On Erotic Self-Awareness

I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me—the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, like a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art. – Anaïs Nin

I often wonder if projects like The Used Life represent little more, for me, than a struggle to stay alive. To stay active, present, focused, passionate, and playful in a climate which is more conducive to allowing oneself to be destroyed by living. Otto Rank might agree with that conclusion. An exercise of the will to live. Rollo May, whose work I’ve been reading rather voraciously lately, would perhaps, view it similarly, though he would probably speak in terms of self-awareness, creative consciousness, values, and being. (For those of you who haven’t read my previous post, I’ve been delving into some readings in existential psychology. May’s Man’s Search for Himself spoke rather profoundly to my soul. In a flurry of excitement, I recently ordered a whole pile of his writings from Amazon. I’m still waiting for some of them to arrive. Consider May’s ideas, as I work to improve my understanding of them, a mainstay from this point forward.) Is The Used Life, then, an endeavor in self-preservation, or perpetuation, the re-creation of values, even an act, in some respects, of standing against a culture? Are not all of the artistic projects that make us feel most alive?

To be sure, I am at my most vibrant when I am creating. Creation is pleasure. It is the imbuing of work with life. Those periods of simultaneous forgetting (of the passage of time, of external events, even of one’s own hunger and thirst) and enhanced awareness. The moment has depth, magnitude. It’s no different from what poet Octavio Paz refers to as “presence.” When one turns the present moment into “presence,” one is fully engaged with the rhythms of space and time. Sensually, imaginatively, intellectually, interpersonally. Those of us who feel compelled to, as Rank says, “totalize every act of life” know the pleasure, even ecstasy, of being so alive.

Indeed, I was musing over these ideas yesterday afternoon, while (of all things) getting a pedicure, when I was struck with an observation: This kind of living has a wonderfully erotic quality. (I was also thinking I haven’t written anything sexy in awhile, and I really should get back to that.) It is less the strictly sexual kind and more of a dense, sensual, desirous type. The kind that lusts. The kind that kindles an appetite for experience. A hunger for the totality of being alive. An intense amorousness. This observation was immediately followed by another thought: It wouldn’t be possible to encounter the dimensions of one’s erotic self, one’s sexual self (for women, in particular), without first knowing this kind of aliveness.

Hedonism won’t do it. Pure physicality, absent the desire to imagine and create. It wouldn’t be possible to experience the depth and breadth of erotic pleasure of which one is capable without first being able to experience the fullness of the moment. And it wouldn’t be possible to explore the dimensions of one’s erotic self-awareness (like feeling like a woman, wanting to be wanted, wanting to be submissive, or however you might term those corresponding dimensions within yourself) without first knowing one’s sensuality and creativity in a more fundamental sense. Without being able to smolder.

Write a poem. Go for a walk. Draw something. Discuss ideas that excite you with someone who excites you. Cook a meal from scratch. Listen to music. Dance. Take a bubble bath. Make something with your hands. Immerse yourself in the moments of your life.

It occurs to me that I have been working very diligently and very actively toward this end for a long time, without, perhaps, realizing the significance of what I was doing. Slowly awakening myself over a period of years. Sloughing off routines and bad habits. But, it wasn’t until recently that I felt the need to explore, articulate, and even mold my sexuality and the feminine aspects of my personality, specifically, into a source of strength and values. I’m not sure why that is. I expect it is a reaction to culture. I also expect this activity—this exercise in developing an erotic self-awareness—represents a vocational calling.

Could this be a helpful practice for many women, then? This purposeful development of an erotic self-awareness? I think so. How we understand the components of desire and what stoking those desires means for us physically and emotionally. How we understand the role of pleasure in our lives. The kinds of pleasure that ignite us in different ways. Cultivating the ability to transform the everyday into the lush, the vibrant, and the ecstatic. Understanding the power of possibility and the vastness of the unseen aspects of ourselves. Not only tapping into, but creating, our own hidden luxuries. (The last thing any of us should do is give responsibility for that over to someone else.) When approached with the intention of celebrating oneself, of adding color, dimension, richness, and dignity to one’s life, introspection and self-creation can become a great deal more satisfying and a whole lot sexier.

