Hi! I found this forum by accident - very interested and glad that I did. I look forward to engaging the material and also am willing to share my experience and time with any who are interested.
I grew up in a traditional conservative Christian home, but aside from that I also had a lot of personal integrity training and development - from a young age I was encouraged to do what I believed was right, be true to myself and to not be afraid to work hard and make sacrifices in order to achieve my dreams.
This played itself out into my adolescence as I was a responsible person, and I trusted that strict monogamy and celibacy until marriage was the way to go for a happy love life.
I had my first sexual experience (unmarried) when I was 31. Many of my peers used sex to try to find themselves instead of looking into a mirror and learning to see past that into who was behind the face and where the beauty was. That wasn't really my interest - and thankfully I dodged a lot of bullets.
Point being, my first sexual relationship was with someone quite a bit younger than I was, and for me, I was very pleased that I was able to engage in the situation with a sense of intent, care and play - I felt relaxed and very comfortable in my own skin from the first to the unfortunately end. But when it ended after a few months, I found myself really overloaded. We had spent a lot of time together and for me I found myself in an intense plateau of arousal and it felt very uncomfortable. I was edgy and nervous, I had developed this social anxiety. I had a hard time concentrating at work and started trying to use porn (which I had given up since my early college days) but it failed miserably. It wasn't life had lost meaning - I felt as if nothing would ever feel the same. I didn't internalize this for some reason. I didn't take that for being the world as it was, but I felt like I had grown a second skin that separated me fromeverything around me. I didn't like it.
Having gone to seminary and having been guided by the Scriptures a great deal, I looked at my internal outlook on life and found that it was very difficult to do two things at once - to be a life-giving person rather than a pleasure seeking person. While some would likely argue it is a balancing act - and in action it probably is an effective continuum - there was a decision that I would make every morning that would guide my activity. It is very hard to nurture and suck - one action generally takes over the other - their momentum is contradictory.
I started in the lab asking myself a simple question - lying in bed - who was I today? I was also making a clear commitment - I had done so much to bring pleasure into my life, I would no longer do so. I would not do anything to make myself happy. I would not run from happiness or pleasure if it happened to occur, but I would not manipulate the world around me to make myself happy.
Something remarkable occurred. On days when I said I was going to be a life-giving person, I would walk outside and the world opened itself up to me. It was like I fell in love with life all over again. Over the following weeks, my sense of smell improved - I found myself drawn to plants and flowers - being a city kid, this was really weird. At this point, I made a profound paradigm leap - I realized that pleasure is an inevitable part of being human. You can not run fast enough or far enough to escape it, and the more you let it happen, the more pleasure you gleaned from all the little things.
There would be days when I'd wake up aroused. What to do? It was interesting. Sometimes I'd just feel it there. It feels like having $1,000 of free money in your pocket, you feel like you can do anything. So I put that energy to use - I started running, I would start conversing with strangers - get myself out there. It was good.
As I came down about a month and a half-later, I reverted to my usual self-pleasure - I didn't forget the lessons but over time I realized there was still a core issue that I had not gotten rid of that kept drawing me back psychologically to a space that was poisoning the joy I got from being myself.
There was a long dark night of the soul involved, and I will just describe it as I visualized it lying on my bed at 2:30 am with what felt like a grappling hook wanting to pull my heart out of my chest. I was desperately clinging to a cliff, where down below I knew there were jagged knives of pain, anger and frustration, waiting to carve me up. The cliff face was the edge of happiness, and I was gripping onto it for dear life. "If I didn't try hard and work hard to make myself happy, I would never be happy. I held onto that cliff for dear life. The cliff, and my grip on it, was my aching desire for control over the world and my fear that if I did not make myself happy, it would never happen. I felt like if I left go, I would fall into the deep abyss of depression and pain that felt like a vacuum cleaner sucking me down into the depths of a bottom less pit.
As I laid there, grappling with this, something reminded me of the lessons of a few weeks prior - that pleasure was an inevitable outcome of being alive, as was pain. And I decided to exhale, release my grip and let go, come hell or high water - what would happen.
I didn't fall. I floated freely. That was the psychological space transformation that I experienced. What I thought was a cliff was like a giant planet trying to escape my orbit. It wasn't the gravity well of pain and depression threatening to pull me down - it was the undeniable uncontrollable nature of the world around me that was struggling against my grip - pulling away from me to be free and exist on its own.
And now it does. And I discovered a sea of tranquility. It doesn't mean I don't pleasure myself, nor does it mean that I do all the time. Part of the detachment that resulted from this paradigm shift, was the recognition of myself in my own skin. That I am a person who happens to be in a body that does certain things. This helped me out a lot later in other lab experiments - with leptin control and also with understanding the neurochemistry of ostracism and how to be genuine friendly while maintaining healthy self-integrity and respect others.
I can't say that I can give advice on how to accomplish this for others. But I wanted to relate my experience without having read the book - erotic pleasure definitely plateaus like drugs and you need to find ways to come down and use that chemistry responsibly - know your limits and be able to take breaks. Returning the baseline to normal did take me about a month and a half and I now look for people who are have a moderated, intentional sex drive - body, mind and soul in co-op mode. Not fiendish.