I was awkwardly sitting on an arm chair in a well-lit office, with my sex therapist across from me and a tissue box expertly positioned on the coffee table between us.
That’s the day I heard about dilating.
She explained that dilators are tube-shaped tools that you can use to help achieve sexual penetration.
It was one of the more comfortable conversations, conveniently sandwiched between trying to dig up memories of childhood sexual trauma and revealing my limited masturbation experience (for the first time to any human, ever).
The sex therapist listened to me with care in her eyes…
But she seemed stumped that I had vaginismus but was never sexually abused. I only later learned that there are MANY reasons vaginismus can develop.
She kept asking if I’m sure there is nothing else I wanted to share…
To which I kept saying, “NOPE, not that I remember at least!”
As you might be able to tell, sex therapy made me pretty uncomfortable. Obviously I didn’t feel safe talking about sex, if my body was literally shutting down to reject having it!
I felt that if I was going to make any progress, I was required to share as much as I could. So I did.
I think this first step of vulnerably sharing about vaginismus helped me get into action about overcoming it.
As Sun Tzu said, ““If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
As I started talking about my vaginismus, I learned more about how this enemy of mine works and therefore got insight into how to overcome it.
I learned that having experienced pain with sexual penetration, it’s only natural that your brain and body see it as a threat!
Dilating helps train the pelvic floor muscles to allow for penetration by re-wiring your brain’s association of penetration to pain.
I think dilating is the most reliable and effective method to overcoming vaginismus!
Let’s explore how dilators can be your best friend in your pain free and intimate journey.
A well-designed and executed dilating practice can help you in 3 distinct ways:
Neural System Effect
Pain is an output of the brain.
When you’ve experienced pain in past attempts of penetration (whether with a finger, penis, or another object), your brain has already created an output of pain and therefore associated penetration with the experience of pain.
In fact, being anxious or fearful of penetration or being touched in that area (which is natural after the experience of pain), puts your nervous system on “alert mode”.
Your brain actually tries to protect you from the anticipated pain by sending danger signals!
An automatic fight or flight response, like increased heart rate, sweating and overall fear of penetration.
Unfortunately, the “alert mode” of your nervous system gets reinforced with each experience of pain. Your brain’s association of penetration to pain gets stronger and stronger, making the fight or flight response even more prominent…
Also intensifying the actual experience of pain!
That’s why it’s so important to be aware of this pain cycle and preferably break it in its early stages.
The purpose of dilating is to break the cycle of pain. To re-wire your brain’s association of penetration to pain.
By avoiding pain altogether in your dilating practice, your brain and nervous system begin to break the pattern of being in “alert mode”, thus stopping your anticipation of pain. Penetration then starts to become comfortable, creating room for it to be pleasurable.
Dilating also has a stretch effect, as it gently stretches the vaginal canal and pelvic floor muscles, allowing them to relax during penetration. And just like learning to do the splits, having a more flexible pelvic floor requires practice.
Finally, dilating allows for your mind and body to know, with confidence, when you’re ready for penetration.
With specific guidelines around when to move up in dilator sizes, it also becomes clear when you can comfortably transition to trying PIV (penis in vagina) sex, IF that’s something you’re striving for.
Trust The Process
To summarize, dilating is about teaching your brain to disassociate penetration with pain, and stretching the pelvic floor muscles in the process.
When you break your subconscious mind’s pattern of associating penetration with pain, your nervous system will stop being in “alert mode”, your muscles will stop involuntarily contracting and the pain will effortlessly be converted into a neutral feeling. And later… pleasure!
That’s why it’s so important to remember – dilating shouldn’t be painful. Only uncomfortable at times and maybe just a tiny bit painful at its worst.
If you try to advance through the dilating process too quickly, and experience pain as a result, you would be doing yourself a disservice. You would be reinforcing in your subconscious mind that penetration equals pain.
Remember, there’s no rush with dilation.
As part of the Pain Free and Intimate Recipe, I’ve put together a detailed guide designed to take you through the process at the right pace, to avoid pain and finally break the cycle of pain!
Also, I’ve been sure to do my research thoroughly and objectively on which dilators would suit you best for your needs. You can read ALL my reviews of dilator sets here:
Finally, I want to congratulate you for committing to your healing journey by doing your research and reading this!
Please comment below with your thoughts, questions or objections about anything I shared! AND I’d love to know – what was your most uncomfortable conversation when it comes to sex?
Starting is the hardest step and that means you’re well on your path to healing!
And if you haven’t gotten your hands on my free online course yet, get “Putting Vaginismus In The Past” now.
To your sexual freedom!
– Katrin, with Love