Why is it important to know what you want?
Clients often come to me with problems they’d like to overcome. Some are disconnected from their body or suffering with unresolved trauma. Some are fed up with unsatisfying or non-existent sex and relationships. Their worlds are full of difficult feelings and experiences.
Many approaches, including traditional psychotherapy, focus on problems. One of my mentors calls this “the blood and guts route”. It can be useful, but also risks re-traumatising people, and can be a difficult and not enjoyable experience.
As part of somatic sex therapy, I help people to find a new world, full of feelings and experiences they enjoy. As we work in this positive way, towards what they would like, clients build resources, skills and positive inner states. They become more empowered, resourceful and creative. So when we do face their problems, they are in a much better position to resolve the issues for themselves.
Why is it so difficult to know and get what you’d like?
The first part of this somatic sex therapy is to discover what someone would like. In sessions, I encourage clients to notice what they would like, at that moment. Perhaps to move to be more comfortable, to have a glass of water, to talk about something difficult, or to receive a particular touch.
However, knowing what you would like in the moment can be difficult for many people. Particularly knowing what you genuinely want and what your body wants, not what your mind thinks you should want.
There are many reasons you might not know what you want, or can’t ask for it, including:
- You aren’t feeling what’s happening in your body
- You don’t trust what your body is telling you
- What you want isn’t important – other people’s needs come first
- You don’t dare ask for it – there’s shame or guilt around what you want
- What would happen if you did get what you wanted? Sometimes that possibility is scary or overwhelming
Knowing what you want and don’t want, in the moment, is a critical skill. It’s the foundation of establishing control and safety in your world and for setting and maintaining boundaries. And those skills are the foundations for resolving trauma, developing high quality relationships and understanding your authentic self. And that’s what’s needed to get the wonderful, erotic life that you deserve.
An Exercise: How to discover what you want in life
This is a somatic exercise I often give clients to help them connect to what they want in life. It also gives us ideas for what we can work on together in our sessions.
The idea of this exercise is to become relaxed and connected to your body and intuition. Then, you allow what you want to emerge from that relaxed state.
You’ll need about 90 minutes to 2 hours to do this exercise. You’ll need time where you won’t be interrupted. Make sure to have your phone turned off or somewhere it won’t disturb you.
Start with a body-based, relaxing activity
In the first hour, engage in an activity that involves your body and supports relaxation. This could be something you do and enjoy already. Some examples are:
- Going for a walk
- Having a sauna
- Self-pleasure or movement practice
- Relaxing in the bath
- Down-regulated breathing
As much as possible, engage in this activity in a space that feels good, relaxing, even nurturing. For example, being in nature, or putting on relaxing instrumental music, or setting the scene with candles or lights.
Write an “I want” list in a comfortable place
As you emerge from this relaxation, find a comfortable place to sit with a pen and paper and write an “I Want” list. There is something special about writing this list. So I would encourage you to use a pen rather than a computer, phone or tablet. And a pen is also much less likely to distract you.
If you have a pen that you like, or a special notebook, or good quality paper, then use those. Make sure you are in a place that feels safe and relaxing. The more you give this exercise significance and take care over it, the more you are letting yourself know that this list is important. That what you want is important.
What could I include on the list?
This list is an “I Want” list for your life. Everything you want for yourself at this moment, in relation to:
- Erotic expression
- How you feel
- Emotional expression
- Your body
- And anything else that’s important for you…
How do I write the list?
Ask yourself “What do I want?” and then allow the answers to come to you. Don’t think about it or analyse what comes. Maybe your wants will come quickly and you’ll be scribbling fast on the paper to capture them all. Or it might take a long time for even one to come. There’s no rush. If you sit quietly and without expectation, usually something will come.
Write each “I want” on the paper. If you have a rush of wants and then a lull, that’s fine. Just wait and find out whether more come after a while. If you fill several sheets of paper with wants, that’s wonderful. If you’ve written only a few wants, that’s wonderful too.
Here are a few hints and tips:
- Start each sentence by writing “I want…”
- Include things you want to let go of
- Allow the wants to emerge spontaneously without judgement
- Write whatever emerges, regardless of any inner dialogue or response to it
- You may find yourself saying to yourself “I don’t want that!” or “That’s not possible” or “I can’t write that down” – write it down anyway
Give yourself the gift of time
We live in a society, and have a school system, that rewards having the right answer, quickly. But this exercise is not an exercise in “right” answers. It is not an exercise in “quickly”.
Often, if nothing is coming, you just need to be patient, keeping relaxed and your mind as quiet as you can. Something will come eventually. Maybe in a few minutes, maybe in 10 minutes, maybe in 30 minutes.
In my one-to-work work, I sometimes wait quietly with clients for ten minutes or more before a single thing they want becomes known.
Gifting yourself time is a way of letting yourself know your wants are important, so you are prepared to wait for them. This way of valuing your wants can, for some people, be the most significant learning from this exercise.
What if nothing is coming?
If you’ve tried waiting and nothing is coming, here are a few things to try:
- Write “I want” over and over again. See if that prompts an aspect of yourself to communicate
- Ask yourself “what do I want?” or “is there anything else?” and wait quietly
- Notice the sensations in your body and ask each sensation what it would like
- Invite other aspects of yourself to say what they want
- You might imagine you have hidden, scared aspects of yourself. So be quiet, kind, inviting, non-judging and ask them what they would like. These aspects of yourself are more likely to contribute if they notice you writing things you are resistant to write
Reflecting on the “I Want” Exercise
At the end of your time, or when you feel the list is complete, reflect on the exercise for a few minutes.
- What was it like for you to write an “I want” list?
- What did you notice in your body as you were writing it?
- Where there any specific reactions in your body for particular wants?
Now you have your “I want” list, find a practice, or some steps to take, that would further one or more of your wants. A regular practice, even for a few minutes daily, can create a considerable change over time. If you need a plan of action, taking the first step can start to bring a seemingly out-of-reach want closer, faster than you might expect.
If you need support knowing what to do, creating practices or experiences, or would like deeper learning and change from this exercise, I’d be delighted to support you in a one-to-one session.
You can also read more about how a positive, pleasure-oriented approach to resolving problems and healing trauma, is a powerful approach.