Healthy, embodied sexuality cannot exist when one is not connected to their emotional and physical experiences. When are one is able to connect to their body through their emotions and sensations, they are better able to express the needs, desires, and boundaries that exist as a part of healthy sexuality.
Sounds simple, right? In reality it’s not so easy to stay connected with your body. The general stressors that accompany life on a day to day basis (think taking care of kiddos, finishing homework, grocery shopping, working late, etc.) make it easy to slip out of connection with our bodies as we rush to get everything done. For some, distressing or traumatic experiences have impacted their ability to feel safe in connecting with the emotions and sensations that occur as part of sexual experiences. For others, body image concerns or unrealistic expectations about their sexual performance make it difficult to feel confident in their own sexual experiences.
When you are disconnected from your body, it is easy to loose a sense of what healthy and empowered sexuality means to you. You may notice that you are seeking out sexual experiences that aren’t comfortable or that you are shutting down sexual experiences due to feeling overwhelmed or disengaged.
So what does sexual disconnection look like? My clients often talk about feeling as though they are on “autopilot” or “checked out” during sexual experiences. They feel disconnected from their bodies and feel like they are just “going through the motions” without connecting to any particular part of the experience. Oftentimes, their thoughts are focused elsewhere, perhaps on their to-do list or on something they don’t like about their bodies. In this space it may be that you are unable to connect with any emotions or sensations in your body. It may also be that you are overly aware of particular emotions or sensations that you’re experiencing, sometimes to the point that you can’t focus on anything else.
Patterns of sexual disconnection can have a big impact on your sexual satisfaction and the quality of your relationship(s). You may notice that feeling disconnected sexually is leading to patterns of frustration and avoidance within your sexual relationship(s). For example, do you ever find yourself avoiding your partner when you notice they’re turned on? You may find that feeling disconnected from your body is making it difficult to understand your own desires and patterns of arousal, or notice that you’re not able to experience orgasm, pleasure, and fantasy as you’d like to. At times patterns of disconnection can also lead to pain, tension, and discomfort within your body.
The emotions and sensations we feel in our bodies are a crucial part of embodied, authentic sexual experiences. Our bodies provide us with the information we need to understand what gets us excited, what brings us pleasure, and how we want to engage with our partner(s). Part of the reconnecting with your body involves building skills to identify and experience the feelings that accompany all parts of sexuality.
By beginning to build awareness of how you may have disengaged from experiencing emotions and sensations, you can begin to develop skills that are necessary to remain present in your body during sexual experiences. The following questions may help bring your awareness to patterns of disconnection.
Are you aware of your body?
Notice whether or not you feel present in your body. See if you are able to name 1-2 sensations you are experiencing in that particular moment. Can you feel sensation at all? Are you so overwhelmed by sensation that you can’t determine what you’re feeling?
Where is your mind focused?
Notice if your thoughts are focused on the experience you’re having in the moment. What are your thoughts focused on? Notice if your thoughts are creating feelings of anxiety, self-judgement, or fear.
Can you communicate with your partner(s)?
Notice if you’re aware enough of what you’re feeling or experiencing that you could communicate it to your partner(s). Are you comfortable expressing your needs and experiences? Why or why not?
Are you in control of your behaviors in this moment?
Notice how intentional your behaviors are in the moment. Are you avoiding something or feeling so overwhelmed that you’re not sure what to do? Do you feel more “checked out” than engaged? Are you going through the motions or pushing through an experience without thought?
If you’re noticing that you relate to the topics discussed above, it may be helpful for you to seek the support of a qualified therapist who can help you build awareness of the issues that are impacting patterns of disconnection. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’re interested in learning more about the tools and resources you need to feel comfortable and connected with your sexuality. Let’s work together to bring you confidence and clarity.