The Paula Gordon Show
Pleasure Builds Character

Most people simply do not know how to be happy, according to psychologist Stella Resnick. She once would have included herself among the many. In fact, Resnick thinks most people actually resist good feelings. We simply don't know how to let go and be happy.

There's hope for the dreary! Most of us have overlooked, neglected and scorned half of our central nervous system. We're wrapped in negatives feelings and thoughts, relying on automatic reflexes instead of making positive choices. Individually and as a culture, we've become adrenaline junkies. We'd all feel a lot better if we learned to balance our "fight/flight/freeze" responses -- powered by adrenaline -- with the other half of our nervous system which is powered by endorphines, the "celebratory" responses. To make the change takes changing more than "how we think." It requires we change our bodies' responses to life's situations. "Success" -- whatever the task -- is being able to relax in challenging times, to bring all of one's resources to the task.

Emotions are physical as well as mental, located in our bodies as well as in our minds. Traditional psychotherapy all the way back to Sigmund Freud has focused us on fear, anxiety, shame, guilt and narcissistic injury. Base your responses to life's challenges on pleasure rather than pain and you'll not only feel better. You'll also have a whole new range of tools and sources of energy: enthusiasm, interest, curiosity, excitement and a sense of direction. Let go. Learn to base responses on what feels good, right now, in the present, instead of being owned by negatives based in the past or feared in the future. Make positive choices rather than be controlled by automatic reflexes. Cultivating pleasurable states, a different path pioneered by Freud's contemporary Wilhelm Reich, can help a person access deeper regions of being. Those include intuition and sexual energy.

Pleasure actually can liberate a person to be more whole, to rise more effectively to life's challenges, to build better relationships with oneself and with others. All this feeling good includes sex. Being in touch with one's sexuality starts with a positive sexual relationship with oneself. "Sexuality is a lot more than intercourse," Resnick reminds us. Begin by shifting your focus to sexual excitement and arousal, away from sexual intercourse and release. Extend this attitude to teenagers and we can begin to address unwanted teenage pregnancies, she insists.

Humans seek challenges. Challenges enable us to find our deepest resources. So do yourself a favor. Engage life. Let go. Be happy. Conscious breathing is the entry point to entering Resnick's pleasure zone.

Stella Resnick

Stella Resnick is a psychologist with a private practice in Los Angeles. She is an active member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and the Association for Humanistic Psychology. She has a Ph.D. in psychology from Indiana University. Her book, The Pleasure Zone: Why we resist good feelings & how to let go and be happy is published by Conari Press.


Conversation 1

Psychologist Stella Resnick tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell how to combine being hardworking with life's pleasures. Pleasure, Resnick believes, is the life force. She explains how being tense affects the human body and cultivating pleasurable states can help a person access deeper regions of being, including intuition. She offers enthusiasm, interest, curiosity and excitement as forces which can propel a person forward with a sense of direction.

Conversation 2

Sexual energy, says Resnick, is bioenergy, bioelectricity. She describes "oceanic streaming" and urges people to be in touch with their sexuality, starting with a sexual relationship with oneself.

She describes traditional psychotherapy and her personal experience focused on anxiety, fear, shame, guilt and narcissistic injury. Her response was to search for ways to develop skills for overcoming learned resistance and fear of pleasure. Wilhelm Reich, an associate of Sigmund Freud, offered insights.

Resnick's mind-body work is based on her belief that thinking differently is not enough because habits, patterns of anxiety and fears are embedded in the muscles and tissues of the body. She describes the central role the breath takes.

Conversation 3

Resnick describes "conscious breaths" which enable positive choices rather than automatic reflexes. She describes being in touch with one's experience based on breathing. Success is "being able to relax in challenging times." Resnick describes the physiology and effects both of adrenaline -- the body's fight and flight chemical -- and endorphins, associated with celebration. She urges a balance between the two.

With all emotions located somewhere in the body, courage has a particularly important role, which Resnick articulates.

Conversation 4

Building on her idea that there are eight core pleasures essential to being fulfilled as a human, Resnick describes the importance of being "in the moment" and present-centered.

Resnick believes people want to be challenged. It is how we respond that enables us to find our deepest resources.

Relationships are at the heart of most challenges. One's relationship with oneself is the foundation for all other relationships. A positive relationship with oneself requires we be able to feel emotional pleasures. Resnick describes the importance of the expansive emotions -- love, gratitude, faith, and intimacy. She believes we are too likely to share weaknesses and vulnerability instead of what she believes are more positive emotions. She describes the process of bonding between people, drawing from her experience as a sex therapist.

Conversation 5

Resnick describes the importance of having a physical and spiritual relationship with one's immediate personal environment and with the larger world. She offers suggestions for both.

Resnick believes sex is much bigger than intercourse, which tends to end intimacy. She offers a range of suggestions for enhancing one's sexual responses, focused on sexual excitement, not sexual release.

Conversation 6

Resnick maintains the body is an important part of growth process, that we cannot look at changing attitudes without incorporating those changes into our bodies. She describes therapies which have sprung from Wilhelm Reich's ideas. She reiterates ways to break through patterns, make conscious chooses and find the courage to reach out.

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