Episode 17: Core Pleasures In Ecstatic Relating with Stella Resnick, PhD.
Core Pleasures In Ecstatic Relating with Stella Resnick, PhD. Stella Resnick, PhD. Clinical Psychologist & Psychotherapist in Los Angeles, Past President of the Western Region of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, AASECT certified sex therapist and clinical supervisor.
Announcer: This program is intended for mature audiences only.
Francesca Gentille: Welcome to Sex: Tantra and Kama Sutra, bringing you the soul of sex. I’m your host, Francesca Gentille, and with me today is Stella Resnick, PhD, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, who practices in Los Angeles, author of The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings, and President of the Western Region of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.
“Sometimes people feel that they can’t do that. They feel that until they’ve ironed out all their differences, they really can’t have any physical contact. Of course that limits the relationship terribly…
If you’ve done something to hurt somebody else’s feelings, I think it always pays to say, “I’m sorry.” I think that can clear the way to enabling your partner to be willing to be more physical with you…
A nice hug, with breathing, can really help melt some of those hardened feelings in the chest and the heaviness that people feel when they feel that they’re not being seen or empathized with…
When there is good feeling, you can generally work things out. You can work things out so that you can again reconnect with this person on a loving level, and sexuality is a very important part of physical love…
We need to recognize the importance of being in a body. We need to recognize the importance of pleasure in life. As I wrote about in my book, there are many pleasures. I call them the ‘eight core pleasures’, the eight essential ways that we need to be fulfilled, to not only be happy in our life but to be happy in our relationships. We can do that for each other…”
Francesca Gentille: Welcome, Stella.
Stella Resnick: Thank you. I must say, however, that I am the past president. A past president.
Francesca Gentille: The past president, but still deeply involved in it, I’m sure.
Stella Resnick: Oh, yes, of course.
Francesca Gentille: And Stella, the reason that I wanted to bring you on our show today and share you with our listening audience is because of that bridge you make between the scientific and the mind and the body and the spirit, and there’s a specific process that you study and that you bring to the world and it’s the ‘embodied process’. Is that it?
Stella Resnick: Yes, it’s recognizing that no amount of understanding why we are the way we are or why we’re doing things is sufficient to really get into the depth of what we are doing and how we are doing so it, so instead of being reactive, we can respond more in a way that we would like to. So the work that I do helps people to breathe, to relax, to recognize how they’re stressed, determines a lot of how they react to things, often in ways they may not always be pleased about, and how to begin to take charge over some of these automatic reactions, so that they can be more fulfilled in life.
Francesca Gentille: And I love that you say this, “taking charge of our automatic reactions” and the breath work, because we’ve talked about that in a number of our other shows in different ways, and I imagine that you’re going to really deepen this for us, is that sense of ‘how do we become in conscious choice of our reactivity and of our connection?’ So first, if someone were to be feeling maybe a little angry, or a little resentful, or a little off-center, and yet their partner is reaching out to them, or maybe they’re even they’re supposed to have a date with their beloved, you know, that night, what is a practice or a tip that you can give them to help them switch or work through or connect, even if they have this resentment or anxiety or anger present?
Stella Resnick: I think that people really need to begin to recognize that they bring some of these old angers, old resentments, old wounds into a relationship, and that part of what they’re there for in that relationship is to learn how to heal these wounds so that they can be a more expansive person for themselves. That’s what I mean by ‘taking charge’, being more in command. Sometimes some of these resentments are current; they have to do with how you and your partner have interacted in a way that may have hurt your feelings. Sometimes your feelings may be hurt and it may be unintended. So there are different ways that people can react to this. One, of course, is to resolve the issue and to learn how to speak with one another in a way that can bring more understanding, more loving, in the relationship. But another way also is to recognize that these feeling are body-based, that when they’re hurt there’s a heaviness on the chest, there may be a lump in the throat, there may be real sadness. How can you move beyond this if you want to? Sometimes it can feel great to be with your partner and to shelve those feelings for awhile, to be able to connect on a deeper more physical level that can bring the goodwill that can enable you to work out some of those hurts or feelings.
Francesca Gentille: So are you saying that to know… Let me see if I can capture this: I can understand it better, because my own relationship, and to help our listening audience, is to begin to be more aware of what are my wounds or my tender places that I might be bringing from the past, what are ones that are really something that’s, you know, “who’s going to take out the garbage” and it’s right now, and that sometimes it might even be additive to say, “Let’s caress or massage or do something that gets us into our bodies, and not just stay locked in our heads.” Is that what you’re saying?
