Improve your relationships and ability to experience sexual pleasure by understanding how to navigate fear and desire — in and out of the bedroom
We often think of desire and fear as two completely unrelated concepts. However, understanding how these two powerful life forces interact is key to developing both deep intimacy and sexual pleasure — the cornerstones of healthy relationships.
Desire impacts the people, places, and activities we engage in; it is also central to many facets of our lives: sex, relationships, career, family, and so forth.
When most people think about desire, they think about sexual desire and arousal. But there are many other human urges that may feel like desire but are actually feelings that take us away from our true desires.
One of these misleading inclinations are our sudden impulses — those sudden urges experienced in the body, generally in response to certain stimuli. An example is standing at the checkout counter and buying some candy which has been conveniently displayed precisely to encourage an impulse purchase. Some impulses are benign and can actually help you create spontaneity in your life, but other impulses can be self-destructive. For example, if you have weight loss goals, buying candy at the checkout will certainly work against your larger, more purpose-driven desires.
Compensatory desires are perhaps the most deceptive of our daily urges. In short, these desires attempt to compensate for something lacking in our lives. Our modern lives are full of compensatory desires because of the vast array of choices we face in the form of products that promise to make us feel better, look better, or perform better. When we get distracted by them, compensatory desires lead us on a wild goose chase — always promising to satisfy us, but ultimately only offering us a short term ‘quick fix’.
When we invest our energy into compensatory desires, we get temporarily distracted from focusing on the identification and pursuit of our deeper, more authentic desires.
In relationships, we may think that romantic gestures such as buying our partner a box of chocolates or taking them to a fancy dinner is a way to attract the attention of their heart. Of course, most of us have a true and deep desire to feel and experience the love of another. And surely, for a moment, there will be an experience of shared joy. However, such material remedies will not substitute for the harder work of investing in true intimacy, vulnerability, and learning to carefully hold space for our loved ones so that deep and nourishing relationships can thrive.
Core desires, on the other hand, are those that lead us to becoming our best self.
They act as a compass to encourage the growth and enrichment we need to become more connected in our relationships, open to a richer experience of sexual pleasure, and ready to make a positive impact in our families, careers, and larger social worlds.
Fear and desire often work hand in hand, especially when we get closer to fulfilling our core desires. That’s when fear often shows up as a mental, emotional, energetic, physical, and/or spiritual block to our progress. To make progress on the journey to our higher selves, we must accept that fear cannot be sidestepped, avoided, ignored, or repressed. It must first be recognized, fully felt, and then processed in order to continue on our path of growing and learning.
Here are a few common types of fear that tend to pop up in our intimate relationships:
Fear of Intimacy
Fear of intimacy is very common, particularly for people who have been betrayed or hurt in a previous relationship. As we become willing to get close to our partner, we may feel urges to withdraw (flight), create conflict (fight), or avoid conflict (freeze) in order to avoid the discomfort of fear of intimacy.
It is important to identify this fear (and the urges to avoid it) if you desire true and deep intimacy with someone.
Learning to name that fear, identify it when it is triggered, and become more conscious about how you will respond to it are key skills to crafting real and lasting intimacy. Without this, our sex lives and relationships will be limited by the depth to which we are willing to become truly vulnerable to another. Without facing this fear, we can become stunted in our journey to become our best selves.
Fear of Judgment
When it comes to sexual health, fear of judgement comes up quite a bit for both women and men. In our culture, women are often sexually objectified, compared to each other in terms of physical characteristics, and trained to believe that it is their job to look a certain way in order to be attractive to men. This often creates body shame and discomfort, which if left unchecked, can become a major block to true sexual intimacy for women.
For men, the fear of judgement that most often pops up around sex is often centered around performance in the bedroom. Porn encourages men to think of their role during sex as the one responsible for creating pleasure and holding an erection for an extended period of time. To overcome this fear of judgement, men must learn to recognize that these narratives surrounding sexual performance are limited, unrealistic, and often simply inaccurate. In fact, many women will respond more favorably to qualities such as empathy, responsiveness, and the ability to make room for her pleasure as it emerges — qualities that are almost never represented in porn.
When it comes to building the relationship and the sex life that you truly desire, it is not if, but rather when, fear will emerge to stop your progress.
Avoiding fear is simply not an option. But you can learn to dance through the fear-based roadblocks in your path and allow desire to be your compass in and out of the bedroom.
You may also enjoy reading Return of the Gentleman: The Art of Living Authentically by Dain Heer