Trading courage for comfort - the highs and lows of a pleasure-oriented life
I spent a lot of time thinking about what my “job title” should be as I set up my business. The challenge with using my professional titles of "Certified Sexological Bodyworker" or "Somatic Sex Educator" is that - for me at least - these can be too limiting or unclear, not to mention being a bit of a mouthful!
I eventually landed on Pleasure Coach as this comes closest to describing the breadth of the work I do. It places the emphasis on experience - a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment - rather than the means. There are, after all, endless ways in which one can experience pleasure and, for some people, sex may not be one of them.
In my personal life, a focus on pleasure is a lifestyle choice, a way of being. I make an ongoing conscious commitment to pivot towards it in all aspects of my life. It means tuning in more and more to what feels enjoyable and following that. When I do so I feel more ALIVE, in integrity with my values, and able to pour love and energy into what I’m doing because it’s coming from a place of desire, not demand.
So, if living a pleasure-oriented life is capable of giving us such joy and clarity, why are we not all doing this? Well, to put it concisely - it’s not all rainbows and unicorns! I can speak to some of my own experiences and resistances here.
First up, I remember thinking “surely nothing would get done if we all just did what we enjoyed”. A pleasure-filled life conjured up images of wild, ego-driven hedonism, self-indulgence, and the constant pursuit of more extreme highs. I imagined people rolling around in ecstasy whilst the world fell apart around them. And yet, I have experienced equivalent risks living a life that is not enjoyable - grasping for external things (and people) in an attempt to numb out and escape the pain or mundanity. I have at times been so busy trying not to listen to my internal discomfort that I got trapped in self-indulgence of a different kind, and unable to take action from this place. For me, the traps are laid when I allow my mind to get lost in seeking (future) or dwelling (past). When I come into my felt sense of enjoyment in the body, I cannot be anywhere other than right here, right now.
“Whither are you wandering? Life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands. Fill your belly, day and night make merry, let days be full of joy, dance and make music day and night. And wear fresh clothes, and wash your head and bathe. Look at the child that is holding your hand, and let your wife delight in your embrace. These things alone are the concern of men”
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The second block I had was around my capacity to experience pleasure, and this is something that comes up a lot for my clients too. Pleasure can be seen as something frivolous, only acceptable in small doses as an occasional reward for exceptionally hard work. This can show up in subtle ways, like “I might treat myself to a nice soak in the bath if I manage to get all of this work done in time”. It’s seen as a conditional, non-essential part of our lives, the first thing to be dropped when time is squeezed.
This was completely turned on its head during my Sexological Bodywork training when we were encouraged to adopt a daily self-pleasure practice. WOW, did I come up against a lot of resistance! To start my day with an intentional, mindful gift of pleasure to myself exposed so much judgment, shame, guilt, and feelings of not being deserving. It’s the deeply ingrained “Paying the Piper” belief - the expectation that bad will follow good or the avoidance of indulging in pleasure for fear that there will be a price to pay. This belief takes a lot of unravelling but the more I allow myself to believe that I deserve pleasure “simply because” the more I experience an abundance of it.
Lastly (for now!), tuning in to what brings me pleasure (or a feeling of enjoyment) means also noticing when something is not sitting right for me. It means making difficult and fear-inducing decisions that go against all of my conditioned beliefs because the level of unpleasantness I feel in my body if I don’t is simply too much to ignore. I have walked away from work projects, friendships, and environments that in the past would have gripped me in their promises of stability or security. It has at times felt like jumping out of an airplane and hoping that I’ll sprout wings before I reach the ground. It also means being willing to not always be liked by others - a real challenge for the people-pleasing part of me. This is the work for me though, to be in a place where I'm a full YES - even if that means dealing with some short-term discomfort. It’s a price I’m very willing to pay to be awake, alive, and present. To be my authentic self.
“First, we’re going to have to take stock of how we got into our current predicament. We’re going to have to account for all the places we’ve traded courage for comfort, dedication for distraction, and inspiration for information”
Jamie Wheal in Recapture the Rapture
Let's be real, I'm not saying that I’m screaming in ecstasy at the prospect of doing my accounts! This way of living is not about avoiding responsibilities. It is about pouring energy into the things that light us up the most, AND maximising the enjoyment of all things - chosen or necessary - and therefore of life.
Reflection point: A question I ask myself daily (and often multiple times a day) is: “where am I trading courage for comfort?”. This can help me to see where I’m avoiding the difficult conversation, staying within the safety net of mediocrity, or getting caught up in procrastination. What comes up for you when you ask yourself this question?