As someone who teaches about oxytocin, I often get asked what my “pleasure tips” are. You would think I would get used to it, but I don’t. I am always surprised by the question. Full disclosure: my mind doesn’t go to pleasure immediately when I think of oxytocin, and I mostly think of tips as setting people up for aggravation.
I can and do offer people practices designed to engage oxytocin pathways, but I can’t ever promise what the effects will be. In fact, some people are quite oxytocin averse; they get triggered when they start to feel the effects of oxytocin or once they get a certain amount circulating in their systems. This reaction can show itself in a variety of ways: getting defensive perhaps to the point of aggression, shutting down, simply leaving the room, or subtly shifting the moment toward something less oxytocin producing. It is always an adventure when working with people and oxytocin, so I am curious to see what kind of ride we will experience on Sept. 14th when I teach Increasing Intimacy at the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture.
My primary conduits for teaching as of late include three distinct Holistic Peer Counseling (HPC) curricula that focus on birth and parenting, sex, and the body. In HPC the primary healing agent is love; in fact, a large portion of the HPC curricula is devoted to developing the skills required to exchange loving attention. Loving attention is an Oxytocin State—it has even been referred to as “the love hormone” by Michael Odent.
When we are the Counselor in an HPC exchange, it is our job to enter a grounded oxytocin state in order to provide the best loving attention we are capable of in that moment for our Client. We call this the Counselor’s Attitude. Is the Client’s response to this purely pleasurable? Not particularly and certainly not uniformly.
Essentially what happens is this: the Client (the person who receives the loving attention) begins to feel an opportunity to release pain that lives within them. This often involves bringing more attention to the pain—an act that can provide a sense of relief, but one that is not always experienced as pure pleasure. Even for those of us who have been practicing the release of pain for a lifetime, there are still those moments when we say, “This sucks! Remind me why am I doing this!”
I wish I could guarantee that pleasure is on the other side of the release. I am not going to lie to you and say, “It will all feel better when you let it go.” Sometimes it is that “simple.” But these pains have usually been with us for a while; we have begun to identify with our pain to the point of thinking it is “who we are.” When this is the case, there is often a lot of confusion around releasing pain, and so confusion arises alongside as new sort of pain surfacing to be released.
So, is there pleasure? Eventually, yes; pleasure is found, but it is hardly something achievable based on a “tip” and we never know for certain when that pleasure will come or what it will feel like. As I see it, oxytocin does not actually provide pleasure. Oxytocin provides an opportunity to release the pain that obscures our pleasure.
We can thank the lovely, oxytocin-rich Debra Pascali Bonaro for this blog. She recently interviewed me as part of her Orgasmic Birth Virtual Summit. Doing what she does so well, she inspired me. In much the same way that her movie Orgasmic Birth inspired my steps toward an Ecstatic Birth, a question she asked during our interview inspired my fingers to type this blog in the most unexpected of ways.
She asked, “Nekole, what are your pleasure tips for people?” Her question left me speechless. We had just communicated in depth; had an amazing dialog where she really encouraged me to talk about how oxytocin can help us find healing in the perinatal period. And then, at the very end, she asked me THE QUESTION. I felt stuck between my punky attitude facing off with my deep desire to please a woman for whom I have profound respect.
I stared into Debra’s beaming face for a bit and then I felt that moment—it was the moment I have felt so many times before during yoga and birth, while chanting and dancing, during body-work and HPC sessions. The oxytocin was coming my way (yes even over Skype!), so I took a moment and allowed the release to come alongside the words I spoke; it felt like meeting the baby I had always known but had yet to see. I told her “I think my pleasure tip is to learn how to release your pain so that you can have a more pleasurable life.”
Debra and I ended the call, and I stepped away a bit tired and confused. What had just happened? Ah yes, of course—I had just been pumped full of oxytocin by one of the world’s most renowned doulas and through my healing something was born. It wears me out and keeps me wanting more every time!