But Freud was soon persuaded that his friends' reactions were not an anomaly. As Phillips concludes, in a deft twist of phrase, there seems to be two types of people in the world, "those who can enjoy desiring and those who need satisfaction." Freud's companions were definitely of the school that needed satisfaction; but Freud, the apostle of instinctual gratification, was someone who could understand the enjoyment of desire.
Like Freud's friends, most of us are conditioned to look for satisfaction. When it is not forthcoming, or not lasting, we tend to withdraw. Freud proposed an alternative. It is possible to be in a state of arousal in which desire itself is valued, not as a prelude to discharge but as a mode of appreciation. In sexual yoga, this is usually described, for the male, as separating orgasm from ejaculation. Orgasm becomes more female in form, coming in waves that wash over one another. When release is not linked to emission, there is more room for spirit to fill the space of sexuality.
As this possibility has filtered into popular consciousness, it has sometimes been put to defensive uses, not just to spiritual ones. I have heard a number of stories in my therapy practice, for instance, about men who will not come. Under the guise of Tantric sexuality, these men withdraw from sexual relations after some period of intercourse, leaving their partners dissatisfied. Rather than choosing between desire and satisfaction, like Freud's friends, they turn their backs on both, closing themselves off from the beauty that surrounds them while priding themselves on their ability to withhold.
A patient of mine named Bob, for example, was an appealing man with a winning smile who was a great devotee of female beauty and charm, but he was something of a tease with women. He gave the impression of whole-hearted interest when he met someone he was attracted to, but he would often disappear if she too obviously returned his attentions. He puzzled many would-be lovers with his skittishness. Married once in his 20s, Bob was now a successful physician in his mid-40s. He had been single for close to 20 years. He lived a quiet, self-contained life and was much attracted to the philosophies of yoga and meditation.
In his sexual relations, Bob often took the ascetic path. He would initiate sex, participate for a while, but then refrain from orgasm, explaining his actions in terms of sexual yoga. I was suspicious, however. I did not hear reports of resounding bliss, only what sounded like gradual disengagement.
In Miranda Shaw's Passionate Enlightenment (Princeton University Press, 1995), she emphasizes the quality of relationship that defines yogic union. It is a relationship in which the energies, breath, and fluids of each partner mix to such an extent that blissful states are achieved that would otherwise remain inaccessible to an individual practitioner.
"Are you experiencing this kind of mutuality?" I asked Bob. Over time, Bob came to appreciate that he was not. Feeling guilty about his unreliability, Bob tried to avoid getting any of his girlfriends too attached to him. "I don't want them to see what a cad I am," he admitted. I pointed out that this was exactly what they were seeing.
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