There are few things we spend more time obsessing about in life than sex. Ever since the first seeds of it are sown in our minds during adolescence, for both males and females thinking about sex becomes a constant occupation for the mind. Living in a society that’s probably freer than ever before when it comes to talking about sex means that many of its myths have been debunked, many of its secrets uncovered. Men nowadays know what a clitoris is (at least some of them do!), while women are overall more adventurous and less prone to slut-shaming than they had been in the past.
Still, while attitudes about sex may change in time, our basic way of responding to it stays the same. That is, we’re mostly confused and nervous as hell. A surprisingly large number of men have difficulty achieving and maintaining erections, while many women never get to enjoy a full-blown orgasm during their lifetimes. This often happens not because of medical issues, but simply due to our natural fight-or-flight response, which kicks in at the wrong times due to our fears and misconceptions. When your body is pumping adrenaline like crazy, sex is the last thing on your mind.
But what if there was a way to reduce that anxiety? What if we could control our most basic reactions and find something to get us over the hump of humping? More and more scientists nowadays are discovering the links between neurochemistry and the way we experience life. It’s clear that the human mind has trained itself to survive and adapt through millennia of evolution, and that nothing that goes on inside our brains happens without reason.
How Anxiety Manifests Itself During Intercourse:
In order to understand how to make sex better and more stress-free, we must first take a look inside our own skulls and see what happens that makes us react like that.
First off, let’s do a quick overview of the main problems plaguing men and women nowadays:
- Poor performance:
Men are terrified of being bad lovers. Society has taught them that sex is something they must obtain and that women will judge them if they make any mistakes or false moves. This has led to men devising all sorts of strategies with the singular goal of impressing women in the sack. But that is something that can be more difficult in practice than in theory, so after a few failed attempts men start feeling anxious up to the point of becoming temporarily impotent. For what it’s worth, women often feel the need to be just as impressive in bed as their male counterparts, so they, too, feel this incredibly pressure to rise up to society’s expectations.
If men have to deal with the pressure that sex has to prove their manliness, then women have to conquer their inner shame. The female orgasm is one of the universe’s most powerful forces, but the key to unlocking it almost always involves letting your guard down. For many women who have been hurt or abused in previous relationships, or for those who simply have never learned to harness their sexual energy, frigidity (the inability to achieve orgasm and/or enjoy sex) can be a real problem.
- Premature ejaculation:
A male specific problem, one that lies at the opposite spectrum from frigidity. Some men get so overstimulated during sex that their body can’t help but race to the finish line early. This often leads to quick, unsatisfactory sexual trysts that can be distressing for both partners. Most women need more time to achieve orgasms, whereas men too can benefit from sex that lasts longer. But keeping your mind in check during sex isn’t exactly a walk in the park.
So what can we do about this?
Well, there are four basic things we need to establish so that we can ground ourselves in moments when our anxieties flare up. These four aspects are necessary if we wish to reprogram our minds in a way that will benefit it us both long and short-term.
1. Maintaining flexibility throughout the entire experience
Some things won’t go your way. It may take longer than expected to unzip a bra. The cat might show up and want to join in the fun. You’re halfway there when someone decides to ring the doorbell. These things happen and you can’t control them. What you can control is your reaction to them. Do your best to stay unfazed and make sure you breathe properly. Use some of the exercises described in the Approach Anxiety article if need be. But whatever you do, don’t let unforeseen circumstances faze you too much and try to be open to whatever comes your way.
2. Quieting down your mind
Nobody said regulating anxiety was a piece of cake. That being said, your mind operates based on a complicated diet of chemicals that then cause feelings to reverberate throughout your entire body. You can reverse it by simply removing fear out of the equation and allowing other, more positive feelings to enter the fray. Remember: you’re trying to have sex, not fight a grizzly bear.
3. Mind-mapping your partner effectively
In case you’ve never heard of it before, mind-mapping is the process through which you try and understand what your companion is thinking about. In an ideal relationship, partners are open books, allowing one to read the other without too much fuss and often verbalizing what can’t simply be guessed. Sex by its very nature involves reaching a certain physical intimacy which allows for this to happen. Simply pay attention to the signs your partner is giving you: how close she wants you to be, what she enjoys and doesn’t enjoy. The trick, however, isn’t to merely mind-map her, but also to control your responses to her subliminal messages. Maybe she’s reticent to perform oral sex or reluctant when it comes to new positions. If that’s the case, do not despair. Assess your reaction and calmly state what you would like to try and how. Negative answers will always be a factor in these cases, but they don’t have to be deal-breakers unless you allow them to.