21 responses to “On Erotic Self-Awareness”

  1. I enjoyed this very much. What you write reminds me of Carl Jung’s Individuation, which I have seen described online as the process of integrating one’s personality. For me, individuation is my own path of awareness of who I am becoming as a human being. It’s inspiring to see how you are able to reflect on who you are and who you are becoming on this blog.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you! It’s funny, I almost employed the term, “individuation,” in this post, as Rank has used it, in a fashion similar, though, perhaps, not identical to Jung. To me, individuation designates the same as you suggest. The process of becoming. Again, I appreciate the comment, and I’ll have you know I very much enjoy your recent writings (and not just because I seem to share a first name with your female protagonist). There is something about your style, to me, that’s reminiscent of Borges. Not certain if he was an influence, but I do think you are a wonderfully talented writer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you very much. And what compliments! When I lived in Madrid for several years, I read some of Borges in Spanish, and I have read a few of his writings in English translation. He is important to me, but I think that, in my own individuation, his influence has yet to become conscious. You must be referring to my female protagonist Laura. Well, now I know another Laura! Since I know you are interested in Otto Rank, I will mention that I have learned interesting things about him through reading a volume of his correspondence with Freud. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, you’re welcome! The compliments are deserved. I love Madrid, or, I should say, I love the feel of Madrid. Living there must have been quite an experience. Are you referring to “The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank: Inside Psychoanalysis?” (I just looked it up.) Thank you for the tip. I’d be interested in reading it. It’s funny—I didn’t become interested in Rank until I read Anaïs Nin’s descriptions of him in her diary, which I only read because I like her erotica. The path to “individuation” is often a very interesting one, isn’t it? 🙂

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  2. I know I’m looking forward to your next erotic effort. I think one reason why is that you’ve been generously painting in all of the background scenery with your other posts, which makes such pieces more — you should pardon the pun — fleshed out, so to speak. 3 dimensional, something a lot of erotica doesn’t have because it’s sort of flat and immitative. Nothing’s more alluring than a rich, authentic back story. 🙂

    Creation and that feeling of “total aliveness” is wonderful, isn’t it? There’s always a thrill almost like physical arrousal when the creative juices are bubbling. I actually have this visual image of my muse. She is dark and bohemian and exudes a raw sense of life lived out on the edge between danger and fun. Long legs, filmy dress, some feathers stuck here and there, trailing the aroma of strange smoke and whiskey, but full of fresh air like someone who just hopped out of a ‘Vette after a high speed drive down the PCH with the lights off, and totally dismissive of any of my bullshit and procrastinations.

    So, here’s to whatever you find lurking inside. I could use a diversion.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m laughing to myself. There’s so much I could say in response you your comments. Philosophy, psychology, poetry…all of my deep thinking as background scenery for smut…Such a man’s way of thinking about it. I kid you. I smiled as I read it. 😉

      Sounds like quite a muse you’ve got there…so detailed, so refined. It’s interesting. I, too, have muses, though they’re far more nondescript than yours. A presence. A man without a face. I feel rather than see him. The perfect blend of elegance and raw masculinity. The kind of man who takes one, hard look at a woman and makes her clothes fall off. That’s what I’m talking about. If I ever saw him in real life, I’m not sure what I’d do.

      At any rate, I do hope you find what’s ahead pleasurable. Thank you for continuing to keep up with my writings. It means a lot. Take good care of yourself.

      Until next time…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I find your self observations similar to my own awakening. Mine came after learning about energy work, including chakras. There’s a reason the second chakra, the sacral, is considered the sexual energy source (near the pelvis). More importantly, it is the energy of creativity. Sexuality after all is about energy combining to create something new. Look forward to reading your next creation!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s interesting. I’m not very familiar with energy work or chakras. What you say makes sense, though…and it certainly is nice to know that other women feel, or have felt, similarly. Thank you!


  5. Laura, another excellent post!

    I feel inspired to write much, but as the written word is not my strong point, and I don’t want to over-burden space in your comments section, I will try to keep this short.

    I do feel as if I understand much of what you write – especially in the realm of creativity and discovering the “authentic self” in a person’s creative pursuits. I have actually told people that I “am becoming more myself than I have ever been in my life!”

    Some things I have noticed, and wonder if you have felt these, too: You write about being most vibrant when creating. I, too, feel most alive when I am creating – especially when I am creating without any thought for “What will others think of this creation?” When I let go, and allow a painting to “paint itself”, I can lose all track of time, space, and the distractions of a world that sometimes seems bent on destroying the true self.

    On the best days, I will look up from a painting and discover that I have been sitting there for eight/ ten hours (or days) – still in my house clothes, meals skipped, restroom breaks ignored, etc. I am in ecstasy throughout the entire process, and then when the project is finished, I feel a quick, sharp sense of accomplishment and satisfaction – soon followed by a feeling of emptiness. I actually call it my “post-partum depression”. Do you ever feel this?

    And then, there are “those” days…days when the muses never find me – or maybe I never find them. Days when every brushstroke goes in the wrong direction, every color mixture turns muddy, every composition looks hackneyed and ridiculous. These are the “I give up” days – the days when I have to force myself to keep going and remind myself “why” I do this. I sense that you struggle with your creativity at times, and wonder if you examine the possible sources – and what do you do to overcome?