Stella Resnick: Exactly. Exactly, that touching and being together, that can bring the goodwill that can help to resolve a conflict, a difference of opinion or a misunderstanding in some way, so that you can take the relationship to another level. And touching can do that. Sometimes people feel that they can’t do that. They feel that until they’ve ironed out all their differences, they really can’t have any physical contact. Of course that limits the relationship terribly. Sometimes it’s good to be able to shelve some of these bad feelings and to bring in some good feelings, to inspire and to help you reach for better places together.
Francesca Gentille: You know that sounds so wonderful, and I want to talk a little bit more about that after our break, how we can ask our beloved or make a request, because this is a new concept for many people, is even if we are upset with each other in some way, to bring in the good feelings first through touch or lovemaking. So after the break I would love to hear from you what are some ways that we can bring this to our partner that will help them soften and help engage with us in a more collaborative way to bring in good feelings, after a word from our sponsor.
Francesca Gentille: Welcome back to Sex: Tantra and Kama Sutra, bringing you the soul of sex, today with Stella Resnick, PhD, who specializes in issues of sexuality and relationships, and who has been married for some 28 years, so I’m guessing that Stella works in her own personal life with these same practices that she’s bringing to us and we’ll maybe talk about that a little bit later in our show. But first, we were discussing how to bring about good feelings through touch, even when we might have some unresolved issues or conflicts, and Stella, if it’s a man and he wants to bring this idea up to his beloved his partner, and she’s maybe a little resentful, a little angry, and you know, he didn’t take out the garbage when he was supposed to, or call when he said he would, and there’s something else going on, but he really has a sense that if they kind of touch or deepen it’s going to improve things for them, how… improve a conversation, how can he bring this to her?
Stella Resnick: First of all, I think every woman needs, as well as every man who has been hurt by something that you’ve done unintentionally, we need to know that our partner understands, can put himself or herself into our bodies and experiences. So if you’ve done something that’s hurt somebody else’s feelings, I think it always pays to say, “I’m sorry.” I think that can clear the way to enabling your partner to be willing to be more physical with you. “I’m so sorry that your feelings are hurt. I’m so sorry that what I’ve done has hurt you; it was unintended,” something of that sort can really clear the air. I would hesitate to say to anyone to tell your partner to “get over it,” and to be willing to be physical without that kind of concern for the other person’s feelings. I think at that point a nice hug, with breathing, can really help melt some of those hardened feelings in the chest, some of the heaviness that people feel when they feel that they’re not being seen or empathized with. I think also it helps to have a conversation beforehand that also allows for recognizing the importance of touching and holding each other, so that it’s one of the principles of your relationship that you touch and hold as a way of bringing in your energies, so that your energies are more harmonious to start with. And then at that point, once you have… you’re holding and you can feel how your rhythms are coming together, you can feel that in your bodies, you can feel the relaxation and the melting, at that point stroking each other, with breath, with relaxation, with letting go in your body, really invites that kind of ‘togetherness’ that kind of being in phase with one another. That starts a ‘looking into each other’s eyes’ which is a wonderful physical connection, smiling at each other, giving a facial message that “I care about you”, that “I want to see you and I want you to see me.” And then breathing together, stroking each other, even being able to smile and laugh with each other, all of those kinds of non-verbal responses really bring two people in sync. Sometimes language takes us in a whole other direction, takes us in our heads. What we want is to be able to come into a non-verbal rhythm with one another. I think that’s a very critical part of really bringing your bodies together in synchrony with one another.
Francesca Gentille: So this sounds really like male or female, we, if one person, if there’s been sort of a conflict or disagreement or maybe something that happened that was unconsciously hurtful in some way, that whomever notices first that longing to reconnect can say, you now just our of sweetness and courage, “I’m sorry that you’re hurting. I’m sorry that you were hurt in this. I’m sorry that I said or did something that hurt you.” Even if I didn’t think I was wrong, per se, I can still have the courage, the tenderness, to say, “I’m still sorry that I hurt you.”
Stella Resnick: Mm hmm.
