Performance Anxiety: The painful fear of fear itself
Performance anxiety runs rampant in our sexual beings. It is an issue which evolves from our concept that we need another to complete the self; or that another needs us to be complete. Men have been taught that they must be the performers – the magical ingredient that makes his partner have a sexual experience beyond the imagination. Women have been led to believe that her measure of his worth is to respond and react with joyful glee to each of his ministrations. So he is all in his head about performing and she is all in her head about responding favorably to his performance. Performance anxiety is the result. Soon his body is not responding to his mind's commands and she is faking the enjoyment, hurrying to prove that he is, indeed the wonderful lover that he desperately wants to be.
Performance anxiety can be experienced by either gender and can take on the aspects of many so called “sexual dysfunctions.” Performance anxiety often results in avoidance of sexual encounters, lowered self-esteem, relationship discord and perceived sexual addiction. Often, when one becomes aware of his or her performance anxiety, he or she becomes totally preoccupied with the anxiety itself and thus, less than fully involved in the sensual encounter which finally brings about the very failure that is feared.
Here is what typically happens. One anxious lover worries about how to be sexually responsive and spontaneous, focusing on each detail of the lovemaking, trying to make sure it is being done correctly, trying to pleasure his or her partner. The other partner may focus on making sure that he or she is being supportive and understanding of the anxious lover. Each is paying attention to the other - on how rapidly the other partner is breathing, whether a shift in position is required, or how much lubrication or erection is present. Neither is paying any attention to his or her own pleasure centers. Thus the encounter becomes less than sensual for either and yet both have tried so hard to make it right.
Anticipation of the next sexual encounter arouses the same anxiety coupled with the memory of the previous failure and often leads to avoidance of sexual activity altogether, or at least to minimizing the amount of sexual interaction that occurs. This may result in one member of a couple mistakenly interpreting the situation as a form of rejection. The underlying avoidance, however, is usually not to reject one’s partner, but to save face in a way that helps the person feel more in control and less guilty about being inadequate.
Erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and inability to reach peak orgasmic energy manifest as performance anxiety in men. Women may experience inability to lubricate, painful intercourse and loss of libido.
The good news is that each of us is the perfect lover; the bad news is that cultural mores, rules and regulations, assignment of appropriate roles and most of all, shame and repression surrounding our sexual beings prevents us from accessing the perfect lover within.
Tantric and Taoist philosophy offers a natural solution to overcoming or dealing with performance anxiety. The goal of Tantric love is not necessarily the achievement of any specific goal, such as reaching orgasm or even maintaining erection. There is no pressure to “achieve.” Within the Tantric experience it is more desirable to seek and enjoy those pleasurable feelings, which are more subtle and may easily be achieved without maintaining a full erection during arousal. Each partner is capable of pleasuring and stimulating the other in a variety of ways, none of which needs to be focused on achieving orgasm.