Raising Your Pleasure Threshold

I adore hot summer nights, the smell of jasmine and lilies, laughter that makes me cry, bear hugs, snow falling in my eyelashes, cheekiness, comfy couches, watermelon, road trips, mischievous grins, ice-cream, speed, raw emotions, climbing to high places, homemade chai, wild thunder storms, outdoor hot springs, inspiring movies, galloping on horses, wrestling, snuggling up, a big deck with a lovely outlook, the smell of rain on dirt, lounging in hammocks, spirited boxing, skinny dipping, rose oil, new clothes, feeling really fit and having a good story to tell.

What do you love? What makes your body feel really good?

And what’s your threshold for pleasure?

How much of a good thing can you handle and how much is too much? How many seconds/minutes of an orgasm is too much? How many days/weeks of holiday is too much? How many hours catching up with friends is too much? Do these sound like silly questions?

Having an upper limit for pleasure is a real thing though. We all have a thermostat that we’ve programmed unconsciously to keep our pleasure experience within manageable limits. Because yes, most of us have come to believe that there can absolutely be too much of a good thing. And this belief will attract our experiences accordingly. As soon as we max out, the thermostat kicks in to shut things down. Don’t hug that person for too long. Don’t laugh too loud. Don’t have too much fun while you’re working.

Yes of course, life is built of ups and downs and perhaps it’s a stretch to expect to be blissed out all the time, but most of us have our thermostat set WAY too low. We have a very small threshold for pleasure. And conversely, our threshold for being busy, tired, uninspired and stressed seems to grow ever bigger. Our settings are out of wack.

Maybe you really want to experience rolling orgasms that lasts for minutes on end but if your thermostat has been programmed for a couple of seconds then that’s the strict boundary your body has to work within.  Maybe you’d really love to head off overseas for three long months, but your thermostat settings for holiday pleasure determine that circumstances would never allow you to go for more than a week. These internal (and unconscious) settings will drive our experiences in life. Needless to say, the limitation is usually completely at odds with our conscious desires.

So if there’s a significant discrepancy between what you want and what you’re getting, it may well be time to look at adjusting your settings. The body is usually very agreeable to a pleasure upgrade. It’s the mind that’s the tyrant.

To get the mind in check it can be useful to be a bit strategic. Once things get moving we can reach a tipping point where the mind eventually yields to the deeper wisdom of the body (to unthinkingly be oriented to a life that feels really good) but to first get things started in that direction a strategy is good.

For many people the mind needs quite a bit of coaxing to even be able to dig up pleasurable ideas, let alone allow the body to act on them. Greater awareness of the playing field is important.

So, if you were released from work or other usual responsibilities, what would you choose? Some people will have a stream of quick answers at the ready but many, many people can be quite alarmed to find that they draw a blank. Entertaining leisurely ideas is often something outgrown from childhood. But that’s really not true to our nature. We actually hold the potential for life to get better and better as we go.

What’s the purpose of life?

To nurture our own happiness and vitality by building a life around the things we really love.

To listen to our heart so that our vocation is in line with our inherent gifts.

To shine our personal beacon of joy and satisfaction into the world around us so that we remind others who’ve gotten waylaid in drudgery.

That’s life purpose in a nutshell. It’s not really complicated. The way each person puts their pleasure into action will be completely different, but it’s really just about cultivating personal happiness. Maybe a little tricky to find your way when you’ve been lost down the wrong road for a lot of years but not impossible at all. The body takes good notes of everything it experiences. It remembers the good stuff. Sometimes those pleasures have been pushed a long way into the background but you can trust that they’re all recorded. Just take a bit of time to unearth them.

So now, back to the strategy. Pull out a pen and paper and start writing a list of everything in life that feels good. If you get stuck, travel right back into your childhood and see if your body will surface some memories from long ago when the rules for living seemed different.

Riding a bike down a big hill with the wind in your hair. Lying on your back and watching clouds morph. Ice-cream in a cone. Holding hands and skipping. Getting really, really dirty. Sleep overs. Walking with bare feet in mud. A beach holiday. Seeing your best friend every day.

If you put your mind to it for long enough you’ll find all sorts of little gems will start to emerge. These are the seeds of pleasure. These simply joys can completely change the tone of a day. As they are remembered and nurtured they can be revived to reconstruct the present. Press yourself to keep looking until you get a list of at least 20 things. This is the first stage of resetting the thermostat – recall the territory. And then begin to let the associated feelings re-emerge.

Reach back into teenage and early adulthood for more pleasure samples.

Getting up to see the sun rise. Driving though enormous puddles after a storm. Kissing. Having your favourite song come on the radio. Bonfires. Being recognised for something you’d done really well. Saving up and going travelling. Being creative and making things. Reading for fun.

As you stretch yourself to surface more and more, you’ll strike upon experiences that you can easily resurrect. When we’re kids we’re naturally oriented to choose the things we love, but as grown ups it’s becomes more ingrained in us to follow a routine that’s built around work. So to reinvent pleasure in a big way it can be useful to schedule it in to the routine. That means allocate a time and put it into the diary as if it were a job.  Just until we properly remember and get a good feel for prioritising the stuff that makes us feel really good.

Inserting this new found fun into our week is how we start to raise our pleasure threshold. At first it’s a bit uncomfortable because there are other things that need adjusting to make room. But as we persist we are consciously reprogramming our willingness to feel good more often. And that means that other things get sidelined. Stuff like tiredness and stress and overwhelm.

Ultimately we are absolutely the boss of our own life. So often though we’ll point our fingers at all sorts of things outside of ourselves as a way of denying ourselves opportunities. Work, kids, time, money, expectations, age, rules, genetics, the weather. Granted, some things can be changed more easily than others but given enough drive and desire, we really can make just about anything happen.

There’s so much that goes on in life on autopilot. And there’s so much that can be truly incredible when we stop to make conscious interventions and take charge. Pleasure can be such a potent catalyst. As you remember how good it feels to get out and watch a movie on the big screen, to picnic by a river, crazy dance in your underwear, read a book in the bath or wake up to the sound of the ocean, you nurture a bigger pleasure appetite. You raise your threshold as you consciously raise your exposure. At a sensory level the body gets nourished and becomes more adept at allowing the feeling of good things in life. You develop fluency in pleasure. You become more acclimatised to it and naturally begin to attract more and more.

What do you love?

What makes you feel really happy to be alive?

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