Francesca Gentille: And then really there’s almost a linking between partners, that if I were to calm down and breathe more slowly and to look at my beloved in a more sweet way, that there would be a tendency for my beloved to start to calm down as well. If I… it almost feels like…is that what you’re kind of saying, that there’s…
Stella Resnick: Exactly, because you know all feelings are contagious. So if you walk into a room where everybody’s anxious in that room, you’re going to pick up that anxiety; you’re going to begin to feel anxious too, and not uncommonly, if you have a friend who’s depressed all the time, when you’re with that friend you’re going to be depressed with them too. And conversely, if you’re with somebody who has a really buoyant spirit, who’s really a positive forward-looking person, you’re going to feel more energetic with them. So it makes sense that in an intimate space with someone, that you’re going to be able to affect their emotional experience by your own emotional experience, and if you breathe and relax and remember in your heart what you love about this person, what makes you want to be with this person, that good feeling that you connect with in your own heart will be transmitted to them as you look into their eyes, as you look in their face, as you smile at them; it will begin to melt them as well. And it pays to remember that, because a lot of times when one person is in a snit or feels angry and hurt and want to hurt back, what can often happen is that that becomes a contagion as well in a relationship, and so the other person picks that up and runs with it, and says, “Okay, you’re hurting me; I’m going to hurt you and I’m going to do you one better,” so we escalate. So the important thing is, if we’re going to escalate, to escalate good feelings, because time is short, and why would we want to hurt the one that we care about the most? So it pays to be able to breathe and relax and take charge over some of these feelings and see what’s really important to you, because when there is good feeling, you can generally work things out. You can work things out so that you can, again, reconnect with this person on a loving level, and sexuality is a very important part of physical love. It’s taking intimacy to the level of affection, physical affection, and then taking it beyond physical affection into the realm of sexual desire and arousal and relief, and potentially release, where there is such a wonderful connection that it feels as though two have become one and that you are reaching new heights together, melting the boundaries between you and feeling the sense of merging in the moment.
Francesca Gentille: I would love to talk more about this how we achieve through this really becoming this magical creator of the relationship, this ‘taking on’. Our listening audience, male or female, can really take on being the magical creator of the good feelings in the relationship and the connection. I love that you’re guiding us there, Stella. And I want to talk more about this and how this shows up in your personal life, after a word from our sponsor.
Francesca Gentille: Welcome back to Sex: Tantra and Kama Sutra, bringing you the soul of sex, with the marvelous Stella Resnick, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, author of The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings, married for 28 years to Allen, and we were just talking about how we become these creators that really shift the ground of being and the energy and the connection in the relationship by how we’re breathing, by how we’re thinking, and I wanted to hear from Stella an example in her own life of 28 years of how that works in real life.
Stella Resnick: Well, much as I love my husband and much as he loves me, we’re very distinct people with distinct feelings and we sometimes step on each other’s toes, and early on, I remember one time when my husband was really mad at me for something that I had inadvertently done to hurt him. And usually I would get angry myself and do whatever I could to show him that I’m strong too. But instead, what I did was I saw him tighten; I saw his jaw set, and he was sitting on the bed in a hotel we were staying at. And instead of carrying on in my own way, I went over to him and I looked him in the eyes and I saw that he wasn’t breathing; I put my hand on his chest and I said to him, “I love you, and it hurts me to see you hurting.” And this chest that wasn’t moving started to move, and it brought tears to my eyes, and it just bridged that gap between us, that no amount of talk could do. So I think we need to recognize the importance of being in a body; we need to recognize the importance of pleasure in life. As I wrote about in my book, there are many pleasures. I call them the ‘eight core pleasures’, the eight essential ways that we need to be fulfilled, to not only be happy in our life but to be happy in our relationships. We can do that for each other. And how important it is to be in touch with our bodies, to be continually monitoring our bodies, not every second of the time but periodically through the day to check in with yourself and to see where you may be holding your body and to breathe and to relax, to recognize that when we’re under stress we’re much more likely to use old patterns in response to the stress, and that if we learn to relax during the day, periodically, every hour or every other hour, to breathe and check in with our self, then we’re going to be much more creative in our life, much more able to see the alternatives, rather than to respond in programmed ways, much more able to make choices in our lives that help us to fulfill our dreams and our hopes. And in a relationship to be able to breathe and relax allows the blood to flow. From the heart down, in through to the pelvis, and that allows us to be aroused when we’re with our partner, to let the blood flow, to recognize the importance of the flow of energy, and to trust in our bodies that if we can get out of the way, if we can learn how to release holding patterns, tension patterns, just to breathe and let the energy flow, the body takes over and the body can guide us. And the importance of trusting our body, that we really are body/mind creatures, body, mind, sex, and spirit, full spectrum, and to allow that full-spectrum experience in our relationship really helps us to evolve as human beings, to be al that we can be. And that’s really the message in the ‘embodied process’ work that I do, and in the work I do with couples. And I see them in my seminars, in my workshops, in my trainings…all of it is the same message: to breathe, to relax, means to take charge, and to be able to make good decisions for yourself.
