The following blog post and red quotations were written by a student in Wellcelium’s Ignite! course. Bold quotes below in black were written by Dr. Pavini Moray as part of the Ignite! course curriculum. The questions and practices sections at the end of this post were developed by Wellcelium to support your exploration.

When folks report difficulties with arousal, there may be an actual physical issue to be reckoned with. There are medical issues that can get in the way. There may also be interference in arousal through any number of drug side-effects, including alcohol and marijuana. SSRIs are famous for in­terfering with arousal and other medical issues that can actually be prevent­ing arousal.

Your ability to become aroused also depends on your environment, your level of perceived safety or danger, and the general flexibility of your nervous system to up-regulate. Folks who feel depressed often (but not always) have a challenge with arousal because of this.

What I see more commonly than physical challenges with arousal are folks who have a hard time getting out of their head and into their bodies. For example, I have had numerous clients who struggle with feeling obliga­tion about having sex with their partners. While ultimately they do want to be having sex with their partners, it is hard to relax and surrender into their bodies. Their heads are worrying, and sometimes even worrying about not being able to get aroused, which of course is the result.

Others struggle to say a clear yes or no to sex, and for them, their sys­tem just won’t cooperate, especially if they have had sex in the past when they didn’t truly want to but chose to do it anyway. Bodies are so wise, and find ways to protect you from yourself.

Whenever there is an issue with arousal that is not a medical issue, almost certainly there is a level of deep trust someone is needing to re­build with themselves. “Yes, my darling body, I will honor your ‘no’, learn to communicate my boundaries, and move away from partners who refuse to uphold them.” Trust takes time and practice and successful outcomes to rebuild, and it is completely possible.

—Pavini Moray

Last night, I had the urge to try masturbating.

I should point out that this is rare beyond belief these days. The past few weeks have been really hard. I’ve had no vitality or desire. (Arousal? Don’t know her.)

My capacity to focus on words has shrunk to almost nothing. And the stress of feeling like I was getting behind in the course work and in blog posts was only compounded by feeling like I was getting behind in my job, too. Which, believe you me, is not a sexy feeling in this body at all.

(Masturbation? I think I knew her before the pandemic started but we’ve fallen out of contact.)

But yesterday I let myself paint all day like I wanted to, even though I felt I should be taking care of administrative business or housework. And then I took a long warm shower and I hung out naked afterwards, drying off and painting my nails.

It felt like luxury and why do I stop myself from those small luxuries that harm no one else? And it took being able to notice and then permit myself to follow my desire.

So I guess I’m saying that something opened up in me to finally follow what the mourning wanted. I decided to try and find a sexy movie to watch. And even though it was kind of a bad film, it still connected enough with my sexuality to be able to feel some eros proximity to myself which I hadn’t in a long while.

Bringing us back to the point, later on in bed, when my body said hey do you wanna try masturbating and my mind said sure why not let’s give it a go. The really surprising thing was, as I started touching my body, I’d suddenly notice teachings from the course bubble up into my consciousness without trying.

Hm, my mind is wandering, I’d think, maybe that means my body is reaching its limit of sensation and is trying to down-regulate

So I’d try stopping the movement I was doing, just relaxing and breathing a bit. I began to see my own limits and boundaries as they surfaced way more clearly than ever before. All the information collection I’d been doing this whole time suddenly made itself known and useful all at once. I’d thought that I’d fallen off the wagon of coursework, that I was far from it and not activating it.

But actually, it was all bubbling inside the cauldron of me and now I could relate to myself in new ways, without even trying.

And as I noticed this, played with staying in different sensations, saw the limits of what I can feel right now, all gently and all with a casual curiosity, I suddenly felt a huge release. I saw images and in particular, I saw a special image that was my power coming back to me. That sense that, rather than getting by and passing through time each day, my time was mine and I could make of it what I want.

Flooding through my whole body and spirit, I saw that this feeling had been absent for so long. Surely since the pandemic broke out and possibly before that. And I just savoured it.

I heard the earthy sounds of the image and felt it’s wind. It was my power and she said I’m back, I’ve always been here and I’m back. I’m yours.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

There are different pathways through which we access arousal. Sylvan Tompkins proposes the following three ways: through our body sensations, through engaging with our partners, and through our minds. Body sensa­tion is obviously what you feel, the pleasure, the connection that you have with your own sensation. Partner engagement is two things like talking with your partner, looking at your partner, touching your partner. Through our minds, we can access our arousal through things like porn, kink, fantasy, erotica, role play, using anything of the mind to turn ourselves on.

We can all do all of these three things. We tend to have one that we pre­fer, that’s easier access. Sometimes we can be a little bit rusty at the other ones.

If you are not feeling like you can access your arousal, the first thing to do is, without shaming yourself or beating yourself up, get curious, What’s going on? Which of the above discussed factors might it be, or is it another one that hasn’t been named? What’s in the way of you feeling arousal?

Suggested Practice:

Practice developing your capacity for arousal:

Do you get caught thinking that arousal “should” feel a certain way? Arousal is your nervous system up-regulating, or getting activated/excited.

Many of us have gotten really skillful in turning down arousal. One practice is to notice attraction, whether to a person, a beautiful piece of art, some­thing in the natural world, anything that pleasurably captures your atten­tion. It works well if you go to a public place and people watch, or hang out in the natural world and watch the other-than-humans doing their sexy thangs.

With your attention, create a connection between whatever that attractive thing is, and your own embodied pleasure, wherever you feel it.

You can deliberately draw your attention to your erogenous zones and genitals if you like.
Practice feeling your arousal, and weaving the sensations into your daily life.
Notice what comes up.

This might seem overly simplistic. But give it a try anyway.