by Melissa Walker, MA, LPC, R-DMT
Welcome to 2017!
This year, my monthly newsletter will focus on building a vision of embodied intimacy from the ground up. Each month, you will learn tools to assess and practical skills to apply to your life and relationships. We will visit the complex layers beneath the skin which culminate in the experience and expression of desire and arousal, as well as the inhibition of these often sought-after states. Desire and arousal affects how we interact with the people in our lives through sex, emotional connection & regulation, and even every day problem solving. Beginning this month, we will explore the role of the nervous system in arousal – what inhibits arousal and what allows it to suffuse your lived experience.
Our nervous system is the somatic processing system through which we take in information and respond to the environment around us, including the people who inhabit it. Like a dimmer switch on a lamp, our nervous system has a range of settings from bright to dim. The “bright” branch of our nervous system is where the dimmer switch is cranked all the way up, expressing the most energy output and the home of the activated emotions of excitement, anger, fear, frustration, and anxiety. The “dim” branch of our nervous system is where the dimmer switch is turned down low and the energy output is minimal, allowing for rest and relaxation, as in meditation, prayer, or just before falling asleep. The state of our nervous system where we are the most open and available to intimate connection with someone is when we inhabit the middle of the dimmer switch where our nervous system is dancing a delicate balance of inhibition and expression.
Getting turned on – to sex, an active conversation, or emotional connection – requires that we resolve the things inhibiting our ability to be relaxed and engaged before we can be open to the interactive, creative, and erotic space.
Questions to ask yourself to determine your inhibitors:
1. What do you know about what turns you off? Stress? Hunger? Kids still awake and running around the house? Beliefs about pleasure or sex?
2. Do you more fully recover after a stressful day by taking time by yourself? With a partner? With groups? Does recovery involve sex for you? What about for your partner?
3. Under what circumstances do you feel comfortable requesting what you need to recover and resolve your arousal inhibitors?
The first invitation is to listen to the wisdom of these inhibitors – they are not simply irritations or barriers to push away. When you listen to what your inhibitors need you are learning about how you are expending your energy, setting rigid boundaries or lacking boundaries where they are desperately needed, or are taking an assumption (a cultural stereotype or familial value) for granted. Take the time to listen to your body, thoughts, and beliefs - when you honor what is living in you, you gain the tools discover your next source of personal and relationship growth.
Once you validate and address your inhibitors, your nervous system naturally drops into a more relaxed space – this means that you may be ready to activate your turn-ons.
1. What turns you on? Fantasy? Erotic massage? Outdoor exercise? A delicious meal?
2. Under what circumstances do you feel comfortable requesting what you desire?
3. Do you make time to activate your turn-ons or is this creative engagement often left for the end of the day?
The more you understand how your specific physiology responds to stress or resistance to connection, the more you are able to apprentice to your own sexuality and advocate for both your recovery needs and erotic desires. When you become an apprentice and advocate, the more you will create, or co-create with your partner, the space to answer the call of your recovery needs to experience pleasure and express your desires fully.