I wonder if everyone struggles with self-care as much as I do. Life is so hectic and there never seems to be a free minute to add one more thing to the list. We know that time is the problem. We are wired to always be doing the next thing…and that we can never do enough although it appears this is our “existential quest.” But in the process, how can we ever be compassionate to ourselves?
Self-compassion involves managing the best that you can, without criticizing or punishing yourself for not doing things exactly the way you imagine you should be doing them.
But self-care and self-compassion are vital for our physical and emotional wellbeing.
I suspect I am not alone in this quandary for I frequently watch this dilemma play out especially in women and, of course, in patients who are struggling with chronic health issues.
The importance of desire and the power of the imaginative brain.
Of all the things we address and discuss with complex patients, how often do we address sexuality and sexual health? Desire was something women never discussed openly 50 years ago. Having sex was considered to be women’s “wifely duty" and then it was back to the kitchen and getting that cake in the oven. Thankfully, the modern shift of sexuality in a committed relationship has evolved from a model of reproduction and duty to a model of connection and pleasure.
The brilliant psychotherapist Esther Perel is one of my favorite teachers. As the executive producer and host of the podcast Where Should We Begin, she has also given two TED talks and authored two best-selling books, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence and The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity.
She recently shared an article, “Why Eroticism Should Be Part of your Self-Care Plan" in which she makes such profound and beautifully expressed reflections.
She reminds us that eroticism isn’t purely sexual, but it is sexuality transformed and socialized by the human imagination. Esther describes it in this way: “Eroticism is the thoughts, dreams, anticipation, unruly impulses, and even painful memories, which make up our vast erotic landscapes” and that "we measure and judge ourselves, at times experiencing our body as a prison rather than a chateau full of rooms to lingeringly explore. Erotic self-care begins with diminishing our inner-critic and giving ourselves simply the permission to feel beautiful, to enjoy our own company, to be more compassionate and realistic with ourselves.”
Engaging in eroticism enables us to maintain a sense of aliveness, vibrancy, and vitality. Perhaps creating and or continuing to develop the imagination, the illumination and the exploration in or out of the bedroom may not only help our sex lives but will certainly also help create new neuronal connections for a robustly health brain.
With love, in health and in exploration of always seeing the gift life truly is,
Dr. Suzy Gazda
Dr. Suzanne Gazda, Integrative Neurology