“I wish my body would just cooperate.” Mila says, deep frustration in her voice. “I’m having fantastic sex. Why can’t I cum?”
We’re sitting in my office, having a conversation we’ve had several times before. In fact, it’s a conversation I often have with my clients.
They are angry about something that their body is or is not doing, something that is preventing them from experiencing intimacy in the way they want. It might be not being able to come, or not being able to stay present during sex, or not being able to speak to tell their partner what feels good. Perhaps they physically block themselves from experiencing pleasure, or can only orgasm by themselves and never with a partner.
In every case, there is a disconnect between what the person wants and what is actually happening in their body.
What my clients usually come to understand is that there is a profound wisdom in the responses that our bodies have. These responses have developed over time, in reaction to the experiences we’ve had in our bodies. Our history is stored in our bodies.
“Is your body feeling safe enough to orgasm?” I ask Mila. Her eyes flicker away from mine, and her foot taps nervously, answering the question without words. She blurts out, “We’ve never processed our breakup.” Mila recently started sleeping with her ex-girlfriend of ten years ago, and is hopeful for a reconciliation.
“But that was so long ago. Why would it stop me from cumming now?” she asks. She doesn’t like my answer: “Your body remembers.”
Mila’s situation is not unusual. She’s processed the painful breakup in therapy. She understands what happened between them. She has mentally forgiven her lover for leaving her. But until our painful and traumatic experiences are processed on a somatic level, body symptoms persist.
Her mind has moved towards healing faster than her body. Her body is reminding her to be cautious, to take her time, to build emotional trust with her lover (probably including processing their breakup) before surrendering bodily control (i.e. having an orgasm.)
Part of becoming a skillful, well-integrated human means attending to all the parts of ourselves, especially those bits we avoid. Focusing our attention on our wounds with the intention of healing means acknowledging the adaptive survival mechanisms we have embodied. It means seeing how our bodies express old survival skills, even when our minds have decided that those skills are no longer relevant to our current situation.
“Healing trauma, rather than avoiding or managing it, is possible through a somatic approach. Many people try to “understand” what happened to them, or “put it behind them” but to truly feel at home and safe again, connected to yourself, others and place, takes healing the experience through your psycho-biology. The body remembers and will continue to react from trauma, until this is processed through the body/mind/spirit.” ~Staci Haines
In order to have the sexuality you want, your body must feel safe. If your mind and your body are at odds, there is no felt sense of safety.
What is safety?
A feeling on the inside, when I know I have the power to take action on my own behalf. Safety stems from knowing deep in our bodies that we can take skillful action to serve our needs.
How do I start to feel safe in my body?
Assuming that you are physically safe, beginning to practice a collaborative relationship between your mind and your body is where somatic healing starts. My body begins to feel like a safe place when:
- I make consistent, loving choices that support my needs for food, rest, companionship, movement and work.
- I am kind to myself inside my head, and stop thinking that I need to be mean to myself for motivation
- I give my body all the time it needs to reorient to a new way of being (as opposed to pushing my body to accept change on some predetermined timetable)
- I recognize that my body remembers and processes at a different (and usually slower) speed than my mind
- I take a systematic and somatic approach (as opposed to a cognitive one) to address and renegotiate trauma that is held in my bodily tissues
- I practice trusting the information that my body relates to my mind
- I believe that my body is deeply wise
- I give up my story of brokenness, and trade it in for one of healing and integration
- I recognize that muscular contraction in the body is valuable information, and that “Just relax” while well intended, misses the point.
- I allow my body to drive, rather than my cognition.
All of these tenets are available to you for free, right now.
And if having an embodied relationship with your body and your sexuality sounds fabulous to you and you’d like more support, hey, this is what I do. I help folks live pleasurably in their bodies and relationships. Drop me a note, and we’ll set up a time to chat and discuss how I can help.