The Key to Treating Erectile Dysfunction: Body Awareness
There are old strategies to sex therapy that can be extremely successful in dealing with an erectile problem. Techniques such as sensate focus can be useful in dealing with such an issue. However, many people who deal with this problem grow increasingly frustrated when these strategies don’t work. Others simply don’t practice the techniques at all. There is an underbelly of meaning for this, but the source of the meaning isn’t always as it seems.
On the surface, it can appear that someone who doesn’t follow through with therapy “homework” doesn’t want the help they are seeking out. This isn’t usually the case. The truth is that these people are often lacking awareness of the responses that they are having to the therapy. In fact, many are lacking awareness of responses they’re having in their day-to-day lives.
We are influenced by our pasts.
Sexually, the way that we handle the vulnerability and connection of sex is often based in our histories. This is more complex than this being based only in our thinking about this history. Our bodies also hold a story that relates to our pasts as well. This can effect motivation, desire, and arousal, but knowing how it impacts these things means practicing body awareness.
Body awareness is recognition of sensations, emotions, and reactions that the body is having. This sounds much more simple than it is. Many people struggle with recognizing the subtle sensations that occur in their bodies. They don’t know that these things are significant, because they rarely pay attention to them.
We have instinctual responses. One of these instincts is a sexual drive. For some, however, this instinctual response can be impacted by past events enough to ensure that sexual expression isn’t easy. Neuroticism, high anxiety, self-consciousness are a few examples of problems that can lead to erectile dysfunction. In order to sexually connect, the body benefits from being in a place of trust and safety. High arousal states don’t lead to these feelings.
Poor sex education can cause even more problems.
Unfortunately, many men get their sexual education from pornography. Our sexual education system focuses heavily on unrealistic messages. It tells stories of sex as if it’s only for reproduction, and rarely focuses on pleasure. These things can make it very difficult for a person to know what is actually normal versus abnormal.
By itself, porn isn’t a problem. When people are aware of how they want to use it in their relationships and lives, and have agreements as to its benefits, it can be fine for them. However, it can set up unrealistic expectations for people who’ve had poor sexual education.
An occasional erectile issue isn’t that uncommon for men. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Obviously, fantasy tools such as pornography never display this reality. This can cause a serious problem for some men. Shame and anxiety can result from self-consciousness and comparison.
Anxiety and shame are two of the most critical emotions for people when focusing on body awareness. Many men who struggle with erectile dysfunction don’t recognize that these two emotions play a large role in their erectile dysfunction. Identifying how the body responds to them is critical in breaking the cycle.
Your body is communicating, even when you don’t think it is.
We’re giving and receiving communication all the time. A big majority of this is from non-verbal communication. So even when you don’t think that you’re communicating information, you are.
In a relationship, you’re giving and receiving signals from your partner. A lot of this information comes from the body. However, you can only do something with this information if you’re aware of these signals.
When treating erectile dysfunction, this body awareness can be used to decode meaning that you’ve developed. When we’re unaware of our bodies, we also tend to combine things that don’t belong together. For example, you might not be aware that you’re actually feeling anxious about a certain type of interaction, or lack of interaction from someone else.
“How do you know if you’re comfortable?”
When you’re more aware of your body, you can identify when your truly comfortable versus when you’re not. Comfort is critical in treating erectile dysfunction. Yet, many people don’t know when they’re comfortable, when their excited, or when their anxious.
It’s understandable, and maybe even desirable, to have a level of excitement when there is the possibility for a sexual encounter. This is especially true for newer sexual encounters. You’re not sure what you’ll see and what it will feel like. You also know that you’re with a partner who has a similar excitement.
You might experience anxiety, or even fear as well. However, men are conditioned that fear equals weakness. This can lead them to either deny that they’re experiencing fear to begin with. What this can lead to is an overriding of the body, which would otherwise eventually get to a place of comfort and safety.
While anxiety and fear can be exhilarating for some, it can lead others to freeze or pull inward. When dealing with a problem such as erectile dysfunction, the pulling inward can lead to more anxiety. This can be a reinforcing cycle that can prevent the body from allowing itself to do what you want it to do.
Sometimes, you need to avoid meaning.
It’s natural to want to gain an understanding of a problem that you’re having. This can help you feel like you can gain “control” of the problem. Yet, many become extremely frustrated that even when they feel like they understand the problem, they continue to struggle with it.
Gaining an intellectual understanding can be beneficial, but it can also come with it’s problems. Sometimes the intellectual story is different than the body’s story. For example, you might develop a story about erectile dysfunction that says that you had a problem maintaining an erection because you were intimidated by someone who you felt was “too attractive”. However, the body might be reacting to another issue, such as how it was touched, a sense of distrust, or a sense of being undeserving.
Without being able to tap into the experiences of the body, it’s difficult to identify these sources. Even more importantly, you can’t work through these issues, without experiencing them in the present. When we intellectualize the problem, we build stories around it. We go to the past, and we go to the future. But we rarely identify what it means to us in this very moment.
Body awareness can be confusing, and that’s OK.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “I have no idea what he’s talking about,” this is extremely common. You might need outside help to work on this issue of body awareness. You can find a Somatic Therapist who also has training in sexuality. You can also search for a mindfulness based sex therapist. Either of these professionals should be able to help you with become more aware of your body, and the responses that your body has.
With this outside help, you’ll be dealing with the basis of a complex problem. In the short run, you can use erectile dysfunction medications. However, this likely isn’t going to be something that you’ll have to rely on, when you work on the source. As long as you’re not dealing with an underlying medical problem, body awareness training could likely help you.