what your body knows

I’m re-reading The G-Spot for the first time in more than a decade, and I must say it’s making even more of an impact on me this time.

Here is the bit I’m responding to today (pp. 123-4). It’s a case history intended to illustrate the idea that “… most people have strong personal feelings associated with their sexual muscles…. When people begin to pay attention to their pelvic muscles, it often happens that intense feelings are triggered, together with the recall of significant interpersonal events.”

Judy was in her forties when she began vaginal myography for stress incontinence. The more her muscles improved, the unhappier she became. Finally she stopped doing the exercises. Her therapist suggest she consider the “advantages” of having weak PC muscles. Before long, Judy came upon an important insight. Several years earlier, she had developed a crush on a man who worked in her office. For months she sat at her typewriter daydreaming about him and squeezing her PC muscles. One day Mr. Wonderful noticed Judy and began to get friendlier. The friendlier he got, the more frightened she became. Judy had enjoyed her fantasies, but the possibility of an actual “affair” was unthinkable. She began to associate contractions of her PC muscle with immoral and dangerous feelings. Several weeks after that unconsummated relationship, the same feelings of immorality and danger surfaced when Judy began to do her PC exercises to correct her bladder problem.

I am not being an airy-fairy hippy-dippy fruitcake when I say that emotions are stored in your body. Well, it’s unclear (to me) whether they’re stored in the body per se or in one of the various neurological representations of the body (prolly the latter, don’t you think?), but it amounts to the same thing: emotions that don’t get expressed set up camp inside you and refuse to budge without being PHYSIOLOGICALLY evicted. And these aging squatters are a source of disease, injury, and chronic illness.

And this is the SCIENCE of the thing. It’s not metaphysical, lavender-scented, crystal-gazing humbug, though I am painfully aware that it can sound that way when I talk about it. When stress or trauma happens, your physiology changes, your stress response kicks in; and modern life doesn’t allow for the full experience of the stress response cycle, so you get stuck.

Alice Ladas, one of the authors of “The G-Spot,” is a practitioner of Bioenergetic Analysis, which includes “the understanding of muscular tensions as indications of somatic and psychological defences against past trauma” (from here.) There are a number of therapeutic practices that do something similar, including Alexander Technique and Somatic Experiencing, not to mention practices like yoga, tai chi, or, more generally, mindfulness.

Your body never lies and it never forgets. But we build up layers of defensiveness that shut us down to our own experience of living in an organic body.

Pay attention to what’s happening inside you. Release your attention from the outside world and notice you breath, your skin, the weight on your skull, the beat of your heart, the lift of your pelvic floor muscle. Your own body can tell you more about your sexuality than I could in 10 years of blogging.