Retraining The Brain
When sexual fantasies feel more like a burden than a blessing, the momentary pleasure they provide can pale in comparison to the long-term anxiety they create. But with focused effort, our brains can be retrained to go in alternative (yet still pleasurable) directions.
Remember, a fantasy is simply a story in our heads, and we are the narrators of those stories. We decide how the stories take shape, what characters are involved, how we respond to them, and how long the scene goes on before it’s served its purpose and the curtain comes down. We are in complete control.
We can always distract our brains away from invasive fantasies as we are going about our day. Men especially have to become masters at this since sexual thoughts occur far more frequently in the male brain.
But what about when we’re actually having sex . . . and sex is exactly what we want to think about? Can we edit or even silence unwanted fantasies altogether? Indeed, we have that power by simply:
Taking our time. We often resort to fantasy when we feel the need to rush the process and race to the finish line. Time restraints create stress, and the brain often turns to fantasy simply as a way to cope with that stress. Eliminate the lack-of-time stress altogether, and you may eliminate the need for fantasy altogether as well.
Opening your eyes. If you’re troubled by how your mind is drifting away from your spouse into someone else’s direction, open your eyes, turn on a dim light, and bring your brain back to reality. This is your beloved, your marriage bed, your time to delight and be delighted in the presence of your partner. Choose to bask in this reality, rather than in an unwanted fantasy.
Engage your sense of hearing. Music is an incredibly sensual tool, especially for women who are typically more stimulated by what they hear more than what they see. By playing music that you find intimately relaxing or even energizing, your brain entertains the lyrics and the melody rather than an extraneous fantasy. If you find music too distracting to focus on your partner, simply allow yourself to make noises while making love. The vocal sounds of a sexually charged couple thoroughly enjoying one another can be all the arousal you need!
Changing positions. Our brains can begin to wander when we get too comfortable in bed, just as they can in class when we get too comfortable at our desk. By moving our body around and increasing blood flow, we stimulate the brain to remain focused on the subject at hand.
Focus on your breathing. The brain can be stimulated to concentrate on what you’re doing by simply taking a few deep breaths, focusing on your inhalation and exhalation. Just as deep breathing helps us remain mentally present, focused, and sharp during physical exercise or while driving a car, the same is true in the bedroom.
Interrupting the Reward Cycle. If you no longer want to orgasm to thoughts that ultimately bring guilt and shame, then don’t. No one is holding a gun to your head until you climax. Explain to your spouse that you may decide to disengage momentarily from the sexual experience for a hot shower or a cup of tea or some other relaxing ritual. Don’t encourage the brain to entertain certain fantasies by rewarding it with an orgasmic response. Once you’re feeling more in control of what thoughts are in your mind, return to your lovemaking. This could take some practice, but it’s an effective way to teach your brain what you want it to find pleasurable, not vice-versa1.
(1) Thanks to Wendy Maltz & Suzie Boss for inspiring this idea in their book Private Thoughts: Exploring the Power of Women’s Sexual Fantasies (Charleston, SC: Booksurge, 2008), 195.