Francesca Gentille: I love it, the breathing and the relaxing and the taking charge, to become less at the effect of or less just a reactive bundle of unconscious emotions and thoughts from another human being, but to truly…
Stella Resnick: Choose. To choose, to choose. And the breath supports conscious choice.
Francesca Gentille: And breathing, and just feeling our feet on the floor, relaxing our bellies, and that something shifts literally in our mind and our brainwaves when we do that. And so I think we’re almost reaching near the end of our time, but I’m going to have a brief break and come back, because I want to hear those ‘eight pleasures’ and say a little bit more about how people can get ahold of you and what’s coming up for you. So when we come back from the break, I’d love to hear about the eight core pleasures, and just some last little words of wisdom from you, after a word from our sponsor.
Francesca Gentille: Welcome back to Sex: Tantra and Kama Sutra, bringing you the soul of sex, with Dr. Stella Resnick, married 28 years, a specialist in sexuality and relationship concerns, past president of the Western Region of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, and author of The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings. And Stella was just about to tell us about the ‘eight core pleasures’ that we really want to breathe and check into our bodies, kind of tine inside and ask ourselves how we’re doing with these eight things. And what are they, Stella?
Stella Resnick: Well they follow our developmental process, so the first core pleasure is ‘primal pleasure’. If there’s such a thing as primal pain, which is separating from the birth mother in the birth process, then primal pleasure is what precede that, and that’s the pleasure of just being, the pleasure of relaxing and being ourselves, not working so hard to prove ourselves, or just to be. And the second is ‘pain release’ the pleasure of letting go of pain; it’s release and it’s also ‘releasing’ the pain, and allowing ourselves to resolve whatever issues there are. The elemental pleasures of play, humor, movement and sound, how we hold ourselves back from singing and dancing and just having a good time and how important that is for our bodies, for our immunity. The mental pleasures of thinking good thoughts and making good mental pictures and of course we hold ourselves back from that by worst-case scenarios. The pleasures of… the emotional pleasures, which are all variations on a theme of love, of embracing life, and we hold ourselves back through fear and anger. And the pleasure of sensuality, the pleasure of taking delight in our senses, and of course we hold ourselves back from that by thinking a lot. So we need to really see the beauty around us and feel it in our hearts and listen to beautiful music and to smell and taste and touch. The pleasures of sex, which are all about the pleasures of arousal, and letting ourselves become more expansive sexually, and we hold ourselves back there through tension and resisting sexual pleasure, through guilt or whatever. And finally, the eighth core pleasure is the pleasure of spirituality, because it feels good to be a part of something good that’s larger than ourselves and it feels good to be generous and altruistic and it feels good to come to terms with our mortality, and it feels good to have a quiet mind and a quiet soul. So these are the eight core pleasures and my book The Pleasure Zone really shows how different people resist these pleasures and how to use the breath, use the body to let go, to embrace a much more expansive side of ourselves.
Francesca Gentille: Stella, I love that you’ve studied sexuality, you’ve studied the science of it, you’ve studied psychology, and that you’ve come with these eight core pleasures, the primal, the pain relief, the elemental pleasures, the mental, emotional, sensual, sexual, and spiritual, that you’re so aligned with the Tantra and the Kama Sutra. The 64 arts of love in the Kama Sutra, including conversation and science and music and dance, and here science and psychology are absolutely supporting this expanded view of wholeness and relationship and the sacred and our sexuality. I have a feeling that there’s so much more that we could learn from you in your book and also in your trainings. And Stella provides trainings on a regular basis in Los Angeles and in other places as well, Stella?
Stella Resnick: Yes, I’m doing some seminars at Esalen as well
Francesca Gentille: And so I encourage you to find out what Stella’s up to at her website, which is www.DrStellaResnick.com. And also you can contact her directly through, she’s so sweet she let us, she’s letting us at her personal email, which is [email protected]. So I thank you so much for joining us with your insight and your personal experiences and your intelligence.
Stella Resnick: Thank you. It was an honor and a joy to do this with you.
Francesca Gentille: And if you want to hear more about Stella, her biography, more about how to reach her, other resources that she recommends, you can find that out at, and the transcript from our show, and www.PersonalLifeMedia.com.
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