A female reader wrote, "...it is the intimate part that is so hard for us to achieve, well, for me if I am honest...how do I shut off my brain?" While there is no simple cause for this, there is a simple solution: relax. Her question is great because the answer illustrates how highly complex sex is. It is at the intersection of a myriad of feelings, thoughts and physical systems, causing it to be both challenging and wonderful.
A busy mind is a common reaction to anxiety, especially for many women during love-making. Numerous aspects of a sexual encounter produce anxiety, a fear-based emotion. In sex, our body is blocked from responding with arousal if our emotions are not positive and receptive. Simultaneous openness and relaxation are required for sex to be good...two emotional states which many lovers have difficulty maintaining coincidentally. In sex, some of the other causes of anxiety are: worries about sexual performance, uncertainty about pleasing the partner, discomfort/shame/embarrassment with sex, discomfort with specific sexual acts, concerns about body attractiveness, negative emotions due to unresolved relationship problems, issues of trust, unresolved past trauma, questions of self-esteem, etc. The complete list is very long.
When anxious, many lovers tend to escape their uncomfortable emotions by shifting their awareness out of their bodies, where their feelings reside. The inclination is to focus one's awareness in the head, in the thoughts, away from feelings, so as to feel more comfortable. This produces a busy mind. Partners participate sexually for many reasons, some of which have little to do with desiring sex. Sharing oneself sexually for the wrong reasons, if not true to oneself, can also contribute to a busy mind. The solution is all about learning to relax while also practicing to be congruent in our values and choices. Please share with me anonymously your love and sexual difficulties. I may respond with solutions in a future column. Love is among our highest effort and paradoxically our most difficult task. Wishing you deep love. Andrew Aaron, LICSW 508-997-6091 x106