Inspired by The Pleasure Zone by Stella Resnick, Ph.D.
Without the feeling of pleasure, happiness is only an illusion. ~ Alexander Lowen
Continuing onward in our exploration of pleasure, the question arises “How do I know if I am experiencing pleasure since it is so foreign to me?” First, pleasure is energizing and results in feeling alive and enthusiastic. Second, pleasure is expansive; pleasure literally opens us up. Pleasure draws us in and results in feeling YUMMY!
Pleasure also provides clarity. When we are moving in the direction of pleasure there is an inner knowingness that “this is right.”
Pleasure results in the relaxation of our minds and bodies too…pleasure provides a sense of ease.
Dr. Resnick writes about the four cornerstones of pleasure being: excitement, challenge, authenticity and courage. It is these four cornerstones that provide the foundation for increasing our capacity to feel good and increasing our pleasure-tolerance.
Excitement is a rising energy. It may be pleasurable, arousing, stimulating, and comfortable. However, for some because of trauma, the rising energy has been connected to “something bad is about to happen.” This is an important characteristic to begin to recognize. Start to notice what your response and interpretation of rising energy is. Awareness is the first step in changing the association.
Dr. Resnick writes, “To stay stimulated, we need to continually challenge ourselves to negotiate new terrain. It’s easy to get into a rut and to keep repeating what we know works. When we do, however, potential sources of pleasure in our lives get narrower and narrower. This is true because our entire sensory system is built to respond primarily to change and to turn off when the stimulation is unvarying.”
Yet, change often results in the experience of stress. Therein lies the challenge, which is to stay open and relaxed during difficult, uncertain or unfamiliar circumstances. One way to cultivate staying open in the face of change is to get curious…“Hmmm, I wonder where this is leading…hmmm.”
Authenticity is about being who we really are, which through years of conditioning may be difficult to discern. The most reliable way to cultivate authenticity is to start to tune into the sensations of the body. The body is intuitive, holistic, in the present moment and tells the truth. Yoga is an amazing tool to support us in getting back into our feeling bodies.
Courage is the ability and resolve to face fear.
Dr. Resnick writes, “Courage is the antidote for anxiety. Being able to tolerate high levels of pleasurable excitement without scarring yourself with anxious thoughts, approaching a painful situation as an opportunity to grow, and being true to yourself even when you meet with disapproval from people who are important to you- these situations require a boldness of spirit.”
For courage development, we start small with people we trust, and we let those people know that we are cultivating courage to expanding our ability for pleasure. One way to do this is by starting to ask for what we need be it some quiet time, a nice meal, a hug, etc.
Experiment as you establish your sturdy foundation of excitement, challenge, authenticity and courage. Pleasure is a muscle worthy of exercising and developing. Have fun evolving! Stay tuned for more pleasure in the next newsletter!
Did you miss parts 1 in this series? Find it here: