The Art of Receiving Pleasure.

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“There is a secret about human love that is commonly overlooked: Receiving it is much more scary and threatening than giving it. How many times in your life have you been unable to let in someone’s love or even pushed it away? Much as we proclaim the wish to be truly loved, we are often afraid of that, and so find it difficult to open to love or let it all the way in.”

~ John Welwood

Most of us are not talented receivers when it comes to love.

Whether or not we are able to give love has surprisingly little to do with its polar opposite of being able to open to the love coming towards us. We refuse the love we say we want when we complain about the packaging it arrives in. We refuse the lover we say we want when we blame them for what they are not. We refuse the love and the lover we say we want when we justify our refusal in the storylines of anger, guilt and inadequacy.

In fact, most people when pushed to the edge of their refusal to receive love will admit to what may be the most painful universal wound of all – the belief that underneath it all we don’t deserve the love we say we want.

Learning how to let in the love that is constantly around us, coming towards us, yielding to our asking hearts is perhaps the only lesson worth mastering. It begins with establishing your own worth as the center of your existence. Imagining yourself as a worthy container of love and patching the cracks that leak out the essence of our lovability is an inside job.

The repairs are worth the effort, as our willingness to witness and experience the painful recognition of our own beliefs fall away. We are in fact innately capable of receiving and transmuting the love that comes towards us.

In intimate relationships this inability to receive love is most acutely witnessed in the significant incidence of sexual dysfunction and its collateral damage to the experience of orgasm.

Millions of people, both men and women, suffer from conditions that impact their ability to receive and experience pleasure. There is a lot of forgiving that needs to happen around most people’s sexuality. Whether from unhelpful messaging about what our sexuality means about us or the bad choices most of us make on the way to figuring our sexuality out, we live within a wounded culture of sex that publicly swings widely between the  prudish “just say no” and  the endless hookup.

Forgiving ourselves and loving the wounded places in us is perhaps the most essential leap we can commit to in opening up a path to permitting ourselves sexual pleasure.

Exploring our sexuality from this perspective offers one of the most tender and gratifying practices available to us. This idea occurred to me not long ago when I was in the midst of experiencing my own passion. I understood in a visceral way just how deeply our capacity for arousal is actually the most profoundly embodied experience of receiving love available to us.

What keeps most of us from sliding down this fast moving chute into a pleasure delirium is our inability to receive and feel worthy of the pleasure that lives within us.

So, take a risk with your heart and begin in the bedroom.

Abandon your need to control the outcome, allow yourself moments of naked vulnerability and experience how unpredictable and healing human touch can be. Receiving physical love from your partner is a true investment, which not only changes the cycle of giving and receiving in your relationship but allows pleasure to move through us and transform us.

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anonymous Nov 18, 2015 1:35pm

THANK YOU for writing this and for ALL the responses. I had never even heard of this website and I stumbled upon this article and it is speaking to my life right now. Bless you all.

anonymous Oct 31, 2015 3:55am

Great article! You beautifully describe how our relationship to our own selves is at the core of what we perceive and receive from outside. It strikes me, again, how the lack of peace with ourselves can cripple our capacity to get what we crave for, despite having it presented on a silver plate…

anonymous Oct 31, 2015 2:34am

I know this fear too…but loving anyway, allowing yourself to let go and receive, maybe the answer? because at least you did what felt right and good at the time…and isn't that all that matters in the end, how true we are to the moments we are in?

anonymous Oct 19, 2015 10:31pm

What if a fear of the other person changing their mind about their feelings for you and fear of them leaving you creates a personal block in allowing youself to let go and receive? If you let go and the person ends up leaving you or unloving you, then you would feel stupid and disappointed for allowing yourself to be that totally vulnerable in front of them…so much easier to give than to receive in this case…thoughts anyone?

    anonymous Oct 31, 2015 3:46am

    Liza, I can relate to what you are talking about. Fact is: love will remain a risk. We all have to live with it. And so does your partner. The moment is the gift, that very moment, and another one and may be another one, and the more fully I allow myself to lembrace those moments, the better will I prepare for more beautiful future moments to evolve.
    The problem with the anxious perspective you are describing is, that it prevents me from participating in the beauty of the moment and thus interrupting it's beautiful growth into the future… my thoughts. Hope it helps.

