NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, December 6, 2021

How Can Mindfulness Help to Increase Sexual Pleasure?

In her book, Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire, Dr. Lori A. Brotto, discusses how mindfulness can help women to develop increased sexual arousal, desire and overall sexual satisfaction (see my article: Women's Sexual Self Discovery).

Mindfulness Can Help to Increase Sexual Pleasure

To put this in context:  According to sex educator Dr. Emily Nagoski, who wrote Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life and the forward for Dr. Brotto's book, recent sex research indicates that whereas most men experience spontaneous sexual desire, only about 16% of women experience spontaneous sexual desire.  

That means that the vast majority of women experience what's called responsive desire, which is more dependent on context (see my articles: Understanding Your Sexual Accelerators and Brakes - Part 1 and Part 2).

It's not a matter of one type of sexual desire being better than another.  Both spontaneous and responsive sexual desire are "normal." They're just different.  But what's usually portrayed as normal in the media, especially in pornography, is spontaneous desire--as if all women are instantly aroused and ready for sex at the drop of a hat without sexual stimulation. But this is a fallacy.

For women (and a small minority of men) who experience responsive desire, in order for them to get sexually turned on, context is key.  They usually need to feel relaxed and they need more sexual stimulation to get turned on, as compared to people with spontaneous sexual desire.  

Sexual stimulation can be physical or psychological or both (see my article: Changing Your Sex Script: Enhancing Sexual Motivation With Psychological Stimulation for an explanation of the difference between physical and psychological stimulation).

According to Dr. Brotto, some women experience a disconnection between their mind and their body so that their mind doesn't register that their body is actually turned on. This is called sexual discordance.  In other words, they're not picking up on sexual arousal cues in their bodies that they're turned on, so they're not motivated to have sex.

Dr. Brotto provides lots of research and helpful clinical examples in her book to illustrate her points.

How Does Mindfulness Help Women With Low Sexual Desire?
Dr. Brotto posits that a mindfulness practice can help women to achieve sexual concordance, which is the opposite of sexual discordance.  With sexual concordance, the mind and the body are aligned (see my article: The Mind-Body Connection: Developing a Felt Sense of Your Internal Experiences).

With mindfulness, women can become more aware of their here-and-now bodily experience so they can feel sexual arousal cues in their body.  Rather than being distracted by other thoughts, these women can develop reciprocal communication between their mind and body.  In other words, there is a two-way communication that connects their thoughts with their physical sensations.

When there is concordance between the mind and the body, women, who normally experience low libido, can become more internally attuned so they're motivated to have sex--whether this is solo sex or partnered sex.

Developing a Mindfulness Meditation Practice
Like any skill, a mindfulness meditation practice is developed over time (see my article:  What is Mindfulness Meditation?).

One simple way to begin is by learning to do a a body scan meditation where you slowly sense into your body starting at the crown of your head and going all the way down to your feet.  

If you're new to mindfulness, you can also start with one of Jon Kabat-Zinn's recordings, Mindfulness For Beginners, to develop basic mindfulness skills.  You can start with just a few minutes a day and increase time from there.  

A regular mindfulness practice will help you to develop these skills.  Even if you feel discouraged at first, keep at it.  Over time, you'll get better at dealing with distracting thoughts which come inevitably--even for experienced meditators. Accept those thoughts and then let them go.

Another valuable resource, if this is all new to you, is a book by Dr. Ann Weiser Cornell called The Power of Focusing where she gives basic exercises to help you get started.

After you have developed basic mindfulness skills, Dr. Brotto's book can help you to become more sexually aware of your own experience by helping you to develop interoceptive awareness, which is the ability to detect your internal bodily sensations.  

With regard to interoceptive awareness, everyone is on a continuum.  Some people are very aware of what's going on with their body--they sense their heartbeat or small changes in muscle tension.  Other people aren't as interoceptively aware.  But almost everyone can develop this awareness with mindful meditation practice.

An added benefit of developing interoceptive awareness, according to Dr. Brotto, is that women who tend to see themselves through an objectifying body shaming lens often develop more positive images of themselves.

Even if you don't have problems with low libido, becoming sexually mindful can enhance your sexual experiences.

Getting Help in Therapy
Although mindfulness, especially sexual mindfulness, can be helpful, there are times when you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional to help you overcome problems related to low sexual desire.  This is especially true if you have unresolved trauma.

Unresolved trauma is often a major obstacle to experiencing sexual desire, but it doesn't have to be.  A trauma therapist can help you to overcome unresolved trauma so that you can have a more fulfilling life (see my article:  What is a Trauma Therapist?).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a psychotherapist who has experience helping clients to overcome trauma.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome trauma.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.