I meet women every day who want something more in their lives when it comes to their relationship with their own bodies. They feel shut down and turned off when it come to their own sexual selves. They describe to me a general feeling of numbness, lack of sexual desire and this feeling that someone just turned off the switch "down there". And yet they call me, because they know that deep down, their own bodies tell them there is more for them to have. The fear and excitement in that initial outreach is palpable. This letter from a 60 year old woman tells the tale: "After years of disappointing sexual experiences (thanks to disowning what I now know were my own legitimate sensual/sexual/intimacy needs, at a very young age) there is still juiciness inside me, and the possibility of satisfying, even ecstatically transcendent sensuous sexual spiritual experience (by myself, and with a partner) for the rest of what I expect will be a very long life! So sending this email is my first big risk-taking reaching-for-the-moon of 2014 (maybe even scarier than jumping out of an airplane, running a marathon, and climbing 10 mountains when I was 40)."
During our first sessions, many of the women describe to me a feeling of stomach upset and resistance - as if their genitals are saying something to them like "Leave me alone! Go away! I don't want to wake up! Why are you doing this to me?"
The fear of "reunion pain" when a woman gets to not only make peace with her genitals but finds the capacity to meet her genitals again in pleasure feels terrifying.
There can be the fear of regret which can sound like this: "I can't believe how amazing it is to finally be in touch again with my sexuality" which dissolves into tears and the lament, "Why did I wait so long?" The fear of reunion pain is real, the struggle women are facing between their own resistance and their desires for reuniting with their bodies is extraordinary. It's almost as if years of sexual rejection from partners, or messages from society, have created a place in a woman's body where her own genitals are saying; "Fine, you didn't want me when I wanted to be wanted - so now I don't want you."
The good news is that women are breaking through this wall and finding out that their bodies were just as scared as their minds. Once we move past that initial terror of; "I can't, I'm stuck, Nothing works, I'm ugly, I'm old, My hormones are a mess and nobody wants me anymore" - pleasure can happen and that changes everything.
Do you recognize yourself here? I promise you, that you are not alone.
Here are some tips for gently easing yourself back into a healthy relationship with your own sexuality:
1. Dignify your own desires: Spend some time thinking about what it is you want in your own personal relationship to your body and sexuality. Get to know what you truly desire. Write it down. Speak it to somebody such as a close friend, partner, therapist or sexuality coach. Speaking your desires can be powerful and life changing.
2. Prioritize pleasure in your life. Create a "Pleasure Plan". Start to look at even the smallest moments of choice in your life as a possibility for pleasure. Do you want that salad because you think you should have it, or because eating it will give you pleasure? Notice the pleasure choices you are making. Making pleasure a conscious choice every time you are choosing something can change your experience of even the smallest decision.
3. Activate your ability to receive. The extent to which you are able to receive pleasure and kindness in your life has a direct influence on your ability to love and feel your body. Oftentimes women are great givers, but really don't know how to receive or take for themselves. Look at where you are pushing away pleasure, kindness and support. Try saying "Yes, I would." instead of, "I'm fine."
So many woman have put fences around their sexuality garden and they may have been put there for good reason. There may have been a feeling that this part of you needed protecting and just wanted everyone including your own self to keep out. But it's possible that you are hearing this tiny voice in your head that is urging you to do something about these fences for a very good reason.
You know deep inside that there are riches to explore, and you just don't know how to get started.
Listen to the little voice.
If your sexuality is your garden, then your will is the gardener. You are not too late.
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Are you curious about Pamela's "Back to the Body Retreats For Women"? Check out the website here.
Do you want to know more about Pamela's journey back to her own sexuality and healing her body when she put her big toe into the mid-life? Read "Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner" (Rodale, 2011).