4. Withstanding a little hardship for better results down the line
This one is perhaps the trickiest. We live in a culture of instant gratification, where we expect to get what we want, when we want it. Improving intimacy and enriching one’s sex life take time. They don’t happen overnight. If you are truly committed to your partner and want to achieve the highest of highs together, understand that there is no need for pressure or any time constraints. The brain adapts and will always find a way to grow. Achieving a profound sexual intimacy your partner is one of the best and most rewarding ways of doing so.
Now, the key to all of this might surprise you. Our culture, all the way down from TV shows to glossy magazines, puts a high price on maintaining the so-called intensity of love affairs.
“If she really loves you, she’ll want to spend every minute with you!”
“If you want me, than you’ll just have to change and be the way I want you to be!”
Such are the messages that are often promoted through mainstream channels of communication. And, indeed, the flutter of romantic love can be a powerful and addictive drug. But, as we’ve all learned the hard way, it doesn’t last. And going for the next fix won’t necessarily satiate the void left behind by the last one.
Conversely, the only way to actually achieve happiness in love is to understand the process of differentiation. Love and sex are the natural results of two people wanting to bond with each other, from the cellular level up to the fusing of their minds. That’s why you sometimes see couples who can’t function properly when they’re apart. And that’s why so many people end up in divorce.
You see, the human mind can only withstand emotional fusion for so long. It will actively seek to evolve beyond these constraints within a reasonable amount of time. That’s when you or your partner starts losing interest in sex or spending time together.
There is a way, however, to reverse this process. All it takes is understanding that you are a different person than your partner and that you will have different opinions and values on many things, sex included. The trick is not to confuse this differentiation process with the need to be single. Staying together with someone requires the lessening of emotional fusion, but it also involves truly loving and accepting that person for who they are. And if they do the same, and both parties still find the time they spend together to be enjoyable, then the relationship is worth keeping.
But how does this pertain to sex? Well, sex is an experience that perfectly illustrates the concept of differentiation. You want to make your partner feel good, but also allow yourself to reach climax. You both get off on each other. If this process is weighted down by expectations, irrational fears and clinginess, then the end result will almost always be doomed to failure. It takes monumental bravery to accept the fact that you want to make your partner happy, and even more to understand that you need to be happy as well. Once this understanding between partners is complete, the two have established what is called a “collaborative alliance”, which is the basis for any truly successful relationship.
When you have that in place, you only need to practice a few simple practical exercises that will bring you closer, thus allowing for complete relaxation during intimate moments:
- First off, hugging your partner until you’re both relaxed can work wonders for eliminating the anxiety you may feel when getting close to one another. Start off fully clothed and don’t be afraid to stay at it for a long time. Some people start to feel uneasy after a few minutes, but keep doing it. The trick is to relax in the arms of another person without losing yourself to their embrace.
- Another great exercise is looking into your partner’s eyes when you’re both lying horizontally on the bed. Establish eye contact and maintain it for a period of time and, before long, you mind will start to feel safe in another’s company.
- Engage in meaningful touching exercises. Don’t just grab body parts. Instead try to feel every part of their figure. Allow yourself to discover their physical shape, piece by piece, until the fight-or-flight response of your body quiets down.
When you feel sufficiently close to your partner, continue by practicing oral sex first. It doesn’t even have to lead to regular intercourse. Oral sex is great because it allows for maximum stimulation of the genital area without the added pressures of maintaining an erection (if you’re male) or having to reach orgasm solely through vaginal penetration (if you’re a female). Remain at this step for as long as you want, until you feel fully comfortable with each other’s bodies, their color and shape, the way they taste and smell.
Finally, only when you’re absolutely ready, feel free to proceed to other forms of intercourse. Having sex with another person can involve all sorts of games and ploys, from raunchy quickies to tender love-making sessions, but it takes real intimacy to be able to appreciate and treasure these interactions to their fullest extent. If the attraction between partners is real and unencumbered by anxiety or fear, than sex can be one of the most profound experiences two people can share with each other. The fact that it’s fun as hell doesn’t hurt either.
As a conclusion remember that, far from being problems that are meant to enslave us, our issues with sex come from the evolutionary part of our brains, the same one that has helped us invent fire, carve the first wheel and eventually put a man on the Moon. In learning to harness our brains during sex we access our most primal energy, as well as the intelligence and capacity for reason that complement it. It’s worth putting in the time and the effort to unlock the goldmine that lurks within.