So these are approach, moving toward, curious behaviors, right? Ooh! What’s that?
And then, in this ordinary lab environment — the first box — when they zap the back of your nucleus accumbens, you do this: aaah, what the hell is that!? You’re kicking up dust in the face of the predator. These are stress, avoidance, dread responses, right? Moving away as opposed to moving towards.
Hit the front? Ooh..! What’s that? Hit the back? What the hell is that!? Got that? That’s box #1.
So we move into box #2. Now box #2 is silent, and it’s dark, and it smells like your mother. It is. I call it the “Rat Spa.” It’s the most peaceful, calm state of mind you can imagine being in, and when they zap the front of your nucleus accumbens, what do you do? Ooh, ooh! What’s that? Ooh!
And then, when they zap the back of your nucleus accumbens, what do they do? Ooh, ooh! What’s that?
When you’re in a calm, relaxed, peaceful state of mind, your brain will interpret almost any sensation as something that should be approached with curiosity. Even stimulation that in a different context, it might interpret as a potential threat to be moved away from. But wait… There’s more.
We move to box #3. So, here in box #3, the lights are on really bright, music’s played at different volumes, you can’t even get used to it, they specify in the research paper — this made me laugh out loud — they specify they’re playing Iggy Pop.
So imagine “Lust for Life” is playing at lots of different volumes, you can’t get used to it, you’re an introverted bookworm in the worst nightclub in the world, and when they zap the front of your nucleus accumbens, what do you do? Aah..! What the hell is that!? Exactly! They don’t let just anybody into these talks, that’s amazing.
So, when you are in a stressed-out, threatened state of mind, your brain will interpret almost any sensation as something to be avoided, as a potential threat — even stimulation that in a different context, it might’ve interpreted as something to be approached with curiosity. All of which is a really nerdy way of describing a thing all of us have experienced in the form of tickling.
Because, you know, tickling is not everyone’s favorite, that’s fair, I understand, but at least hypothetically, you can imagine a world where you’re in a sexy, fun, flirty state of mind already, and your certain special someone starts tickling on you, and it can feel fun and playful and potentially lead to further nooky, right?
But if that exact same certain special someone tried to tickle when you were pissed off at them, how would that feel? As one of my students recently put it: “Violence would shortly ensue.”
But the weird thing is, it’s exactly the same sensation, but because the context is different, your brain interprets it entirely the opposite way.
So when I say, “Turn on the ons, and turn off the offs,” it’s nowhere near as simple as just “Touch me here – don’t touch me that way.”
What it means is, create a context that allows your brain to interpret the world as a pleasurable, safe, sexy place. For most people — again, people vary — but for most people, that context is low stress, high affection and high trust. Those three things are hard enough to come by in the 21st century, but they are not actually the keys that unlock that door to your authentic sexual well-being. Sorry!
But this is the big moment, right? This is when I — here they are. I’ve got this satin shiny pillow with tassels and two keys lying on it. Right here: the keys to your authentic sexual well-being. Don’t you want to know what they are? I will explain.
The first key says “confidence,” and the second key says “joy.” How do they work? What do you mean? Where do I get them?
Confidence. Confidence comes from knowing what is true about your body, your sexuality, your internal experience. Knowing what’s true. Knowing that you have a brake, for example, as well as an accelerator. Knowing that they’re sensitive to context, knowing what’s true even if it’s not what you were taught to expect would be true, even if it’s not what you were taught “should” be true.
Confidence is knowing what is true.
Joy is loving what’s true. Loving your brake as much as your accelerator, loving that they’re sensitive to context, loving what’s true even if it’s not what you were taught to expect would be true, even — especially — if it’s not what you were taught “should” be true.
And I guarantee you, you’re going to walk out of here with both keys in your pocket. I’m going to tell you specifically how to get your hands on them.
But first, I need to talk to you about a cartoon panda. Have you seen the movie “Kung Fu Panda”? It’s about a cartoon panda named Po. He becomes a kung-fu master – “Kung Fu Panda” – by diligent effort, the support of his teacher and the wisdom of the Dragon Scroll.
The Dragon Scroll contains the key to limitless power. And when Po first gets his hands on the Dragon Scroll he is disappointed because there’s nothing written on it. It’s blank. It just reflects his face.
And then comes his epiphany: There is no secret ingredient. It’s just you. And that is how you get your hands on the keys that unlock the door to your own authentic sexual well-being, by turning toward your own internal experience with calm curiosity. Ooh! What’s that?
Because it turns out the key to limitless power is you.
And now I will tell you the two concrete, specific, evidence-based things that you can do in order to increase your grasp on these two keys of confidence and joy. Ready?
Thing #1: What I want you to do is stand in front of a mirror as close to naked as you can tolerate. It gets worse. So what you’re going to do is look at what you see there, and you’re going to write down everything that you see that you like. Of course, first your brain will flood with culturally-constructed messages about how your body falls short of the culturally-constructed ideal, that’s fine.