Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction… Learning to Relax
When working with people who are dealing with erectile dysfunction, many of them believe that they easily relax. They report that they approach sex with little to no anxiety. However, this often changes as the client learns more about their body responses. They find that not only are they dealing with anxiety surrounding sex, but they often have anxiety in many aspects of their lives as well.
The body/mind disconnection?
Most of us know when we head into an irrational space. We do the best to work through this irrational thought patter to cope. Most of the time, this can help us feel much better about the situation.
Despite this, our bodies tell a different story. Sometimes it’s in alignment with what our mind is saying. Other times, they are very incongruent. This incongruence exists in many of my clients who are dealing with erectile dysfunction, as well as premature ejaculation.
First it’s important to note that most people who have erectile issues are dealing with an issue relating to the mind and body. There are people who have erectile dysfunction due to physical issues that are going on as well. This is why I recommend everyone mention their issue to their doctor. Many men will find that they have no issue with erections while they are masturbating. In theory, this can usually indicate that there isn’t something physiologically preventing that person from having full erections.
In relationships, this can lead to a misinterpretation that this sexual issue means that there is a lack of attraction to the partner. In some situations, this can be the case. However, many of my clients have found that this isn’t true. The one situation where this is often the case is when there is a mixed orientation marriage. In those situations, the man who is struggling with ED is dealing with erectile issues due to their sexual orientation.
There is also an assumption that too much porn viewing can lead to ED. There are situations where ED issues occur along with an issue of compulsive porn use. Yet, those who stop viewing porn will often still have an ED issue, even through implementing this intervention.
So what is causing this ED issue?
Many times it’s that this person doesn’t know how to deactivate. They “think” their deactivated, but their body hasn’t actually deactivated to the point of where it’s ready to form or maintain an erection. Sometimes this can occur from thought processes that lead the body to get activated. Other times, the body might just be sensitive and remain in higher levels of activation.
To work on this issue, there is a process of letting things happen, rather than making them happen. Many men who are dealing with ED issues are struggling with the goal of trying to make their body do something. Rather than approaching this with curiosity, there is a heavy focus on forcing it to happen.
When men learn to trust the relaxation processes in their bodies, they are better equipped to follow their body with curiosity. Many times erections will just happen.
The shame connection.
Most men with ED have some level of shame surrounding sex and their issue of ED. We culturally tie strength and power to men being sexual. This means that we also link sexual issues in men with weakness. This can be very shaming for men.
Shame then can lead to more problems. As we are talking about activation and anxiety, there are few emotions that cause activation like shame. When we experience the intensity of shame, we tend to do whatever we can to avoid it in the future.
So imagine what happens if you see your sexual partner’s shoulders slump when you can’t maintain a strong erection. Imagine what you happens when you see a rolling of the eyes, etc. That imprints our body that ED=danger… “run, get out there.” Those are not the foundations that create an environment suited for relaxed, enjoyable sexual connection.
Isn’t sex about intensity?
Many people enjoy intense sexual experiences. There is a level of activation in this. However, there is also a level of comfort with this as well. Therefore, it’s not just activated. It’s a connected space that the people in the experience are comfortable with.
Practice noticing with curiosity.
There isn’t a quick fix to becoming mindful. This takes time and practice. I recommend that you first identify where you feel the most comfortable and safe. What does this experience feel like in your body? Notice the sensations and experience that indicates to you that it is safe.
You can do something like this with sex as well. If you have a partner, you can enter the territory with curiosity. Identify what you are the most comfortable with, and how you know that you’re comfortable with it.
If you don’t have a partner, you can also experiment with this through masturbation as well. How do you know that you feel comfortable or calm. You can do this with pornography, but I recommend that you don’t. Only because it can be tricky to pain attention to your full body experience while you’re using an external stimulus.
Remember that this is a process. Give yourself time, and practice self-generosity. If you continue to struggle with identifying how you know you’re calm and deactivated, then seeking out a mindfulness based sex therapist is a good idea. Sex therapy can help you explore this on your own.