anonymous Jan 10, 2014 8:04am

I really loved the mention of personal forgiveness of our own sexual pasts as essential to truly opening to receiving pleasure. I carried a lot of fear regarding receiving pleasure and really only felt comfortable when I was giving and in control. Once I truly forgave myself for not always being perfect in regards to sex I was no longer too threatened to enjoy all that my partner had to offer. Great article!

anonymous Dec 1, 2013 5:33am

Well written and great perspective, thanks!

anonymous Nov 28, 2013 7:07am

I feel like a thousand people came together to write this.

Absolutely enlightening.

anonymous Nov 14, 2013 5:56pm

I’ve been processing this for a while now. I am currently experiencing my first relationship in which giving is MUCH easier than receiving; in previous relationships I’d always loved to receive and rarely gave. There’s karma for me… Now, feeling worthy of love is not something that comes easily, and physical pleasure is just as difficult to accept. This is a challenging experience.

anonymous Nov 8, 2013 8:44pm

I like the overall intent of the article and I support the idea. The problem is that it’s not necessary always low self esteem that prevents sexual intimacy and receptivity.

Many people also have other reasons why they have challenges around be sexually receptive; such as they never quite learned how to address they’re safety needs in intimacy, or figured out how to clearly communicate their needs because they’re concerned about hurting their partners feelings, or they have a primal fear of merging based on complicated traumatic bonding experiences with their parents.

In some of these instances it’s actually irresponsible to tell people to “just be open and surrender to the touch of another.” Because some real feelings and issues actually need to be addressed, felt and healed properly with a lot of acknowledgment and care. It’s actually totally reasonable that a lot of people are afraid to receive and be vulnerable.

I would rephrase the passage “It begins with establishing your self worth as the center if your existence.” I think it actually starts with just fully beginning to acknowledge all the feelings and fears and such that arise around my sexuality. In a sense by doing that, i am actually affirming my worth- that me, my feelings and needs matter. This is a bit difference from simply and artificially telling myself “I’m worthy, I’m worthy I’m worthy.” And trying to act like I’m worthy.

I’m not saying that’s what the author is saying but I noticed that I could just as easily interpreted it that way.

There’s a lot of amazing intimacy that occurs in partnerships when we allow for all of our feelings and needs to be okay- including the fear of intimacy and the fear of receiving love and touch. Once we permission the fears and create acceptance and safety around having them, then we can actually explore them and figure out what deeper needs and feelings need acknowledgement so we can truly be open- versus haphazardly attempting to receive and failing and building a lot more guilt and shame around our sexual capacity.

I know the article touches on this but I really want to emphasize this more clearly because I found it easy to interpret her last paragraph as “Just get over it and be vulnerable.” For me vulnerability has come over time with a lot of work and through actually acknowledging my needs and fears and having a partner that has been patient, loving and supportive of me in moments of fear, insecurity and low self worth.

Thus I’d say self- acceptance versus self-worth. I think self – worth can come over time through self acceptance and self- love and by being more in touch with ourselves and feelings- thus being able to treat others with sensitivity and love.

Overemphasis of self-worth without addressing other issues such as cultivating feeling, self- acceptance and empathy for others feelings and needs can be a bit dangerous. Why?

I’ve witnessed people who are on a rampage to prove their self- worth and in the process and in that self absorption and sloppy attempt to claim what they’re “worth” end up putting themselves and others in harmful situations.

