Our culture is being systematically desensualized. We are constantly made to feel guilty for experiencing pleasure. The very definition of the word sensual has been misrepresented to invoke images of overindulgence, greed, depravity, immorality, or sexual deviance. Delicious food comes with commentary and labels such as “sinful”, “to die for”, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”. Such language conjures up feelings of guilt for the simple enjoyment of food. Our girls are being convinced that feeling beautiful or loving their bodies equates to being vain, narcissistic, or conceited. We are being pushed and pushed and pushed to work longer and harder at our jobs so much so that being sleep-deprived, stressed-out, and time-starved is the norm, and for the few of us who are not driven to the point of exhaustion and heart disease are depicted as lazy, shiftless, or somehow unworthy.
What does it Mean?
My favorite dictionary, Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, defines sensuality as: Pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites… carnal, fleshly…Lacking in moral restraints… lewd or unchaste…Arousing or exciting the senses or appetites…Then it goes on to explain, sensual refers, often unfavorably, to the enjoyments derived from the senses, esp. from the gratification or indulgence of physical appetites…
We should not buy into this adulterated depiction of sensuality. Sensuality is actually attention to or focus on the senses and stimuli obtained from the senses. It does not distinguish specifically between negative and positive stimuli. It certainly has nothing to do with self-gratification, immorality, or evil. Quite simply, our senses provide the information by which we base our intuitive thoughts, feelings, and desires, or in other words, our common sense. We need our common sense to guide us in instances in which strictly analytical or scientific figurings just won’t do.
What has happened to our common sense, or clear and sound judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge or training that comes from within and is based on conventional wisdom, tradition, or personal philosophies or perspectives? It is under attack, with messages designed to make us abandon our inner wisdom, passions, and desires and allow others to decide for us what we need and want. What is this all about? Either intentionally or unintentionally, directly or indirectly, this is about the desensualization of our (American) culture.
The Role of Religion
The word sensual has evolved from a colloquialism rooted in Western puritanical traditions. Because organized religion requires some amount of conformity, though often well-intentioned, religious authorities maintained certain standards of behavior among the adherents by the use of fear, condemnation, and guilt. Common sense had to be subdued in order to achieve a high level of control over the beliefs and experiences of the followers. This rigid system of clinging to beliefs often leads to irrational and inflexible decision-making. They presented the idea that even the most innocent of pleasures are somehow unholy, ungodly, and the source of misery. The denial of simple pleasure made it possible to dangle a carrot in front of the noses of the followers in the form of a promise of some post-death salvation. This is why organized religion is generally more attractive to the downtrodden and depressed. Keeping followers striving for the impossible, holding comfort and contentedness at bay, and perpetuating the concept of duality was the surest way to keep order among the masses. As a result, many were afraid to feel and explore their individual truths, and sensual deprivation was seen as the only way to salvation.
The Consumer Trap
Although in its beginnings the business of advertising may have been somewhat benign, but over time has become a hyper-aggressive subversive scramble to get our dollars-by any and all means necessary. In their incessant quest, advertisers hit the jackpot. They discovered that making people constantly feel inadequate, unattractive, and disconnected, no matter what new gadgets, food items, and cosmetics we consume is the way to keep the bucks flowing in. They created the mad dash to keep up with the Jones’s, the eternal rat race, and widespread low self-esteem. Temporarily after each purchase there may be some short-lived satisfaction but it quickly fades. Everything must be faster, tastier, stronger, and more extreme because with each “hit” our senses become increasingly muted and dull. In reality material goods can never fulfill the hopes and fantasies fueled by myths of status, competition, and unlimited consumption as the norm. We become driven by not our own authentic desires, but the illusional need to compare ourselves to and compete against other people. The consumer trap takes us farther and farther away from our authentic wholeness and happiness and sucks us into a cycle of perpetual dissatisfaction.
Gluttony and Hedonism
Becoming obsessed with sensual stimulation is unhealthy as well. Some of us unknowingly desensitize ourselves, which ultimately leads to problems such as addiction and depression. This is because overindulgence is highly subject to the law of diminishing returns. The more and more we consume, the less and less satisfaction is gained. For example, if you love pepperoni pizza, the first bite is incredibly pleasing. But by the time you’ve nearly devoured the entire pie, you no longer savor and appreciate the experience. You may have ruined the experience so badly that you may not want another slice of pepperoni pizza again in your entire life.
The Sensuality Solution
All this does not mean we should renounce organized religion or purge all material possessions. In order to experience more authentic happiness, i.e. genuine happiness not attached to some external item or event, as well as to reconnect your senses with your common sense, the solution is terribly simple. The solution is not to become a glutton or hedonist, feverishly seeking pleasure for pleasure’s sake.
Take time to recognize and explore your individual sensuality and the creativity and clarity that it brings. Right now what do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What do you taste? How do you feel? Simply observe, don’t judge. Make some time each day to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life, even if only for a few minutes. Be alone with your thoughts from time to time. Don’t be afraid, they won’t bite you. Enjoy sensual pleasure but enjoy with full consciousness. Develop the skill of experiencing any sensation with your full attention, and with appreciation and moderation. These first steps are but the absolute bare minimum that can be done to regain your sensuality and common sense. To explore further, see LifeBliss Solutions.