Developing Receptors for Pleasure

May 13, 2024

Developing Receptors for Pleasure

I’m always grateful when people from my tribe send me poems, articles, or videos on the topic of pleasure. As I’ve been writing this blog of 10 years I also need inspiration on the topic of Pleasure. 

Thank you Natalie, a Pathwork colleague, who sent me this really impactful video by Bessel van der Kolk MD, the eminent Dutch trauma researcher, and best selling author of The Body Keeps theScore. 
In this short video he talks about the connection between physical and emotional developmental neglect, and the process of brain development. In particular how the brain/body adjusts to what’s available or not, as a survival strategy.

Was Neglect Part of Your Younger Experience?

To put this another way, if neglect was part of your of your early experiences, you will just accept that’s how life is. You’ll have low expectations for rich nourishing engagement with others, and life in general.  But you also might wonder why relationships are challenging, or life often feels just flat. 

Van der Kolk makes the point that as developing little beings, when someone regularly takes delight in our presence, and mirrors back to us our essential goodness, receptors develop in the brain allowing the growing child to be able to receive and give back this kind of relational glue. that allows for healthy engagement. 

Sadly a significant aspect of early attachment trauma leaves an individual with a lack of these brain receptors and significantly impaired in relational capacities, with others, but perhaps most importantly, in the ability to engage with life in a vital, consistent way. 

Some Good News - the Brain Can Change

But the good news from the field of neuropsychology is that the brain can be changed.  It’s receptive and adaptable to new input!  Towards the end of the short video he comments that conventional approaches to treatment aren’t so effective, but he suggests that things like singing and dancing, especially in groups with others helps.  And for those of you who work in the helping professionals he adds the value of being in the presence of a patient, attentive companion, who can gradually modulate increasing levels of social stimulation, as being particularly effective in helping to build those receptors for delight and pleasure. 

I’d like to suggest that being that “presence of a patient, attentive, kind, companion” that Van der Kock speaks about, to ourselves, taking the time to nourish the gradually building neuro-receptors for pleasure is also necessary.

Keys and Doorways to Pleasure

When we’re not very tuned into the concept of pleasure, you might sometimes need prompts. We can literally forget the keys and doorways to that realm.  On the Resource Page of my website you’ll find what I call “cheat sheets” that remind one of some tried and true avenues to kick start pleasure. 

Next entry: Keys to Pleasure

Previous entry: The Power of the Erotic Imagination

“As I step into the classroom with Madeline, I am aware of a spaciousness that few other facilitators offer, giving adequate time for self-reflection and digestion of the material.  The spaciousness is well-supported by experiential learning and practical teachings.  Madeline’s work—both within her own life and in facilitating others—speaks clearly through the profound space she holds for learning, and healing, to happen.”

Nikki Manzie, Program Director, – Yoga Therapy and Eastern Therapies Pacific Rim College Victoria B.C.