Most people understand that too much anxiety makes it impossible to have pleasure. But what most people don't realize is that -- for some people -- having pleasure in their lives can cause anxiety. Jack Morin, author of the book "The Erotic Mind," puts it this way:
"It should come as no surprise that children who are taught to mistrust their bodies grow up feeling uneasy with sensuous pleasure. Similarly, those who bodies have been violated through severe corporal punishment, or sexual abuse learn to think of their bodies as sources of pain rather than enjoyment. Others believe it's 'selfish' to receive too much pleasure and therefore deflect touch away from themselves Men and women who are self-conscious about their physical imperfections -- and such feelings are difficult to avoid given the constant parade of perfect bodies in the mass media -- may feel they're not sufficiently attractive to deserve extensive pleasuring or that no one could genuinely enjoy touching them."
People with pleasure anxiety tend to numb out their erotic feelings and desires. It is common for them to literally tense up their muscles during touch and hold their breath in order to feel less -- almost as if you were preparing to withstand pain. People with pleasure anxiety also tend to offer others pleasure and be great "givers" while keeping the focus off themselves. Giving is often the default position when people don't feel safe erotically. Other symptoms include not being able to have orgasms, as well as an inability to tolerate massages or activities like buying things for themselves or receiving presents or compliments.
If you recognize yourself as possibly having pleasure anxiety, know that you are not alone, and that there is support. The first step in moving through any kind of anxiety is to acknowledge that it is there. Notice where you are avoiding pleasure in your life and make a conscious effort to allow some of it in.
Here's a great first step: Think about creating a "Pleasure Plan."
Buy a journal and create an intentional diary of how you are adding pleasure into your life. Be gentle with yourself. For people who have Pleasure Anxiety, even the idea of intentionally bringing pleasure into their lives can be overwhelming. But by deciding that you want to get comfortable with your body and the pleasure that your body can bring you is essential. Try starting out with creating and keeping a Pleasure Plan Journal. Record when you plan for pleasure and when you allow pleasure into your life. Write a few sentences about how allowing pleasure made you feel.
If we cannot get comfortable with our bodies and the pleasure opportunities that our bodies can hold for us -- sex will forever remain a numbed-out, unfulfilling experience.
Pleasure is about being happy and feeling good about ourselves. Living a life where we allow ourselves to have pleasure is healing. Pleasure can make us feel sexier, younger and more energetic.
Creating a plan of dependable pleasure will build anticipation in your life. And anticipation builds arousal, which leads to creativity and happiness. And I know, this may make you anxious. Take it slow. Just knowing and becoming conscious of pleasure anxiety is the beginning of the possibility of a life filled with pleasure.