    Okay, so much for keeping this short.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Tim! I’m so glad you’re finding this stuff useful and informative. (I sometimes fret over the utility of what I’m doing.) I also think it’s great that you’re painting as much a you are. If you’re interested in “becoming yourself through creation,” might I suggest Rollo May’s “The Courage to Create”? (I am very obviously nerding out over his work these days. An insightful and wonderful book.)

      In answer to your questions:

      I always do my best work when I don’t think about how it will be received. Sometimes, I get consumed while playing with ideas. Other times, I am motivated by a desire (near to a feeling of lust) to make something beautiful. I love feeling like I am playing. There’s a tremendous lightheartedness to getting lost in that kind of state. For me, that kind of momentary self-forgetfulness makes me feel almost childlike.

      I don’t get depressed after I create. I usually feel motivated to write because I need to get something out. To release something. Like a pent up energy. And nothing–no other form of activity, physical or otherwise–can “get it out” like writing can. If what I’ve written is satisfactory by my standards and fits the criterion of “getting it out,” I feel satiated for a time. Then, the cycle begins again. It’s like an itch. That building feeling that I must write in order to release…something.

      My muses often sleep on the job, too. Some days, it’s as if a post/poem/story simply writes itself in my mind. As soon as I begin typing, it pours out of me. And in relatively good form. Easy peasy. Other days, the struggle is very real, my friend. When I need to “get it out” and the words won’t come. No matter how hard I try, I can’t fine-tune my ideas like I need to. It sucks. Sometimes, forcing myself to stick with it works. Other times, walking away and going for a run or a swim is helpful. Both of those activities refresh me.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. No need to fret – I do find your writings useful and informative! 🙂 I will look into Rollo May. I struggle a bit with Otto Rank, as much of it is over my head – I need to tiptoe slowly into material like that in order to understand it. It did lead me down some interesting threads toward others (artists, psychologists, philosophers) that I have become interested in. So many interesting things in this universe-so little time! Thank you for the reply!

    Liked by 1 person

    • And, what’s a little needless fretting, anyway? 😜 I’m finding that some of Rank’s works are much easier than others. Right now, I am making my way through “Art and Artist.” It’s dense, but brilliant. I’m almost finished with it, and I’m glad to experience it, but it’s a good bit of work to get through. There is something about his intellect, his spirit (especially), and his voice that I admire. It all translates to his work. May is, perhaps, a bit more palatable than Rank because he’s more contemporary and seems to have a knack for making complex ideas approachable. Lots of philosophy. Not sure if that’s your cup of tea. Regardless, “Man’s Search for Himself” kind of set my soul on fire and sent me on a quest to read everything he’s ever written (or close to it, anyway). But, yes! So much to learn and do…I sometimes think I’ll never complete a good deal of what makes me feel full…and I’ll only half-live. I’m getting older. That scares me. (And, what would Otto Rank say about that? 😉)
      Anyway, don’t ever thank me for replying to you. And, in unrelated matters, I dig the mountaineering action shot.


  7. I have ordered two of May’s books to be delivered to my library. I can’t wait to begin reading them. Ha ha ha! The “mountaineering action shot”! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So, after reading your magnificent article, one might ask: what is eroticism? It is not, of course, the attraction or sexual stimulation of art. It is not even a deliberate intention on the part of the artist to awaken or excite sexual appetites. There is nothing wrong with them, provided they are not sneaky or disguised, but direct. Good sexual stimulation is of great value for the life of any person. Without it, the world would be gray.

    Sexual relations are, or should be, a citadel of intimacy, the nocturnal enclosure where we gather the fragmented or weary elements of our conscience into a kind of inviolable order and repose. In the sexual experience a single human being, or two human beings in that attempt of total communication that is also communion, can (n) discover the exclusive inclinations of their identity (s). In this situation, through imperfect longing and repeated failure, words, gestures, mental images that accelerate the rhythm of the blood are reached. In that darkness and in that portentous always renewed, both the awkwardness and the light must be exclusively ours.

    I also believe that erotic literature is also a way of thinking about the world since we permanently use our senses when confronting reality. The erotic is a filter of conflicts. Everything is absorbed and reworked not in a rational way but from a more animal perspective… It is a pity that there are only two sexes. For the people of art, that is terribly little. There could be more, eight or nine, for example.

    It is necessary that they leave the bodies
    Suddenly piled up simulacra,
    everywhere in infinite ways.

    (LUCRECIO, ‘De Rerum Natura’)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I agree with your description of the sexual encounter as a revelation of identity. It is our vulnerability (awkwardness included) that makes it so beautiful. I like to think of eroticism as, primarily, the work of the imagination. A marriage of creativity and sexuality. When I write erotic poetry/short stories/vignettes, I think of it as a way of redefining my relationships with the world. Sex imposes limits on the body. The erotic imagination tries to move beyond them.

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