Sexuality is tricky because it often involves more than one person so as we explore our vulnerability and claiming our “self-worth” I hope we can treat the insecurities an feelings of everyone involved with some tenderness, care an compassion.

    anonymous Nov 28, 2013 2:00am

    This is SUCH a fantastic footnote to the article. Thank you for bringing all that up! Unconditional self-acceptance and approval has been revolutionizing my life lately- it makes so much possible.

    anonymous Dec 1, 2013 7:49am

    Thank you so much for adding much-needed clarification to this well-meaning and beautifully written article that had left a few of us hanging.

anonymous Oct 11, 2013 9:02am

Oh my, this was just plain perfect. Thank goodness you're here writing such beauty and truth. Thank you.

anonymous Apr 9, 2013 9:55pm

Well, I believe that clears up a couple of issues for me personally. How about anybody else?

anonymous Feb 22, 2013 9:34pm

This is an amazing article, loved it, and read it once, anyway i am re-reading again so it can really permeate my mnd, but it is so good, i liked it a lot. Thanks for sharing!!

anonymous Jan 31, 2013 12:09pm

[…] Be a Magnet. The masculine in each of us is a go-getter, the pursuer and taker. The feminine is the part of each of us that is receptive. It attracts what it needs and wants. Think of yourself a huge horseshoe magnet and your goals as […]

anonymous Jul 14, 2012 8:32am

Thank you for your viewpoint. I have never had any problem giving to the bottom of my well. It's been a recent turning point for me to simply receive. In accepting myself as capable and deserving of receiving pleasure, love, happiness beyond compare, I am even more giving!

anonymous Mar 26, 2012 5:37pm

Very good article — I find it much harder to receive, often giving just to try to make someone "go" away.

anonymous Mar 15, 2012 11:57pm

Yes, been there done that.
Its bullshit through and through.

Now, bring it on! I desrve and so do you:)

anonymous Feb 25, 2012 10:27am

I agree with what Bob said. If the most profound love can be found with someone we have sex with, then that doesn’t give us opportunity for receiving deep, profound love with those we don’t have sex with. Why is the most profound way to receive love attatched to orgasm or sex? If that’s the case, then maybe we need to learn better ways of receiving love in a non-sexual way. I think most of us are going to love more people than we have sex with, so being able to truly receive love in a multitude of ways will help transform us even more.

    anonymous Apr 19, 2012 10:58pm

    This. I have loved thousands of people, many very deeply, and the number I have had sex with can be counted on one hand. And I put "intercourse" within "sex" but not as the sole signifier of "sex." I am one of those still coping with the damage that has made "intercourse" extremely painful, requiring that "sex" be reinvented in imagination and act. Receiving love and pleasure, compliments and recognition, is an ever-evolving experience.

anonymous Feb 15, 2012 11:57am

Your article just gave me and my friend a glorious catalyst for enriching our conversation and our process of getting to know each other. Love serendipity.

anonymous Feb 13, 2012 11:26pm

It's definitely possible to give or receive the most incredibly, intense pleasure and still keep your pants on 😉

anonymous Feb 13, 2012 6:30pm

[…] The Art of Receiving Pleasure.. Share this:EmailMoreLinkedInDiggFacebookTwitterStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in lover of life and tagged love. Bookmark the permalink. […]

anonymous Jul 21, 2011 4:10am

[…] […]

anonymous Jul 20, 2011 1:07pm

[…] this acceptance of the process I find room to breathe more […]

anonymous Jun 27, 2011 9:54pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jun 27, 2011 8:30pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jun 27, 2011 12:07am

@Kath: It's a stock photo. And – pleasure delayed is pleasure intensified 🙂

anonymous Jun 26, 2011 10:41pm

Guy in the pic is wearing undies – ironic choice considering the topic is about receiving pleasure.

    anonymous Jul 11, 2012 12:11am

    he's waiting for her to take them off….its about receiving remember.

anonymous Jun 25, 2011 7:59pm

this came right when i needed it; reminding me on a mundane interpersonal level that if i'm full of bullsh!t I need to stop and receive love just for myself so that i am even capable of giving something that's really worth giving.

wisdom graciously received

anonymous Jun 25, 2011 9:15am

Wendy, thought I might share this one with you:


anonymous Jun 25, 2011 5:33am

it is a good reminder that we are wothy of being loved, that we can deal with the "cracks" if we only took a bit of time for that, that criticising the "package" it's a cheap trick in fact to hide from love. thank you

anonymous Jun 25, 2011 12:36am

This article came at the perfect time ~ I can definitely relate!

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Wendy Strgar

Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy, she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called “the essential guide for relationships.” The book is available on ebook, as well as in paperback online. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.