure, what drops it?  If money doesn’t make us happy, what does?  Science is beginning to catch up with what our bodies have known for thousands of years: pleasure.

And let’s be clear – when we’re talking about pleasure here, we’re talking about authentic pleasure.  This is not about taking large amounts of drugs (including sugar or caffeine), having a one night stands behind our partner’s back, watching videos on Netflix for hours on end or any of the other countless things we’ve substituted for real pleasure to distract ourselves from our misery.

We’re talking about pleasure that nourishes and sustains.  So what does that look like?

Read more in pleasure heals – part 2 or consider joining me for my upcoming class “The Healing Power of Pleasure” Saturday November 10th!